Gen Z’s fascination with vintage clothing and thrift hauls has become a pivotal marker of the generation. This shift in consumer behavior in turn is creating greater demand for second hand clothing, with Vogue estimating that the vintage industry will be worth $350 billion by 2027, 3 times its current evaluation. Their obsession has also become the driving force behind the increasingly obscure and era-specific trends and styling queues we see in fashion today.

Fascination with nostalgia and subculture has had a profound impact on both the vintage market and new design aesthetics as the desire to emulate styles from the past, often with a modern twist, has become a defining characteristic of this generation’s dressing choices.

While vintage clothing is certinely not a new trend, the generation of influential dealers popping up around the globe is committed to offering curated collections from the recent past whilst in turn learning about older era’s and mixing in rare garments along the way. From handmade 1930s and ‘40s knitwear to the rebellious youth culture styles of the ’90s, these dealers are educating themselves on the nuances of each period as they hunt and cater to a clientele seeking authenticity, storytelling and a connection to the past. The 2000’s, characterized by its futuristic and experimental fashion, has particularly captured the attention of Gen Z over the last few years and has become to them what ‘heritage’ was to millennials in the 2010’s.

Vintage D&G sourced by Singulier Vintage.
Singulier Vintage, Frog Town.

For the last 15-20 years, heritage denim and casualwear has reigned supreme with millennials and Gen X, and has been key for denim designers shopping for vintage wash targets and fits. The heritage movement was fuelled by craft beers, handlebar mustache loving dudes and the 2008 market crash that brought us ‘normcore’ and a return to quality made goods. The aesthetic had maintained a stronghold on the vintage scene up until quite recently with the Los Angeles Rose Bowl flea market being the place to see and be seen in cuffed selvedge jeans and a Sukajan satin bomber on the second Sunday of every month. With its plethora of mid century vintage dealers and furniture vendors, it has drawn a global crowd seeking design inspiration for decades.

However, both the crowd and the sellers have transformed in just a few short years as the organizers attracted younger dealers who specialize in 90’s tees, the Y2K aesthetic and re-made one-of-one items, drawing a much younger, more directional and experimental fashion crowd. This transformation has also been reflected in the retail landscape of LA, changing the look and feel of vintage shopping in the city.

194 Local, Los Angeles.
194 X Levi's silver tab collaboration.

In order to track this shift, let’s first rewind 20 years to explore LA’s famous vintage stores and who paved the way: Raggedy Threads, Vintage on Hollywood, Melet Mercantile, American Rag Cie and Mister Freedom all gained global notoriety during the heady heritage years, providing wash and fit inspiration to some of our favorite denim brands, they have all earned their place as some of the best dealers in the city. 

Raggedy Threads was founded in 2002 and has become a staple vintage shop in LA and NY. Specializing in 1940s to 1960s denim, workwear, and military garments, Jamie Wong’s beautifully curated vintage has been featured in editorial shoots for Vanity Fair and GQ and Japanese magazine, Clutch.

Mothfood is a must-visit when it comes to hunting for the perfect wash targets. So much so, that owner Tommy made it strictly ‘appointment only’ for his discerning stylists and designers. Those hoping to pick up a piece or two must follow his Instagram religiously to be notified of the latest drop before it sells out. 

Vintage on Hollywood might be one of the most legendary names on this list. Brian Cohen is known for selling some of the most iconic pieces in entertainment history from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, supplying film stylists with some of the rarest and coveted on-screen garments in Hollywood. 

Melet, by Bob Melet, in Topanga Canyon opened in LA in 2023 but has been dealing vintage on the east coast since 2003. The shop feels more like an art gallery for vintage clothing and antiques than an actual store front. As a buyer for DoubleRL vintage, Melet’s aesthetic is perfectly aligned with the RL aesthetic.

American Rag Cie has a long and iconic history in Los Angeles. Alongside its new merchandise, it houses a giant collection of vintage, some of which is so rare that they are only available to rent. They have recently expanded their vintage selection to a second location a few doors down on La Brea Ave that notably caters more towards Gen Z taste levels with racks of Abercrombie & Fitch low-rise shorts and Y2K baby tees.

American Rag Cie

So when and did this shift take place? Amid a flurry of articles about Gen Z’s purchasing power back in 2015, the social media buzz around thrift hauls and fit pics exploded and a new generation began to carve out its own personal style in the world of vintage.

Fuelling the passion for era-specific clothing among Gen Z is the unprecedented access to information. The digital age has opened up a treasure trove of resources, allowing individuals to delve deep into the archives of fashion in seconds. The democratization of knowledge through online platforms has eliminated barriers to entry and anyone with an internet connection can now explore the vast world of fashion history, allowing budding vintage enthusiasts to become experts in a fraction of the time it took Gen X-ers to learn. This democratization has not only encouraged the sharing of era-specific information but has also contributed to the diversity and inclusivity of fashion narratives. Ushering in an era of anti-gate keeping, where information sharing builds community, and chopping it up about the new resellers you found on depop, or underground brands you’ve recently discovered, unites people rather than pitting them against each other in competition. It’s also ushered in a less patriarchal environment where the boys club attitude of vintage has been banished to the ‘bad old days’.

Los Rodeos in Echo Park exemplifies eraless and eclectic styling queues.
Los Rodeos, Echo Park.

Online platforms like Vogue are now posting archival runway shows and fashion history websites, documentaries and Reddit threads have become invaluable tools for those seeking to expand their knowledge about the intricacies of each era. Today’s vintage dealers utilize these resources to gain insights into the iconic designers, ground-breaking fashion moments, and cultural influences that shaped each period.

The intersection of online accessibility and a passion for the past has given rise to a generation of curators who bridge the gap between historical fashion and contemporary style. In a world where individual expression is celebrated, knowledge empowers individuals to curate their own personal style. The ability to navigate and utilize online information has not only elevated their fashion consciousness but has also fostered a culture of self-expression that transcends traditional boundaries previous generations have been too rigid to explore.

Most vintage transactions take place online these days, meaning the curated experience needs to bridge both online and IRL shops. Standardized shopify stores and mid century mercantile outfitting doesn’t interest the new vintage customer. Gen Z’s stores reflect the changing landscape by curating havens of niche and miss-matching pop culture and art references with a focus on community, inclusivity and knowledge exchange. 

Some notable vintage dealers and shops in Los Angeles that exemplify this new generation are Singulier Vintage, Debris, 194 Los Angeles, Varsity, Unsound Rags and Los Rodeos. 

Debris, Echo Park.
Debris, is a 'shop in shop' retailers operated by the organizers of Silverlake Flea, full of amazing vintage dealers.

Singulier Vintage only operated through depop since its inception, boasting over 60,000 followers on the resale platform, but recently opened a physical location that acts mostly as a place for events, pop up shops and private shopping bookings. 

194 Los Angeles is the brand’s second location after their East London shop. Specializing in niche 90’s and early 2000’s pieces, the store is known for its plethora of Levi’s Silvertabs, even collaborating with Levi’s last year on an exclusive range of modern Silvertabs in an array of colorways. It’s no surprise that 194 opened up right next door to Varsity Los Angeles, one of the first bricks and mortar stores to pioneer an early 00’s selection back in 2015. Their offering includes everything from 90’s JPG jeans to FUBU streetwear.

Unsound Rags rose to popularity via Instagram with its dark and edgy wardrobe staples. Run by a group of young friends, they expanded into an appointment only shop on the untrodden outskirts of DTLA. The industrial, moody space and decor perfectly reflect the clothes for sale. 

Los Rodeos is extra special as it blends California’s love of rodeo and western aesthetics with elevated 90’s and 2000’s nods. This particular niche has made it one of Echo Park’s most popular, yet low key vintage stores. You’ll often see celebrity stylists and instagram ‘it girls’ here after grabbing brunch at ‘Glowing’ just a few doors down. 

Debris was opened most recently in late 2023, acting as an extension of Silverlake flea in the next-door parking lot. They implement a ‘store in store’ model for some of the fleas’ most popular sellers. Over the last several years, Silverlake Flea itself has gone from a slow Sunday morning flea market to the place to see and be seen from Friday to Sunday. It’s even overtaken the Rose Bowl in terms of its popularity with younger customers and the street style scene.

While physical stores offer an experience, the online vintage market has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years. Gen Z’s digital savviness has propelled vintage sales in the virtual realm. Social media platforms and online marketplaces have become paramount for discovering and purchasing unique vintage pieces. The convenience of online shopping has further fueled the expansion of the vintage market but as the popularity of thrifting and vintage clothing has surged, so have the prices. What was once an affordable alternative to mainstream fashion is quickly becoming a sought-after commodity. Limited supply and high demand have driven prices up, turning vintage pieces into coveted fashion investments.

The rise of Gen Z vintage dealers reflects a broader shift towards sustainable and individualistic fashion choices. This generation continues to redefine the fashion landscape and the vintage market, both in physical stores and online. They play a crucial role in shaping trends and providing a refreshing and nostalgic connection to the past. The fusion of nostalgia, authenticity and digital accessibility defines the unique charm of Gen Z’s vintage fashion movement. In this digital era, access to information is not just a tool; it’s a catalyst for a fashion movement that celebrates the past while shaping the future.

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