Photos by Michael Stenerson. Modeled by Nyayop Chuol Toang.
Last month, photographer Michael Stenerson spent an afternoon with three local vintage purveyors. While sifting through their extensive archives for this shoot, they chatted about how they fell into thrifting and the treasures they unearth while shopping. Ashley and Seth Goodman thrifted before they met, but their shopping picked up when they got together about six years ago. Demitrius Perry started thrifting for himself about seven years ago, but has only been selling his finds for a year.
Seth and Ashley, you usually sell vintage sportswear for the most part would you say?
Seth Goodman: Yeah, that’s definitely become our main focus. We noticed that that was a lot of the stuff we were buying and that was the stuff we were selling the most of. So we decided to make that the focus of our main shop, and it’s been a lot of fun.
Was there something about the vintage sportswear that attracted you to it? Was it because of your own personal interests or because it was what you were finding at the stores?
SG: Definitely my interest in sports and being a fan of sports, but also the sporty style and the way it’s crossed over into streetwear. For the most part, it’s always bright colors and cool patterns and cool logos and a lot of stuff with city names across it. You get a lot of people representing their region or their city — where they’re from — and I just find that stuff to be pretty interesting and pretty cool. It’s definitely fun to provide that for other people across the country and even across the world. We do a lot of international sales and I always wonder if that’s somebody trying to represent where they’re from far, far away.
What would you say is one of the best things you’ve found thrifting so far? Not necessarily the thing you thought was worth the most money, but the one thing or couple of things you’ve found that was the freshest of all the things you’ve been shopping for?
Demitrius Perry: Man, that’s kinda tough. I don’t know. I originally started thrifting for denim because I would sew my jeans up and make them fit me a certain type of way because it’s hard to find pants that fit me right being tall and skinny. I would say I found a really cool denim jacket that has a full embroidery panel on the back of a tiger. I also went to an estate sale recently and found some really cool Harley Davidson shirts from Tokyo that are awesome and those are probably one of the coolest things I’ve found.
Seth and Ashley?
SG: Oh, I’d definitely say this New York Giants baseball letterman-style jacket that has these leather sleeves with just the most incredible patina on them. So worn in, so broken in; the ends of the sleeves are the team colors and the cotton is completely frayed and worn out and it just has so much character; it tells such a story. I also have a neck tie from the 1959 Rose Bowl from when the Hawkeyes played against UCLA. They got their asses kicked, but it’s a really cool tie. I don’t really know the story behind it, but maybe it was something that was given to the players or the coaching staff for playing in the game or making it to the game. That’s something that I think is really cool that I just found at the Salvation Army. Super rad. I found a lot of cool stuff, but that Giants jacket, is just everything I love about vintage clothes — how something could be broken in, and beaten up and weathered over time and it just looks better and better every day.
Ashley Goodman: I’m a Patriots fan and I found this sweet jacket from the late ’70s or early ’80s and it’s actually a little kids jacket but it fits me and it’s just so cool. It has one of those hoods that kinda zips in half to fall behind. That’s pretty sweet as far as the sports things I’ve found that I really, really like. Aside from that, tons of furs. I have this awesome dark brown fur jacket, and that is absolutely stellar. There’s so many, I mean it’s hard to pinpoint at this moment.
DP: I just thought of another thing, too. I found these Jordan Bred 1s for my girlfriend from 2001. That particular pair would go for maybe like $500-$600 easily.
And you found them for, what, 20 bucks?
DP: Yeah, 30 bucks! They were numbered back then and they made like 40,000 of them and hers were number 1. Seriously. I just couldn’t believe it. They were beat up and the sole was separating so I had to fix that — you guys couldn’t even tell in the shoot, right?
SG: No, not at all!
DP: Yeah. I just totally restored them. I put the shape back in and put the sole back on them.
AG: No way!
DP: I was like, dude, this is amazing
When you’re thrifting, things maybe don’t always cost a lot. Do you end up buying a lot of stuff?
SG: The rush is in “Look at all this cool stuff I found for like $38!” But then you do that 50 or 60 times and you have just piles and piles of clothes or random knickknacks or whatever it is you’re buying and eventually it just becomes insurmountable. We’ve definitely spent the last few years trying to refine our collection a little bit. I don’t mind having a few hundred or even thousand items in our inventory, but I want to make sure they are all quality now, as opposed to just buying things that I think I could sell for $10 or $15.
DP: When I go out now, I make sure somebody I know can fit it, so I don’t feel as bad, you know? I’ll just give this to somebody if it doesn’t work out, but this is a great deal and I don’t want to pass it up.
SG: It is hard to pass up a deal!
DP: I have a limit per item, but I don’t mind spending $40 if I can get a ton of stuff. It has to be worth it. I’ve gotten to the register and had to put some stuff back. I just didn’t feel comfortable with what I was spending. Even though I want this stuff, I’m not going to feel right.
AG: I think it’s different if it’s going into your personal collection. Then it’s worth spending a little money.
SG: When Ashley and I are thrifting we go off separately in the store and then we meet up when we’re done and go through all the stuff we found. Then, I tell Ashley she has to put back all these sweatshirts with teddy bears on them and denim stuff with lace coming off it. Grandma sweaters. And children’s clothing.
AG: They’re just so cute!
SG: We’re not having any of that. We don’t need this.
AG: It’s so hard!
Michael Stenerson is a photographer, artist and DJ living in Iowa City. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 224.