Wednesday, March 19, 2014

secondhand stories.......

A few weeks ago I took myself on an impromptu op shop dash on my lunch break. It was a risk, obviously, because as a general rule op-shopping cannot be rushed. Time is perhaps one of the most important factors when scoring vintage radness. Alas, I gave myself a scant forty-five minutes and I managed to scoop up some serious vintage denim. When I returned to work, I crowed happily to everyone and anyone who would listen - and even those who wouldn’t - about my finds. I expected surprise, jealousy, congratulations, etc. etc. But from one workmate I got that tired line that springs forth from all virgin thrifters - ‘Why would you want to wear something secondhand?’

I've never felt the need to examine my love for a thrifted find. Sure, a trip to the op shop can yield volumes of amazingness at prices that will make your bank balance sing. And the hunt for the perfect vintage silk shirt or worn out denim is so much more fun than hitting select size and place order. But those reasons do not constitute all the reasons why I love op-shopping.

I love a good story. As is no doubt obvious from a mere cursory glance around here, I'm a voracious consumer of words in the guise of stories, and often in the guise of dictionaries - I'm not scared to admit a fondess for the Oxford's and Merriman's of the world - but stories are my truest love. And are the greatest reason for my fondness for something that has lived, perhaps longer than me, but lived nonetheless.

Every thrifted, op-shopped, vintage piece I own I imagine has a back story worthy of telling. The places they have been, the people they've been worn by, the events they've been a part of.

Take these faded black Levis, that were purchased as jeans and chopped unceremoniously by me into the frayed shorts they are now. They were found in the mens department and every time I wear them I imagine who owned them before me.

I imagine an ageing musician, who spent the best part of the seventies and eighties travelling up and down the east coast of Australia playing gigs in pubs and bars and the odd RSL. His trusty black Levis a constant companion, a lucky charm. Before every gig, he slip them on with a pair of weathered black leather boots, the kind with deep creases across the top and soles worn flat from years of loving use.

He'd play his set, the sound of his guitar reverberating throughout his body and into his denim. The music becoming woven with the dyed cotton fibre. His sweat would roll down his body, and hit the waistband of his Levis, soaking into the fabric and discolouring the patch of leather that signalled their American heritage.

I imagine him older, spending his days in a old weatherboard home, late night gigs far behind him. His belly grown wide and full in the past few decades, his Levis no longer fit. But they stay, tucked away in the back of the closet. A memory, a visual reminder of the life he lived.

I imagine his family, coming to stay one Christmas. Overwhelming him with love and noise and questions. I imagine his children taking to his closets with the somewhat misguided desire to help him. I imagine them making a pile of clothes to donate. Things the musician no longer needs. I imagine them pulling out the black Levis, now faded to the perfect grey black. I imagine them throwing them into the donate pile and them same Levis somehow finding their way to the op-shop that I visited on my lunch break.

Now, every time I wear them, I think of that old musician. A figment of my imagination, no doubt, but a what a wonderful figment. That old musician may not know it, or perhaps he does, but I'll continue the story of those Levis. I'll take them places, and make them a part of memories and adventures. I'll not let their story fade, I'll not let his story fade. That alone is reason enough to wear something secondhand.

kb xx