The Vintage Hookup: Mississippians upcycle for style, cash and the environment

Clothing rack

A clothing rack in a local bargain store Photo by Brooke McNabb.

Brooke McNabb
Oxford Stories

In an effort to reduce waste for our environment, more people are turning to used clothing. Thrift stores are popping up on every corner, and customers are looking for unique items.

Whether it’s finding that perfect dress for formal or shoes that complete an outfit for a fraction of the price, there is treasure to be found at the bottom of bargain bins. Some people know how to capitalize on the treasures they find, and others add their own touch to clothing.

Up-cycling is when an old garment is altered in a new way to reflect one’s style. This trend has been ongoing for years, but with access to online artists, personalization opportunities are almost infinite.

Alex and their jacket.

Alex Sawyer dawns patches with pride. Photo by Brooke McNabb.

Alex Sawyer, 23, is a Jackson, Tennessee native who is often found at local concerts sporting a custom denim jacket covered in different patches. Most of the patches are handmade or purchased from artists online.

Sawyer found the jacket, then plain denim, and decided it was the perfect canvas to project love for the animated TV show by Dreamworks “Voltron: Legendary Defender.” Most of the patches started as fan-made art uploaded to an embroidery machine that were mass produced based on orders.

“I love Takashi Shirogane, and I wanted this jacket to reflect that,” Sawyer said when asked about the jacket. “I’ve put a lot of work into this thing and sewn every patch on myself. Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a patch, and if it hasn’t been made, I embroider it myself.”

Sawyer also takes commissions for patches and sells them on Instagram. Sawyer has 15 patches sewn on so far and continues to add more.

Other shoppers don’t hold onto the items they find. Sometimes they sell them online before they finish with checkout.

The Vintage Hookup

Owner of The Vintage Hookup, William Blake, shows off some of his new finds. Photo by Brooke McNabb

William Blake, 20, is the owner of The Vintage Hookup, an online clothing and shoe store. Blake lives and runs his store in Ellisville, Mississippi. The Vintage Hookup was established in 2012 as a shoe hobby. Blake found old shoes, cleaned them up, then resold them online. Now he sells everything from hats to full track suits. The Vintage Hookup gets most of its sales through Facebook, eBay, and Instagram.

Blake gets most of his inventory from different thrift stores all over Mississippi, including Oxford. Sometimes he takes trips to Louisiana and Alabama to find more things to list in his store. Traveling around results in variety and a better shot at finding a valuable piece.

“I love the feeling of finding a shirt with intricate designs and looking up the name,” Blake said. “When I find out it was made in the ’90s, that makes my smile even brighter, because I just paid $2 for it, and it’s worth $45.

“Every find isn’t like that, and it’s like drawing straws for the best deals, but when they come, it’s worth it,” he said. “Some of my items sit awhile, and some I sell before I even get out the store. It’s crazy, but that’s just how it works.”

It takes a keen eye and a good sense of trends to keep up with the public’s demands. Reselling clothes is a great option to make extra money while going to college. The only things needed are a good light source, virtually any smartphone camera, and a measuring tape. Good customer service doesn’t hurt either, but being from the Hospitality State, that comes naturally for Blake.

He has spent years building up a reputation online. He is active in many Facebook groups that specialize in vintage resale. The online community for eCommerce is growing stronger and bringing buyers and sellers closer together. Finding the perfect outfit can be easier online, but buyers may end up paying more for a unique or rare item.

Thrifting and up-cycling are great options for the environmentally stylish. It can be cheaper than buying from department stores, which is great for the budgeting college student. Personalization and expression are easier than ever. ’90s style is on the rise, and these stores are filled waiting for the next jewels to be discovered.

The Vintage Hookup can be found here or on Instagram @TheVintageHookup

Sawyer can be reached on Instagram @dattebayes_ for commissions.

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