Shopping in person at Marrkt, York
I was in York last week. It’s where my wife grew up, and I’ve been dozens of times over the years, though not for the past three or four.
The centre has a lot more closed shops since Covid; it’s quite sad. But I did notice one big new shop on Parliament Street, called simply ‘The Vintage Shop’ (below).
Its stock is specific: American brands and sports, from the 1990s onwards. There are big piles of Polo polos, Tommy Hilfiger shirts and Champion sweats. There are hoodies and caps of American Football teams, and Carhartt workwear.
I browsed around, trying on some Polo chinos and Carhartt work trousers. I’ve always liked the way duck canvas ages, and some of the old Polo pieces get really nice and soft over the years.
The problem with most of it, though, was the quality. A lot of synthetics, sweatshirts rather bobbled, and more stains than you’d expect. This is not the best period for Americana, and this is not the best from that period.
However, there is another relative newcomer just out of town where quality is a driver - and that’s Marrkt (pictured elsewhere).
The pre-owned website has its headquarters in a business park about 20 minutes from the centre of York, near Easingwold. As readers will know, I’ve sold many of my own clothes through Marrkt in recent years, and we did a pop-up together last December.
I thought it would be nice to visit the team while I was in town, and perhaps even use the opportunity to try some pieces I’d been poring over online (some John Lofgren boots, a Real McCoy’s sweat, Iron Heart denim).
It turned out that the team were not only happy for me to do so, but they’d been thinking about encouraging people to visit and shop (by appointment) for a while.
After all, this is probably the biggest concentration of luxury menswear anywhere in the UK outside London. Nowhere else has Seraphin leather coats, Chapal bombers and Loro Piana jackets - and certainly not all in one place.
The only issue, I found, is that the racks are organised by date - by the month they came into the warehouse. This drives the product codes, and how everything is fulfilled.
So there’s no way to browse by brand or size. You simply have to walk through the racks, picking out any piece that looks interesting and seeing what maker it is, and then roughly whether it’s a good size.
This is pretty much the experience of browsing most vintage stores, to be fair. And it did mean I stumbled across some beautiful things I hadn’t seen online.
On a website you tend to browse by a brand you know, or a category of something you’re looking for. So it’s easy to miss, say, a lovely Kanata cardigan because you’ve forgotten about the brand or aren’t really looking for knitwear.
My advice, for anyone that does visit, is to do both. Browse the website in order to make a list of the things you’re interested in: these can be quickly tracked down using the codes, and picked out to try on.
Then, walk the racks and see what else catches your eye.
The other nice thing about doing this is that you see sellers’ clothing all grouped together.
So you’ll find a section with four or five well-worn Aero Leather jackets, from someone who clearly had a problem buying too many, and eventually had to trim down his collection.
Or, you find a rack that is nearly entirely vests and waistcoats - fishing ones and tailored ones, old and new, canvas and down. Clearly that was his thing, his way of dressing.
Actually, I know whose those belonged to, because he’s a journalist I know. Same goes for another writer friend, who had sent in a lot of his old bespoke tailoring. There was even a reader or two who I knew had sent in certain things.
You could read people’s style by the brands they had sent: one had the Seraphin, the Chapal and some more French pieces; another was heavily into the Japanese repro brands like McCoy’s, Buzz Rickson and Warehouse, with almost everything from McCoy’s one year; and another was all Japanese fashion, Kapital, 45R and Visvim.
This makes browsing a little simpler too, because you quickly realise one seller is too big for his things to fit you.
And then you find a motherlode: a guy with wonderful leathers and wool jackets, all in a size 40. I tried on a lot of those.
In fact, I stumbled across quite a lot of clothes that I would never have normally tried on, even in a shop. There was a Visvim down coat, a Margiela knit, an Aero flight jacket. All of them lovely, and none of them things I had ever tried before. I think that might have been the most enjoyable part of the experience.
Pictured below are a couple of the pieces I particularly liked - that Kanata hand knit and a beautifully worn-in Real McCoy's jacket. The two Seraphin coats on the site are also stunning, but look like nothing special until you see them in person.
But what did I actually walk away with? Well, two pieces that were rather less exciting, but very practical.
A pair of Buzz Rickson chinos that seem to be just as nice as the Real McCoy’s ones I’ve covered previously (below). A slightly different colour, and a zip fly, but otherwise similar. They’ll be a useful and relatively cheap way to add something new to our chino series.
And a Bryceland’s sawtooth shirt, size 42. A combination of weight gain, evolving style and simple recognition of how things are meant to fit had made me think I needed to size up from my 40, so this was perfect.
The size 40 will of course be sent to Marrkt to be sold onto someone else, so it all goes around. It’s not quite a circular economy, but this is certainly a longer value chain than most clothing gets.
In the articles we did on vintage store Rag Parade in Sheffield, it was interesting to discuss why people buy vintage and pre-owned clothing: the motivations are various, and shouldn’t be confused.
The shoppers at The Vintage Store were all young and primarily thrift shoppers, looking to get something cheap. Style was a factor, but most things could be bought elsewhere new. Just three or four times the price.
Most people at Rag Parade, by contrast, were not thrifting - they were looking for something special, unusual and rare. A pile of dead-stock army trousers might be good value for what they’re made of, but that wasn’t the main driver.
I find other vintage shops can be a mixture, depending on how closely they are curated. Le Vif in Paris, for example, is much more tightly edited than Broadway & Sons in Gothenburg. Thrift is not a factor at the former, but probably is a little at the latter.
Marrkt is more similar to The Vintage Store - a mixture of thrift and style. Thrift even though the clothes are expensive, because they were really expensive when new. And style because this is all menswear, fairly classic, and a certain level of quality.
Marrkt is open to anyone that wants to make an appointment. The facilities are being gradually improved though - such as a dedicated space and changing area - so if you visit soon it might be a little rough and ready.
The best way to make an appointment is to email [email protected].
If you’re anywhere near York, I think it’s worth a visit. You might not find anything you hadn’t already seen online, but it will save a lot of buying and sending back. And it might open your eyes to something you’d ever considered before, and you’ll walk away with a Descente ski jacket or a Visvim folk boot.