What is the Difference between Vintage and Second Hand?

The vintage trend has caught on pretty well in the last decade or so. Many men and women are searching for clothes that work like a time capsule to a different era to incorporate in their outfits.



Terms and conditions

Chanel never goes out of style

Vintage, retro and antique, all terms used to describe clothes from the past, are concepts that are defined in various ways. Some people claim that a clothing item is considered antique if it has been made before 1920, vintage if it dates from 1920 to 1960, and retro if it has been made after 1960. Others claim that retro refers to garments that are made to resemble the clothes of a different past era. In this sense, retro can be defined as “reviving the styles and especially the fashions of the past.” Some don’t look at the year something has been made to define it, but rather at how long ago it was made – in this sense, anything that is 100 years old or more is antique and anything that is older than 20-25 is vintage. Following this logic, what is antique and vintage will always refer to different decades.

If we want to go to the root of the problem, doing a little research will have you know that “vintage” initially referred to wines made from the very best crops of a certain year, therefore making that certain production of wine iconic for that year.

For most people however, vintage clothes are “old clothes” and we can accept that. And, while this can seem a solid point, if we refer to “vintage” as “clothes from the past”, which we can and will do, we need to differentiate between vintage and second hand.

For a lot of people, “vintage” is just a euphemism for “second hand”, but that is not entirely the case.



Vintage vs. second hand

By second hand, as the term itself already explains, is every item of clothing that has been at some point owned and worn by someone else. Basically, everything you purchase that has had an owner before is second hand.

Vintage or second hand?

On the other hand, vintage refers to a category contained within the second hand category, which is the category of clothes that, even though have been produced a while ago, still have a good quality and can be worn.

Clothing has, generally speaking, a very short life span. An item, even if it’s a designer item or something bought from a high-end store, once purchased and worn loses 50% of its value. While clothes that are old can be fun and still wearable, it does not mean that they have a strong cultural value.

The only clothes that still have a lot of value after they have been created and worn are generally haute couture clothes and pieces that have a timeless aesthetic and a quality that allows them to be worn even many years after their creation. Of course, clothes that have a cultural charge are also relevant, valuable clothes, but not necessarily because of the quality of the garments themselves, but because of their historical significance.



Brand new vintage

Actor William Holden in boxing gear. While the shorts might look great, it is not recommended to wear vintage sportswear and underwear

While most vintage clothes have been previously worn, there is a small percentage of pieces that have been created a while ago and that have not been worn. These are usually referred to by dealers as “new-old stock” or “old stock”. Sometimes, they are more sought after than vintage pieces that have been worn, especially if they are designer clothes or if they have their original tags, regardless of the brand.


Wearing vintage

In the end, we need to remind you some simple rules to go by if you want to wear vintage clothes and accessories.

a) Remember that if you put something on that is from a different era, it is recommended to pair it with brand new pieces. Otherwise, it can look costumey.

b) Also, mixing eras is a good idea, as it will give more of a sense of “vintage”, rather than a sense of “old”.

c) Thirdly, we recommend wearing around two vintage pieces at once: this way, you won’t look costumey, but you will also not look as if you haven’t renewed a certain part of your wardrobe in a while. Go for a garment and an accessory that hint to a certain time, and you are good to go.


Vintage clothes can make great additions to any man’s wardrobe. They can express your personality, taste and style and can make you feel like you are wearing a part of history. Moreover, since every time and decade is associated with certain ideas and concepts, vintage clothes can let others know what your opinions and aspirations are. And this is what fashion is all about.


Wearing vintage clothes and accessories can be a wonderful style statement, with which you can play in order to let others know who you are without saying a word.


Fraquoh and Franchomme






Further reading:

The hows and whys of buying vintage

The guide to vintage clothes and accessories: How to buy vintage

How to wear vintage ties

P.S. We want to hear from you! Do you like wearing vintage clothes? What do you look for when buying vintage? Share your feedback, questions or thoughts in the comments below! For more articles on style, fashion tips and cultural insights, you can subscribe to Attire Club via e-mail or follow us on Facebook or Twitter!


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