Wayne Hemingway, The Guardian, May 02, 2013
As one of world's most creative cities, London has bequeathed us an amazing vintage legacy, from the mid-20th-century modern movement that resulted in great public architecture such as the Barbican and the Southbank Centre to the youthquakes of the 50s, 60s, and 70s that filled our wardrobes with wonderfully designed clothes and our Ercol sideboards with vinyl records. Here is my pick of its best vintage spots.
Geo F Trumper, Mayfair
This traditional barber shop has been around forever and with a name like Trumper's it has to be on my list of favourites. For the genuine posh-boy experience head here, it has specialised in traditional male grooming for well over 100 years. The Curzon Street shop retains its original mahogany-panelled cubicles. As well as haircutting, it offers moustache trimming and tinting, shaving, facials and, for the follicley challenged, hairpiece fitting (in private, of course).
• 9 Curzon Street W1, 020-7499 1850 trumpers.com
What the Butler Wore, Waterloo
A wonderfully eclectic street, unknown by many, Lower Marsh is home to two absolute gems for vintage lovers: What the Butler Wore, and Radio Days (87 Lower Marsh, radiodaysvintage.co.uk). Once you're shopped out, take a well-earned rest at Scooter Caffè (132 Lower Marsh). All this is just minutes from my favourite architecture in London – the wonderful Royal Festival Hall and Southbank Centre.
Lovers of the liquid sunshine palette of Yellow Submarine rejoice. What the Butler Wore is a cheery shop serving up scooter dresses, sharp-collared paisley shirts and mohair cardigans, all in saturated cherry reds, acid greens and egg-yolk yellows. Most stock skews toward the tailored-mod end of the 1960s and designer pieces crop up frequently. A back room holds bargain rails of dresses and tops.
• 131 Lower Marsh SE1, 020-7261 1353, whatthebutlerwore.co.uk
The Vintage Showroom, Covent Garden
Praise the lord! The buyers at The Vintage Showroom not only understand that men also love vintage classic clothing, but also have their noses close enough to the ground to sniff great pieces out. This is, hands down, the best source of vintage menswear in central London, if not all of London. This is vintage for men who do not want to dress up – either in a formal and mannered style or to show allegiance to a subcultural tribe – but who want to dress well. The Showroom was originally exactly that, an industry-only showroom full of archive clothing and research pieces, that designers would visit for inspiration. So many people wanted to buy these clothes that a shop was inevitable.
• 14 Earlham Street, WC2, 020-7836 3964, thevintageshowroom.com
Modern Shows, various London venues
Mid-century modern style set the tone for Britain being a design powerhouse, and its legacy lives on through brands such as G Plan, G Plan Vintage, Ercol, Hille et al. The fabulous team at Modern Shows brings them all together in a roving marketplace showcasing the very best.
Mid-century furniture and modern design get-togethers are organised at venues such as Dulwich College and Lord's cricket ground. If you can't make a show and are interested in design, the website has a directory of vintage and modern shops you can dive right into.
The Barbican, the City
The Barbican ticks the vintage box on so many levels. Magnificent bold, mid-century architecture, classic thinking on public space, evocative interiors and programming that understands the concept of celebrating and reinterpreting cultural moments in time.
This self-styled "home of silent cinema in London" regularly showcases classics with live musical accompaniment – and not always just a piano. As well as favourites such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, less well-known silents also get a frequent airing.
• Silk Street EC2, 020-7638 8891, barbican.org.uk
Alfie's Antiques Market, Marylebone
Alfie's provides such a great few hours out. This is carefully selected high-end vintage at its best and if you are lucky enough to get there when all the traders are open then you are in for a treat. There are antiques in the traditional sense but also vintage experts who know their mid-century modern inside out. Mrs H has a great source of 20s dresses in Alfie's. Also check out the cluster of vintage clothes and interiors shops that surround the market.
With its confined interiors and carpeted floors, at times it can seem like a sprawling house whose extraordinary contents must have belonged to some obsessive collector who dreamed of possessing an example of every single thing in the world. At the top of the building there's a popular cafe, the Roof Top Kitchen, that helps to encourage people to climb the scattered staircases to the remote upper reaches of the honeycomb.
• 13-25 Church St NW8, 020-7723 6066, alfiesantiques.com
The Hemingway Home has a healthy smattering of Golborne Rd/top end of Portobello finds that we have brought back to life/upcycled. While you're there pop into Rellik (8 Golborne Road, 020-8962 0089, relliklondon.co.uk) a wonderfully curated vintage shop with some very special items - great 80s clubwear and Westwood vintage pieces. All this in the shadow of the vintage architectural icon that is the Trellick Tower.
Portobello is an essential visit for anyone interested in any aspect of vintage London. You'll find places that haven't changed for a very long time cheek by jowl with the shiniest new retail experiments, and objects that could have been sold here over and over again. If anything, Golborne feels like an even stronger expression of the vintage spirit than Portobello, perhaps because Portobello is so many other things besides. Along Golborne you'll find a succession of shops dedicated to the weird and antiquated, the beautiful and abandoned.
Wilton's Music Hall, Whitechapel
We must all support Wilton's … it's so beautiful, so evocative and no one can fail to be moved when they see the sheer magnificence of the music hall. With a diverse programme of events including the wonderful Other Voices there is no excuse not to put much-needed money in to its coffers.
It's the jewel in Whitechapel's slightly tatty crown; a Victorian relic with a thriving arts programme, and also one of the nicest places in London to have a drink. The picturesquely dilapidated ground floor Mahogany Bar serves delicious free snacks between 6-8pm on weekday evenings often to live musical accompaniment, while upstairs is the Green Room, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar.
• 1 Grace Alley E1, 020-7702 2789 wiltons.org.uk
MORE VINTAGE LONDON
La Belle Jolie, Crystal Palace
This is London's first full-on retro spa experience. Having spent 20 years as a freelance hair and make-up artist, owner Ruby Rose is a beauty historian with an eye for detail and accuracy. One of the rooms here is modelled on the light greys of the Savoy treatment rooms of 1926, and the other takes inspiration from Claridge's green and black Vitrolite room of the late 1930s. Treatment days can include retro hair and make-up masterclasses or marine body wraps and sugar scrubs. And you can come away feeling like a silver-screen goddess without having to spend like one.
• 020-7018 1209, labellejolie.com
It's not the easiest place to find, tucked away in an industrial estate with the door hidden behind an intimidating steel grille. But buzz through to enter, and you'll be admitted into an instantly welcoming shop smelling of clean, warm wool. While Cenci specialises in all kinds of clothes, from the 40s to the early 80s, it is known for its supply of bright, high-quality knits untouched by moths or the ravages of time.
• 35 Anerley Road SE19, 020-8766 8564, cenci.co.uk. Mon-Sat 11am-6pm
East End Thrift Store, Whitechapel
You're guaranteed to get a good deal at this outpost of vintage cool located down an unassuming little passage off Mile End Road. The bulk of the stock dates from the 1980s and 90s, with a smaller stash of 50s, 60s and 70s dresses. It's mostly wearable day-to-day stuff, with the occasional show-stopper.
• Unit 1A Assembley Passage E1, 020-7423 9700, theeastendthriftstore.com
Time for Tea, Shoreditch
It's not always open to the public, but if you can dodge the private parties on a Sunday afternoon, duck into Time for Tea for some crumpets in the cosy 1940s-style tearoom. If it feels like someone's front room, that's because it is. Johnny Vercoutre, local character, art director and DJ, blessed with a glorious moustache and a specialist knowledge of all things 1939-59, has lived in the house for years. Share the big table with other tea-drinkers before stepping back out onto the busy street and wondering why everything looks so, well, modern.
• 110 Shoreditch High Street, 020-3222 0073, timefortea.org.uk
Eighty-Seven, Finsbury Park
With erratic opening hours (best to phone ahead) and a load of boxes stuffed full of old picture frames sitting on the pavement, the initial impression of Eighty-Seven is that it's rather chaotic. But don't let that put you off, as inside the shop is a completely different story, stocking a great range of furniture and collectables that you would kick yourself for walking past.
• 87 Blackstock Road, N4, 07751 906739
Mousetrap at Orleans, Finsbury Park
Round the corner from Finsbury Park bus station, amid some rough-and-ready pubs and chicken bars, isn't really where you'd expect to find a club night catering to discerning 60s music fans. But that's one of several quirks of Mousetrap, which has been running in the same location since 2001. Organised by the New Untouchables, promoters of 60s and mod culture, the nights attract a young, friendly, fiercely passionate crowd, as exacting about the clothes they wear as they are about their music policy.
• 259 Seven Sisters Road N4, newuntouchables.com
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk