The difference in clothing worn between cities and towns doesn’t just affect the people living in them, but affects the businesses trading there.
Vintage fashion is something that’s been huge over the past few years – yet unfortunately, in recent days, some of our beloved vintage fashion traders up and down the country have had to close their doors – with sites like eBay and Depop becoming convenient alternatives.
However, business is booming for Rokit Vintage – the UK’s leading vintage clothing store. Beginning their life as a Camden market stall in 1986, Rokit now have 4 London stores across Camden, Covent Garden and Brick Lane.
Emma Chadwick, from Rokit, grew up in a small village near Northampton and moved to London 4 years ago.
I spoke to her to get her opinions on the big city/small town clothing divide, and what it’s like being a vintage trader with these differences.
Big City/Small Town clothing divide. What do you think? Is there much of a difference between what’s worn in small towns in comparison to what’s worn in big cities?
Definitely! There’s just a lot more diversity in big cities because there’s a bigger pool of different people from different backgrounds and walks of life and just more shops! In small towns everyone buys their clothes from the same limited number of shops and because there’s less diversity people just tend to copy each other.
Do you think a fear of judgement or verbal harassment from locals prevents people in smaller towns/villages from wearing what they want?
Yes 100%. In small towns everyone just wants to fit in and follow trends, everyone finds it easier to just be like everyone else. If you’re a bit different in a small town you stick out like a sore thumb and people can make fun of you! I was always picked on at school for being a bit different and it’s quite sad looking back because I think when I moved away initially I tried to change my style to be like what I thought people saw as cool and it took a couple of years to feel like I could be myself again and to shake off the mentality a small town left me with.
When moving from your hometown to London, did you notice a big difference in the level of acceptance for wearing whatever you want? Would you now feel more comfortable going out wearing something that’s “”different”” or “”out-there”” than you would at home?
Yeah that’s the main thing I’ve noticed really after moving to a big city. In a city it’s seen as ‘cooler’ to be different and unique rather than to fit in. If anything sometimes it’s so free and liberal that people are in danger of trying too hard to be different!! People literally won’t bat an eyelid if you go out in something a bit weird or ‘out there’ in a big city. People in small towns are close minded and, for lack of a better phrase, not very ‘worldly wise’. A man could easily walk down the street in a dress with makeup and painted nails in a big city and everyone would mind their own business, but if someone did that in a small town people would judge or find it shocking because they lack social awareness and that makes me sad. The diversity of people, cultures and styles in big cities means people are more accepting and it’s actually more frowned upon to be judgemental over people who are different. I have lived in London for 4 years now and I have honestly never felt more comfortable in my own skin and I am confident that I only ever buy clothes because I like them and no thought of what anyone else thinks ever comes into it anymore – It feels great!
You now have four stores in London. Do you think there’d be a difference in popularity if you opened one in a smaller town?
Definitely! There used to be 3 vintage stores in Northampton when I lived at home and now I think they have actually all closed down. There was a niche market for that kind of thing but it really was a minority, I honestly think people in small towns probably think the concept of buying second-hand clothes is weird or gross and they don’t really understand vintage or what’s great about it. Perhaps that’s why places like that can fail in small towns. I think we could do well in a smaller town but we would have to choose it wisely. It would have to be somewhere with a fairly wide diversity of people, somewhere people choose to move to rather than just somewhere people grow up (you know what I mean, Northampton for example is the latter), and somewhere where people were a bit more socially aware than your average small town. Brighton for example would be a great place for us to open a store.
And how about if you opened a store in a big, northern city such as Newcastle? Do you think there’d be a north/south clothing divide in that vintage fashion would be less popular up in Newcastle?
I don’t know a great deal about Newcastle, I’ve never been and all I know of it is what I’ve seen on TV but if I was to make a judgement purely based on that I would assume vintage clothing wouldn’t be hugely popular somewhere like that. Typical Geordie style is certainly more high street, fast-fashion or designer rather than second-hand old stuff!! If we’re gonna open somewhere in the North we would definitely be better off somewhere like Manchester or Leeds/Sheffield. As I was saying before, I don’t think Newcastle is a place many people choose to move to from elsewhere which is why there is a less diverse population than the other Northern cities I mentioned. This affects trends and styles.
What do you think would close this gap created by the big city/small town clothing divide? Will small town mentality ever change?
From what I have seen over the last few years, small town mentality seems to be VERY slowly fading away but honestly only very slightly. People are becoming slightly more ‘woke’ a.k.a. socially conscious than they previously were in small towns but I still think the general small town mentality is there with regards to fashion trends and style. It’s just all to do with population and diversity, I feel that people will always want to copy each other and fit in if where they live lacks diversity. There’s a reason why the ‘coolest’ and ‘quirkiest’ people in small towns move away to the city.
What piece of advice would you give to someone living in a small town who feels like they can’t be themselves in fear of standing out too much?
I would say that despite the fact you feel that people care, they honestly don’t. When you realise no one cares as much as you thought they did, life becomes so much easier. I can’t believe I used to be scared to go into Northampton town with little or no makeup on and without wearing an outfit that I thought made me fit in. I thought people would stare, judge and talk about me behind my back. You just have to remember that people have better things to do than worry about what you’re doing or wearing, and even if they do judge you so what, why would you care about their opinions anyway? The only opinions of you that matter are your loved ones (friends and family), and if they love you for who you are all they would want to see is you embracing your natural style and expressing yourself. The older you get the more you realise that it is far cooler to be different and to be who you are than to try to be like everyone else. You’re a one off, there is no one else like you in the world so work it!