F as in Frank Clothing keeps the vintage real
As more and more thrift shops convert into second-hand consignment shops, true vintage clothing is getting disturbingly scarce in this city. Which is good news if you’re in the market for a faded “previously loved” Gap hoodie from last year—no shortage of those. But if you want a Lee Storm Rider from the ’70s with original Led Zeppelin patchwork, you’re pretty much SOL. Unless, of course, you head down to F as in Frank Clothing (2425 Main Street). That’s where brothers Jesse and Drew Heifetz are keeping it old school—for realz. So you won’t catch these guys sliding down that slippery slope from vintage to last year’s hand-me-downs.
“I think a lot of stores go that route because they can’t find a lot of good stuff and it’s a problem with the sourcing,” says Drew, who, along with Jesse, recently sat down with the Straight at their SoMa hotspot. “But we have massive channels for sourcing and buying. We’re lucky in that respect—we can usually source out whatever we like.”
With four pickers in Vancouver and two in Toronto, endless inherited contacts, a giant East Van warehouse, and a genetic predisposition toward vintage, the bros do have the advantage here. That’s because their father started working in the vintage-clothing industry in 1967 under the name Rag Machine, before they took over the operation in 2001 and changed it to F as in Frank.
Right now, a majority of their business is exporting rare finds to vintage stops, design teams, and prominent labels all over the world. The Vancouver store, which opened just under two years ago, is basically their way of maintaining a presence in their own city by offering local fashionistas an edgier selection of thrift threads.
“We just really want to stay true to what we think is cool and what’s really happening in some of the bigger cities, like New York, Los Angeles, and London, in terms of fashion,” says Jesse. “Vintage doesn’t have to be polyester ’60s dresses and weird florescent paisley ’70s crap.”
With that in mind, Jesse and Drew, who could pass for a couple of Beastie Boys circa Licensed to Ill, only stock their store with the hottest in retro streetwear. For example, they have a wall of vintage, deadstock snapback ball caps from the ’80s and early ’90s ($30 to $60). These bad boys are the “it” accessory for hipster scenes far and wide—be it from the world of hip-hop, skateboarding, indie rock, or all of the above. And if you can’t find that special antiquated team hat in-store, check out the website. There are more than 1,500 to chose from, including such high-end collectables as the Sports Specialties Los Angeles Raiders script hat that goes for ($300). They also have a rack of mint-condition military jackets ($30 to $68) and vintage jean jackets ($24 to $48).
And when it comes to rock Ts, they got it sussed. Most of their T-shirts go for $14 to $18, but they do have the odd highly sought-after gem, like the 1978 Stones beaut that goes for $250. Which may seem like a lot to some, but for these rare-find seekers, nothing compares to the real thing.
“We’re not into selling replicas or bootlegs or knockoffs,” says Jesse, referring to retailers that specialize in reproducing retro Ts. “Although it’s economical, it doesn’t convey what we’re trying to do. We’re real purists.” Not only that—they genuinely love the thrill of the chase.
“I’ve just had so much fun finding these old mom-and-pop shops throughout the United States that have basements or attics full of sneakers or hats that have never been touched—like the tags are still on.”
As Drew explains, what they do is kind of addictive. “It really kind of sucks you in, because it’s like you’re on a treasure hunt all the time—I mean, you’re always on the hunt for that next item,” he says before Jesse adds: “Yeah, you feel like Indiana Jones every day.”