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THE 1940's & 50's CLOTHING COMPANY - Cool threads for lovers of Vintage Clothing





THE 1940's & 50's CLOTHING COMPANY - Cool threads for lovers of Vintage Clothing


Here, Digger talks to Malcolm Wagner who runs The 1940s and 50s Clothing Company. Malcolm's vintage business started as a hobby, as they invariably do, and now he runs an online shop selling the clothes he loves to customers he often counts as friends. When not running the business, Malcolm can be seen at various 40s-themed events around the country.






Digger: Good morning Malcolm, how are you?

Malcolm: David, morning. 

Digger: Can you tell us a little about your background and that of The 1940s and 50s Clothing Company? 

Malcolm: Really, my interest in vintage clothing started in the early seventies for myself to wear. And that took me all round the vintage fairs and so on. 

Digger: Was it a very different scene then? 

Malcolm: Not really, you always had people who would wear alternative clothing. I can remember, in those days, I would buy something and then if I went out somewhere people would say "Where'd you buy your clothes from?" And I was hunting everywhere - jumble sales, vintage clothing fairs, anywhere I could find something. So this put a little seed in my head and I thought "I've got certain things - maybe I should do a stall." So then I gathered up a pile of clothing which I no longer wore and had a stall at Camden and that was quite successful, so I started to buy. Not only for myself, but also because I could feed my hobby. This was beneficial. So then I did Islington and, come the mid-seventies, there were 1940s weekends starting and people would go for the whole weekend dressed-up, dancing and looking at old cars and so on. A weekend of indulgence. And so I started to visit these places and was really very successful. You had a captive and interested audience there. 

Digger: Was this gear a lot cheaper and easier to get hold of in those days? 

Malcolm: It was a lot cheaper. Yes, and it was in the price range of everyone. And now some things have become an investment. Some prices are so high that the market for them shrinks, but I always try to keep my prices as accessible as possible. 

Digger: Does that mean you have stock at the high end and the low end? 

Malcolm: Yes, I try to keep a good cross-section. 

Digger: My friend - Viv The Spiv, do you know him? 

Malcolm: Oh yes. 

Digger: He loves a sharp suit. He has just appeared in The Chap magazine. 

Malcolm: I met him at all of the 40s weekends and he's always around at them. A very popular guy and everybody knows him. 

Digger: We're so obsessed with the 1940s in this country, aren't we? I was in a garden centre on Sunday and the card racks there were full of 1940s and wartime cards. And there' were dozens of books about the war and the 1940s - it really is an obsession and such a big thing still. 

Malcolm: I can remember some of these people on the scene have been doing this for over thirty years and they're still as enthusiastic as when I first met them. I think it's such an enjoyable hobby - not just the collecting side and hunting down things to wear and so on. But all the people involved are lovely. 

Digger: If I gave you a choice between 40s and 50s, which one would you choose? 

Malcolm: 1940s. That's my passion. I do like the 50s and a lot of people like the 50s. It's a kind of brightness. A lot of girls say "I like the 50s clothing because it's brighter, there's colour and it's vibrant." And I say "Well, okay if you look at the English clothing of the 40s then we were at war and the money was tight and all materials were in short supply and rationed. This is why you had a dowdier and utilitarian kind of look." 

Digger: Lots of darker colours. 

Malcolm: Yes. And I say "I understand that the 50s was brighter with polka dots and what have you."  But I preferred the look and style of the 40s. 

Digger: If you look at the leap from the 40s to, say, the 60s, they just couldn't have predicted or believed that ladies would be wearing mini skirts and hot pants just twenty years after. Such a change. 

Malcolm: Absolutely. 

Digger: What a culture change in just one generation. 

Malcolm: Yes. 

Digger: Not only are your items genuine and original, they seem to be a fraction of the cost of these items as new. This must make Vintage Wear a great investment and environmentally-friendly too as well as being something that looks great and makes you stand out from the crowd. These must all be good reasons to shop Vintage? 






Malcolm: I think it's a fantastic way of shopping and recycling. Not only that, some of the items may pass through my hands two or three times. Some of the people will come back and say "I wore this dress or this suit so many time now, would you be interested in trading it in?" And I say "Of course." 

Digger: How come these items are lasting so long? 

Malcolm: You have to be careful because normally it's the stitching and the seams that will go. If you put on weight... (Laughs) 

Digger: That must be a challenge for you these days because we're all a lot bigger. 

Malcolm: I'm okay, I'm only five foot five and slimmish. 

Digger: I wouldn't get away with it with my size and a lot of people might want the look but it must be difficult to find stuff that will fit them. 

Malcolm: Yes, larger sizes and the young girls today they're much bigger - my mother had a 22 inch waist. A lot of these girls are 30+ and it is difficult. I have toyed with the idea of repros but I really don't want to go into that and other people are doing that. 

Digger: What sort of feedback do you get from clients? 

Malcolm: When they go out to a dance or event people say "Oh, you look lovely." Or of it's a guy people say how smart they look, especially if they're also wearing a hat. There's a drummer called Dickie Wicket, and he plays in a band and always wears a hat. The fedora - a beautiful hat. And he always comes up to me at events and says things like "Malcolm, remember that open road fedora I bought from you? I loved that hat." It makes them feel good and that's what makes me happy. 

Digger: Where is the product range developing in the future and what sorts of requests have you had for new products and lines?  

Malcolm: What we're thinking of, actually, are accessories. We don't really cater that much for these - girls like a handbag and so on and I thought maybe I should do something. Then my girlfriend said "What about underwear?" 

Digger: Is there much original vintage underwear left? 

Malcolm: I always manage to find original nylons - because I'm always asked for those from people in the 40s fraternity. So I thought I could do a range of underwear, and that's an idea that I've yet to do but I really like. 

Digger: That will boost  the business too. 

Malcolm: A totally whole new line. 





Digger: What are the most enjoyable aspects of what you do? I'm guessing it's working with vintage clothes and the clients and their enjoyment of them? 

Malcolm: Yes, it's actually the people and their appreciation. And the way they pass it on to their friends and I make new contacts and clients. 

Digger: There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies satisfying our demand for retro and nostalgia. Why is retro and nostalgia so enduringly popular?

Malcolm: I think, whether it's true or not, people were nicer and life was safer. I think that's what it is. It's probably true in some ways but not true in all ways. 

Digger: There was quite a dark side to wartime Britain, apart from the Germans trying to bomb the wotsits out of us. 

Malcolm: Yes, black market and looting and so on. I always think it always applies whatever it is, people say "Things were better then. You could leave the back door open and nowadays you have to lock everything. People were much nicer then and they're horrible today." 

Digger: I am security mad but my girlfriend is forever leaving her car unlocked or the back door unlocked when I'm not around. And so far we've got away with it, so it can't be that much of an issue these days. 

Malcolm: It's maybe a myth that it's worse today. I remember this quite elderly lady and she looking around the store and dressed quite nicely and she looked at the clothes and said to me "Such a lovely time." And I thought, yes there was a war going on, you know?! Things were better then and the people were nicer and I think that's what it's all about. 

Digger: I think life was simpler. 

Malcolm: And maybe that's what it is. Life has become so complicated. 

Digger: We haven't got time for the niceties, have we? 

Malcolm: Things accelerate and these days I email my friends in America and if it's the right time he emails me back within seconds. Everything has got quicker. 

Digger: What's your retro passion? 





Malcolm: Quality American hats. Because I think they produced quality at that time and when you see a 1940's Stetson - Elliott Ness and all of the gangsters wore them - they call them fedoras. The gangsters and Mafia wore the oval homburg type, then you had the newspaper reporters - silk band and a lovely shape perched on the back of his head. Humphrey Bogart - they all wore them. 

Digger: Have you got many originals? 

Malcolm: (Laughs) Yes, I don't know how many, but a lot. 

Digger: Ah. You don't dare count? 

Malcolm: Otherwise I should sell some. 

Digger: Maybe you can. That's the thing, you had them as a temporary custodian and now you can pass them on. 

Malcolm: Yes, I'm only looking after the past temporarily. And I DO wear them. If we go out to a 1940s dance then I wear them. 

Digger: Thank you Malcolm for that insight into the 40s and 50s clothing and styles and your passion for them. 

Malcolm: Thanks David.





Specialising in men's and women's Clothing and Accessories of the 40s and 50s.

The 1940s & 50s Clothing Company
PO Box 3123
United Kingdom

Telephone:+44 (0)1452 411226






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