30 years of vintage fashion in Manchester

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The history of Mancunion fashion

When you hear the phrase ‘Manchester fashion’, what do you think? Are you seeing shell-suits and buckets hats? Oversized sweatshirts paired with even baggier trousers? The city just can’t let go of the 90s.

And why would it want to…

A fashion hub

The late 80s ignited the north’s fashion heyday. Fuelled by new-wave music, a recovering economy and – let’s face it – a (un)healthy dose of MDMA.

Today, fast fashion superpowers PrettyLittleThing, JD Williams and Missguided have made themselves at home in the north. Driven by cheap rent, booming e-commerce and consumers insatiable desire for a wardrobe hot off the runway.

If you want clothes, Manchester has you (literally) covered. Not only is it the UK’s largest tech hub outside of the capital but it’s also home to the largest concentration of small online business in the UK.

Making a name for itself

But our current northern fashion industry is more a renaissance than a new dawn. The red brick factories on each street corner tell a well-dressed history. 

Historically the city was dubbed Cottonopolis - thanks to the industrial revolution and the textile powerhouses in the north. The explosion sent fabrics and clothing all around the world and, at its peak, Manchester was using a third of the world’s cotton production in its mills. 

Nowadays, aside from the aesthetically pleasing ‘run-down-chic’ that the Northern Quarter offers, it is also the home of the majority of vintage warehouses. 

These northerners know fabrics. So if you’re in the market for a garment that has some lasting power, head to Oldham Street for inspiration, that’s where it all began.

30 Years of Vintage Fashion in Manchester

From Cottonopolis to Madchester

The city loves its nicknames.

Fast forward to the 90s; to the mixing pot of alt-rock, acid house and the Britpop revolution. No one can imagine 90s fashion in Manchester without immediately combining into the mix the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Oasis or [insert any grungy northern bands you prefer].

The fashion industry was a frenzy of inspiration and Manchester’s music scene was its mother.

Home to the legendary Hacienda nightclub, the city fashion revolved around one thing: dance. The rave culture in the 80s and 90s paved the way for anything bold, baggy and brightly coloured – as long as you could move in it and make a statement.

If you thought ripped jeans were new, think again – people have been ignoring their grandparent’s “Did you buy them like that?” judgements for decades. You can thank Madchester for that. Along with polo-necks, logo sweatshirts and khaki jackets.

Iconic Manchester

30 Years of Vintage Fashion in Manchester

The students are all over this, naturally. Having one of the largest student populations in Europe, Manchester is a fashion catalyst. Enduring athleisure, shell suits, flares and chokers… sound familiar?

This Generation Z crowd would blend easily into a club full of Hacienda ravers. Each one of them a boogying bright colour against the grey of city concrete.

It’s an accepted phenomenon that many prominent style trends eventually come back around. Presenting themselves on the fashion conveyer belt just when the public can stomach them again.

Take tracksuits, for example, the athletic silhouette came into its own in the 90s. But by the time the Gallagher brothers had fallen out in the Noughties, trackies had become notorious sub-culture streetwear.

It’s not about looking like you’ve just been on a jog around the sports field, and with the bold offerings in the vintage tracksuit market today, you’ll make the right kind of fashion statement.

The Trafford or Arndale shopping centre may be lacking when it comes to authentic 90s athletic attire. For that, wander around the aforementioned Northern Quarter, being sure to stop by the treasured Affleck’s Palace, a department store turned indoor market that houses alternative independent retailers.

Manchester is a cultural metropolis and the 90s provided the perfect ingredients to conjure up the quintessential undone outfits that we still see donned in the city streets today.

When it comes to dressing with a 90s touch, the key is to keep it comfortable and creative, after all, there’s nothing grunge about trying too hard.


For more fashion news and updates, stay tuned to OneOff Vintage.

Also, we stock a stunning range of 80s, 90s and 00s, so if that's what you're after checkout our full range. We usually stock a mix of Nike, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and much much more.

1 comment

  • Posted on by Kelly M.

    This is one of the styles that I am not sure why it ever went away. Relaxed, casual, yet well dressed. Manchester really put a lot of amazing trends on the map in the ‘80s and ‘90s. My favourite decade being the ‘90s. I do miss the times and the fashion from back then. Hard to believe that was 30 years ago!

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