One of my favorite shopping destinations in San Francisco is well away from the tourist favorite Union Square and it’s not new merchandise. Thrift shopping in the laid back Haight Ashbury neighborhood is definitely my favorite place to shop and just stroll around.
From what I have read and been told, the thrift and vintage scene is a shade of its former self – but if you make your way to San Francisco and are pining for some vintage (or some designer labels at a discount) back in your wardrobe, this is the place to go! That is not to say there is only vintage and thrift shopping in the area, there are tons of other stores and new ones are popping up once in a while. Nor that there isn’t vintage/thrifting to be done in other areas – just that these are my favorite at the moment!
All of these stores are on a short four block span of each other and you’re looking at a range of prices, but also a range of types of clothing. Some are strictly vintage, others will carry a mix of vintage, new, and gently used.
*UPDATE as of Feb. 2014 – Haight Ashbury vintage has closed, but merged with another vintage shop on Haight (same owner).
Haight Ashbury Vintage is at the iconic intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, where the neighborhood hails its name from. I believe it used to be another vintage store a few years ago (Aardvark’s?). Being that this store is on a corner, it has bright windows to let you see all the merchandise clearly (compared to other stores that are wedged and have very limited window space from the store front). This may sound like a weird thing to observe and like, but when a store is quite dark, it’s very hard to even browse. I find the selection here to be very themed and a little flamboyant. If you’re looking for vintage that screams “VINTAGE,” this is your place.
Held Over is my personal favorite of all the stores right now. It does something that I really like – they specialize in collecting and organizing the same pieces together and in multiple choices. For example, they have a rack of just vintage striped sailor tops. They’re all a little different, some are blue stripes others are red, the sleeves will be slightly different, or the neck – but you can keep browsing until you find the exact one that suits you. And this kind of collecting is done for so many things – fur vests, denim jackets, cutoff shorts, etc! They have a great selection of vintage dresses from all eras. In fact, there are a few Downton Abbey looking dresses there now that I have my eye on for Spring. They also have a fantastically curated men’s section which includes lots of suit jackets and fedoras if you’re really into the Mad Men look.
Relic Vintage is a privately run and owned store, whose owner is a tried and true vintage lover. The store is perfectly curated by their team and not jam-packed with clothes like some of the other stores tend to be (which can be overwhelming and difficult to browse). Think of it as a boutique where the quality of the vintage can compare to even new clothes! They also have real fitting rooms, not just curtains, which in my book is a huge plus.
Decades of Fashion is relatively new location, this storefront used to be another store, and I think DoF relocated here from somewhere else on the street. As the name of the store indicates, pieces are organized by Decades – 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc. together. This store will also have some much older pieces, and you may find things in dry cleaning bags often because they’re delicate. I find this store to be geared more towards the tourists than to local shoppers, and the prices will reflect that. But a nice place for a local to browse once in a while.
La Rosa vintage is another vintage boutique where you will find more perfectly curated vintage clothing. I’ve often heard the name thrown around in interviews and seems to be a go-to spot for vintage loving celebrities. Why? Because they offer you (mostly) impeccable vintage items. If you’re looking for a beautiful vintage dress for a special occasion, I would say this may be your place to go. The prices may be a little higher than other stores, but the quality will reflect that.
Static Vintage is that fun vintage store and always seems to be staffed by some cool laid back ladies! I feel like this is the place where you buy vintage to look on trend but not trying too hard to achieve that look. Say leopard coats are really cool right now, or denim jackets – you’ll surely find them here. They have a variety of things to chose from in spite of the store being on the smaller side compared to other stores on the street. Static is also known to carry vintage designer clothes and accessories in case you’re looking for some vintage designer pieces.
Now enter the resale stores, which are not exactly the same, and also entering their own realm (which will make more sense as I explain each store). I also think these stores are great places to take men shopping who normally don’t like to shop because there are so many different things to suit their tastes.
Buffalo Exchange was my first experience in the resale realm, and was my tried and true go-to shopping spot when I lived in Las Vegas. It’s definitely a place where you will find something if you have the budget for it! When I am ready to get rid of clothing, I always make sure to bring them here because they will buy clothes from you and give you the option for credit or cash. The selection is pretty wide – you’ll find a little bit of new on trend items that they curate across all their B.E. stores, and their resale items which ranges from high street, department store, no name brands, to a little bit of vintage. I like to think of it as a grown up version of a thrift store, minus the house stuff. The SF store doesn’t have one, but the Vegas store always had a solid rack of sale stuff that was 50% off and always worth browsing first (this store has the sale stuff mixed in).
Crossroads, as their tagline in the signs states, specializes in new and “recycled.” You can sell your gently used clothes here too. You won’t really find vintage here, unless it’s very on trend and in great condition. Crossroads carries lots of trendy new pieces, but I think they offer some of the better prices on resale merchandise.
Wasteland is an interesting mix of a store – they carry some new clothes, which I think of as music festival on trend (in comparison to the other stores’ on trend pieces which lean heavily to the girly side). They have quite a bit of vintage, but not as much as they used to. Looking for the perfect vintage tee? This is your place. They also have some of the best gently used designer clothes in the city, the prices can be high, but there are some good deals if you look often. What I really like is their selection of shoes – perfectly worn in boots to unique designer shoes, to even some brands that don’t normally sell in the US. Wasteland is also making a big footprint in the online world, and I think they’re trying to branch out with their new items online.
Last but not least, my poor little confused Goodwill. This is not your typical thrift store. I think being on Haight street has gone to their heads. I come here once in a while to find odd pieces, but I find their prices to be way too high sometimes. It’s almost offensive that a charity store tries to sell clothes for more than some of the for-profit stores do. You’ll find your regular thrift store stuff here, but they also have lots of tie-dye for those looking for their Haight Ashbury souvenir. They actually have a lot of vintage clothes, but their prices generally do not reflect the quality that you see in the actual vintage stores. Their vintage merchandise is donated, so it’s often smelly, worn, damaged, and not in style. But you can find some hidden gems in there once in a while.
I think of thrift shopping as “shopping for all seasons” because you can find anything for any occasion, style, and price point. And better yet, to have the ability to do all this on the same span of streets is amazing! Now I’m going to have to follow this post up with my favorite thrifting in the Mission neighborhood! Hope you liked this post and would love your insight on how you feel about second hand shopping, if you’ve visited any of these stores, or if I missed any (I’m pretty sure I missed one store but can’t figure out which one!).
PS. This post also corresponds with my Shopping Maps link in the header! Where I’ve gathered points of shopping interest together on a Google Map.