If you have even a passing interest in menswear, there’s a good chance you spent the peak-COVID doldrums perusing eBay listings or lurking swap threads on Styleforum. The online community that meets virtually to buy, sell or trade saw its ranks swell as brick-and-mortar retail was forced to close and closets were cleaned from coast-to-coast.
As cities hummed back to life, I wondered if that same community might step out into reality like the rest of us. The answer seemed to come via Alfargo’s Marketplace, a self-described “menswear garage sale” that began hosting monthly pop-up markets for new and used vintage in September 2021.
It’s the brainchild of Stephon Carson, a nattily dressed employee of The Armoury Tribeca and a member of the NYC-based menswear clique known as Team Cozy Boys. In a short phone conversation, Stephon tells me that Alfargo’s was his attempt at bringing online, independent sellers into a single physical space.
“I feel like that’s what was missing,” he says. “That kind of setup where menswear, second-hand vintage and new vintage that hadn’t been sold could be sold in-person instead of all online.”
When Stephon invites my friend and fellow Bay Stater ZG Burnett to bring her Etsy business Ram’s Head Vintage to the January 23 installment, I leap at my chance to experience Alfargo’s firsthand.
I leave Boston shortly after sunrise that Sunday morning, in a Honda SUV crammed window-to-window with hanger-filled L.L. Bean bags and plastic bins stuffed with flannel shirts (the business’s mascot — a carved wooden ram’s head dubbed Ramsay — is secured in my lap). We reach 90 East 3rd Street by 10:30 a.m., our early arrival having secured ZG her pick of where to setup on the first floor.
Not that there is much space to choose from. The venue, a bookstore and gallery space called Village Works, is tiny and filled on both sides with hardcover books related to the New York art scene (sample titles include No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1989 and New York Paradise Lost: Bushwick Era Disco). Stephon, draped in a green Belvest overcoat, produces some rolling garment racks and ZG begins hanging Harris tweed sport coats and deerskin jackets.
We’re joined upstairs by a bearded guy in an old gun-club tweed and a white dad cap that reads “Punk Rock.” The cap-wearer is Shane Curry, who, unlike most vendors, doesn’t sell online and hasn’t even given his operation a name. Shane explains that it’s just something he does for fun on the side; in his day job, he’s a teaching assistant at a special needs school.
“I just like to find stuff and buy it,” he says. “It’s just me.”
Yet there’s nothing amateur about Shane’s trad-leaning assortment, which includes a double-breasted Paul Stuart seersucker suit, a tartan-lined Brooks Brothers duffel and a bullet proof-feeling overcoat made from Donegal tweed. By his feet is a paper bag full of loose ties and pocket squares, as well as a belted balmacaan that Stephon has already poached for himself.
The downstairs is even smaller but mercifully bereft of books. It serves as the venue’s gallery space, and the walls are filled with graffiti-style artwork and nametag stickers penned with their prices. I help Ryo Shibayama, a native of Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture, haul several IKEA bags bursting with denim and military surplus down the stairs.
I’m surprised to learn that Ryo, who operates LIC Vintage Clothing via Instagram, doesn’t work the vintage business full-time. His merchandise is meticulously tagged and dated — I marvel at ‘40s French vintage M-35 motorcycle coat, one wash and Late ‘60s Levi’s 70505 Big “E.” As Ryo hangs a ‘70s U.S. Army-issue jungle fatigue shirt, he tells me that he hopes to make it a full-time gig but for now works as a chef in Long Island City.
Ryo’s stash takes up most of the downstairs, but a few hanging racks and tables hold loose merchandise put up for sale by Stephon, a photographer wearing an art deco handkerchief named Zane, and Sora Suzuki, another Cozy Boy who works as a buyer at Todd Snyder.
In contrast to the curated selection brought by the vintage vendors, Suzuki’s wares — which include a handful of Drake’s ties, a sized-small Barbour jacket and a few custom-made trousers — are all plucked from his own closet. “I just grabbed some things and put them in a bag,” he says. “It’s that or eBay.”
The event’s begun, and the downstairs is already teeming with guys in pleated pants and camel-hair polo coats as “Hot in Herre” plays from an unseen speaker. I hear someone complain that the Drake’s sample sale happening the same day has already absconded with their rent money: “I spent this month’s, next month’s, and the month after that.” Elsewhere, a guy confesses his desire to pilfer something from his girlfriend’s closet. “Gender is bullshit, we’re in 2022,” his friend supportively responds.
The upstairs is similarly swimming with young guys in old sport coats; I catch ZG selling a ‘60s Gant shirt to a guy in a green raglan coat who I’m astounded to learn is 19. I also meet the final upstairs vendor to set up, a tall man in a red vest and a puppytooth jacket named James Stand who goes by Dapper Haberdasher on eBay. James has brought the Ivy-style goods, including a 1960s Harris tweed sport coat from heyday maker Chipp and a ‘50s blazer with a badge for the Princeton Varsity Club. He’s also unloaded a rack of loud art deco ties, which he says represents only a fraction of the thousands of pieces of neckwear in his apartment.
For the next five hours, Alfargo’s has the feeling of a foyer on Thanksgiving Day: a constant swish of overcoats as (mostly, but not exclusively) guys pass in and out, either politely squeezing by fellow attendees or embracing them. It’s become hard to tell who’s a vendor and who isn’t, as many attendees stay for hours. A few folks show up with a single item they hope to sell after browsing.
At 3:30 p.m. Stephon returns with a few pizzas, and at 5, Sora brings in a six-pack of Coors. By 6 it’s grown quiet upstairs, though booming laughter and the thump of a Rick Ross track indicate that something of a party has kicked off below. But within the hour heavy bags of unsold merchandise are being toted up the stairs and I’m helping ZG break down her setup.
She’s had a good day, having sold a few big-ticket outerwear pieces: a 1970s chocolate brown deerskin-and-suede jacket has gone home with a new owner, as has a quilted Carhartt jacket from the ‘80s and a blanket-lined Ralph Lauren denim trucker from the same decade. An unexpected snowfall has begun to blanket the street outside, and the half-dozen remaining vendors and attendees help ZG and me reload her car just after 7.
As we peel out, Stephon calls on us to return for the market’s next installment, planned for early March (this Sunday, in fact). I’m left with the thought that I’ve attended the vintage menswear world’s version of a Thanksgiving potluck, albeit one that comes around every month.
This article was featured in the InsideHook NY newsletter. Sign up now for more from all five boroughs.