They’re the mecca of all things unwanted – bric-a-brac, bunny ornaments, rugged books and old school decanters. Op shops are mostly a collection of everything your granny once owned.
Forget Gangnam Style, youths are increasingly channelling Granny Style. In fact, Granny Style is so cool that hipsters have taken to rapping about it. Yes, Granny Style and being a hipster are the same thing.
But where’s the best place to get your granny on? Is it Yagoona in Sydney’s west, swanky Paddington or Hipsterville itself (more commonly known as Newtown)?
Located on the not so lovely Hume Highway, Yagoona Salvos is a royal gem. That is, for the elderly. Most hipsters can scavenge at least one floral dress or pair of holey pants from an op shop, but here it’s almost impossible. Saying that, if you’re looking for kitsch – doilies, fancy goblets, decanters or that bunny ornament below – this is your place. This op shop is decked out with wigs, furniture, bric-a-brac and impressive collections of 80s formal dresses and cassettes.
That saying, Yagoona Salvos is perfection in one category – price. Glassware costs $5 and up, same with most of the bric-a-brac. A “stylish” 90s wedding dress is a score at $200, but really who would wear it in 2012? Clothes will set you back $5-10.
In a nutshell: Yagoona Salvos smells old, the clientele are old, the staff are old (and mousy quiet) and the store’s merchandise is old.
If you’re going to a fancy dress party, perhaps as a fairy-tale princess, this is your place. Hip, not so much. Grandma cool, unlikely. But hey, if you’re prepared to trawl, and I mean seriously trawl, through the crowded store for something slightly decent, I don’t judge.
550 Hume Highway, Yagoona
phone 9793 1979
open Mon-Fri 9am-5.30pm; Sat 9am-2pm
Paddington Red Threads
Red Threads may have the goodwill of an op shop, but it’s merchandised as a boutique. The Australian Red Cross runs the store and they clearly never received the memo that op shops, generally speaking, equal granny. There are rainbow streams of thread bobbins to greet patrons, racks of clothes organised by hue and fiercely bright shoes and jewellery. Unlike Yagoona Salvos, this store carries some brand names other than Millers. I spied Charlie Brown, Christian Dior and Witchery to name a few. Country Road in particular is out in force due to their savvy deal with the Red Cross.
Red Threads is more youth, as opposed to Yagoona that is, but with a price tag. A very old Christian Dior blazer is marked at $69. $10 might get you a nice singlet. And the large selection of jewellery is priced between $10-20. It’s pricey, but you come to expect that in the luxurious Paddington. And regardless, the goodwill vibe will suck you in.
Not an inch of the colourful store suggests hipster or granny. It’s thriving with youth (and soccer mums), coerced into the store by the colours and the high street wear. It’s also the first and only store at which I caught some personality from the staff. I didn’t hear a peep from the elderly assistants at Yagoona Salvos or the girl with ghost white hair in Newtown that you’ll meet soon. But the Red Threads staff and I had a good old chat.
It’s certainly easy to brush over the fact that Paddington Red Threads is an “op shop.” It doesn’t look or feel like one. With its youthful ambience, delightful fit out – the shoe shelves are made from second-hand books – and carefully selected merchandise, Red Threads is more retro store than op shop.
390 Oxford Street Paddington
phone 9326 0005
open Mon- Wed, Fri 10am-6pm; Thu 10am-8pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 11am-4pm
Newtown is a case of spot-the-non-hipster-slash-granny-impersonator. Rags, neon-coloured hair and Mohawks are not out of the ordinary here. Neither is the snake that one such Mohawk-wearer had draped around his neck.
Vinnies belongs on this cultured strip of retro and second hand boutiques. And the crowds, rightly, flock. Unlike Yagoona Salvos’ elderly and Paddington Red Thread’s slightly soccer mum clientele, this op shop attracts hip youths – identifiable by band shirts and cons.
This Vinnies has some pre-loved clothes worth buying. The booted girls are busy skimming through the racks. The men with moustaches and dreads have flocked to their natural habitat – the ample collection of old records. There’s a small selection of bric-a-brac, books and shoes, but these are for the most part ignored.
There’s a tendency in Sydney for op shop merchandise to be overpriced a la Paddington Red Threads. But Newtown’s contents are quite the steal, with most clothes ranging from $5-20. Bric-a-brac that you will probably never use can be bought from $2.
Yagoona Salvos has the vibe of a mothball. And one does not simply walk into Paddington Red Threads. They creep in for fear of being spotted out in inner city, and slightly pretentious, Upmarketville.
Newtown Vinnies, on the other hand, has character. It’s not hard to picture the granny-impersonators spending days on end scouring through the old clothes, listening to Triple J in-store and talking to the retail assistant with ghost-white hair. You could say hipsters’ dress-sense ages them prematurely. And Newtown Vinnies is their fast track to heaven.
187 King Street Newtown
phone 9557 1996
open Mon-Tues 9.30am-8pm; Wed-Sat 9.30am-9pm; Sun 10.30am-7pm