From his childhood in Mexico, Frank Vega distinctly remembers the foreign look of Michael J. Fox’s Nike Air Mags in “Back to the Future.”
“You see [actors], and you want those type of clothes,” Vega said. “The movies influenced a lot of people and showed them what America was like.”
Vega now co-owns Monkies Vintage and Thrift with Martin Escobedo. Located behind the recently closed Veggie Heaven on Guadalupe Street, Monkies offers reasonably priced vintage clothing.
The fashion of Hollywood stars in the ’80s sparked Vega’s lifelong passion for vintage clothing. Since moving to the U.S. 20 years ago, Vega has been in the vintage clothing industry for 15 years.
“With vintage clothing, it can be a half-century old and still kicking it,” Vega said. “They made things that lasted back then. Now, companies want their clothes to go bad so that you will buy more.”
According to Vega, Monkies’ prices and fearless fashion taste set it apart. Vega said he thinks expressing individuality through clothing is important, especially in a city such as Austin.
“We are not afraid to put something weird out there,” Vega said. “You can go to the mall and buy an Abercrombie T-shirt, but chances are that you’re going to see multiple kids wearing that same shirt. But you’re not going to find another kid wearing [someone’s] grandfather’s World War II jacket.”
Abby Myers, Plan II, Asian studies and international relations and global studies sophomore, said she agrees. Myers, an avid thrifter, said she is a proponent for one-of-a-kind goods at low prices.
“Actual vintage finds at reasonable prices make Monkies the Drag’s best hidden gem,” Myers said.
The store has a wide variety of clothing for sale. Customers can find ponchos, 1930s-style cocktail dresses and vintage sports jerseys. The store selectively sifts through warehouses of secondhand clothing and flea markets across the country looking for vintage pieces.
“We’ll take anything that catches our eye,” employee Rigo Escobedo said.
Every week, they add new pieces to the shelves and upload photos of the noteworthy items Instagram and Facebook. Customers can comment or call the store to request to hold a piece that catches their eye. Following the request, customers can pick up the item in-person or have it be shipped through the store’s Etsy account. Vega wants customers to know that prices are not set in stone.
“Finding vintage clothes is like dating,” Vega said. “If you find something you love, and it looks good on you, then we want you to have it. It’s not like GAP with small, medium and large sizes. It’s unique — one size — so if it fits you, then we will try to make it happen.”
The store plans on moving into a larger building in the future. The new location will include a tattoo parlor in the back and additional space for clothes. Happy hours, which the store holds twice a month, will continue. During these happy hours, customers receive 25 percent off any purchase.
“We want the atmosphere of the store to be relaxed,” Vega said. “We want you to know that you’re going to find something cool. Because when you look good, you work better, and you feel good about yourself.”