The musty old store had been closed and abandoned for more than a generation. In 2013, however, the great-grandchildren of its owners rolled back the shutters, held their breath and stepped inside. Hidden in the shadows, dusty and forgotten, lay an Aladdin’s Cave of vintage delights…
“The store was open from the 40s through the 60s from what I recall,” wrote reddit user Oktober75, posting photos of the discovery on the image-sharing website imgur. “The store closed up when my great grandmother fell ill. She ran the store as long as she could until she passed away. They closed shop and it remained this way for over 40 years, mostly untouched.”
Moreover, it seems that Oktober75’s forebears were big hoarders. “My guess is they went with the mentality ‘it will be worth something some day,’” he wrote on reddit. And indeed, the trove of retro treasure secreted away in the old store may now be worth a fortune to collectors…
Inside, the sales counter was cluttered and wild. A curious array of objects and implements were heaped on its surface: dusty old padlocks, broken boxes, a glass lampshade, a smoking pipe, a clothes peg and a brush, to name but a few of the relics. And though some of it may have seemed to be worthless junk when it was abandoned, the haul offered a tentative hint of the store’s former day-to-day existence.
This elegant wood stove might not be worth much, but once upon a time – in the days before central heating – it would have been the only source of warmth. Today, it would make an excellent garden wood burner, ideal for outdoor gatherings on chilly winter evenings. And thanks to its history, it would make a nice conversation piece, too.
Also among the piles of junk was an old wooden box. The box was fitted with four sets of hinges, and it opened flat to reveal an assortment of metal tools. Oktober75 didn’t know exactly how they worked, but judging by their shape, they were almost certainly used to repair the store’s specialist stock.
This was not just any old grocery store; beyond the dusty piles of junk and random curiosities were walls of boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. And inside those boxes were very special things that would send a shiver of excitement down the spine of all self-respecting hipsters, fashionistas and, indeed, retifists.
In case you were wondering, the word “retifist” is derived from the name of an 18th-century French novelist and pornographer called Nicolas-Edme Rétif. Rétif was a contemporary of the Marquis de Sade. And though the two men hated each other personally, they did have something in common: unconventional sexual tastes. Rétifi, for his part, was into shoes in a big way.
And Oktober75’s family store contained shoes, shoes and more shoes. Dating to the mid-20th century, all of them were vintage, and nearly all of them had their original boxes. Indeed, due to the potentially high value of the discovery, Oktober75 has decided to keep the location of the store – and his family’s identity – a secret.
Naturally, this not only deters thieves but also keeps out unwanted retifists. However, lest any reader be trembling with excitement at the thought of boxes and boxes of exquisite pointy Stilettos, they should know that most of the store’s stock was, in fact, relatively classic and conservative.
Indeed, the sexual revolution of the 1960s meant that women could stop worrying about dressing up for men and wear comfortable, casual shoes instead. As such, shoe fashion at that time was dominated by flat heels, plain styles and the use of inexpensive materials, such as plastic, as well as bright colors.
That said, simple can be sexy, too. These pretty pink numbers vaguely resemble the soft slipper footwear of a ballerina, especially with those trailing red ribbons. Comfort and beauty in one simple package… Okay, let’s be honest, they are a bit ugly. They can go back in their box.
These black leather shoes by Lion of New York are better. They’re comfortable, casual and have a certain beatnik appeal that might suit poets, writers, scholars and trendy librarians. They’re suitable for the office or for laid-back encounters in low-key coffeeshops. A good all-purpose shoe: simple and unpretentious.
But for formal occasions, something like these might be more appropriate. The trademark “Dolly Preston” was first registered in 1922. And though their slogan isn’t terribly enticing – “A good shoe that fits your foot at a surprisingly low price” – these vintage platforms aren’t at all inelegant.
Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” That may well be true, but what then of the boys? To be fair, a gentleman without a fine pair of shoes is no gentleman at all. So it’s a good thing there was plenty of decent menswear in the stock, too.
For the hipsters, there were a handful of iconic brands such as Converse. However, Converse didn’t always make sneakers. And these gumshoes – which would have been slipped over a smart pair of shoes for protection – aren’t the trendiest item. Still, according to Oktober75, back in the day they were one of Converse’s most popular lines.
Unfortunately, not all of the stock was in immaculate condition. Some pairs, like this one, had succumbed to mice. Others appeared to have rotted or grown brittle with age. Nonetheless, the vast majority of shoes pictured on imgur seemed to have suffered little more than a mild caking with dust – nothing that can’t be solved with a damp cloth.
Meanwhile, many commenters on reddit appeared to express an interest in owning a pair. “You don’t have to be a hipster,” wrote Orlando1701. “My wife keeps accusing me of thinking its forever 1945 and I’d rock most of those shoes…”
Other commenters noted how valuable the collection appeared to be. “As someone who has an ebay business, that is an insane amount of money right there,” wrote IHv2RtrnSumVdeotapes. “I’ve worked in vintage for the last few years and each pair could easily fetch $100 or more,” commented offensivegrandma. “They look well crafted, real leather and never worn.”
Indeed, it seems that Oktober75 has been left a small fortune in vintage footwear. And whether he eventually chose to sell them on eBay, donate them to a fashion museum or wear some of them himself, he is a richer man in at least one sense thanks to his great-grandparents’ instinct to hoard.