Every now and again we check in with the DIME Store to see what’s going on with those cool ladies. Usually, they’re dying to brag about one of the many makers they get to work with. This month, they had nothing but good things to say about James Grisham and his vintage men’s clothing collection that sells under the moniker “E+E Vintage." Read on to learn about great American labels, Pennsylvania Tuxedos, and cherishing that which is just plain ol’ made well.
We Denton Do It: Yo, James! What drew you to vintage clothing?
James Grisham: I was never really a fashionista, but have always appreciated well-made things. The first thing that drew me to vintage was finding my first few vintage pieces of Pendleton wool and Levis denim. We had these as kids, but I don't think we appreciated them then. The look, feel and history of these two classically American labels immediately drew me in and I became interested in knowing more about the mills and how these things were made. Now I research any old interesting labels or tags that I find of old mills or stores, that tell a story. I particularly love woolens and American made workwear.
How long have you been collecting?
I think I've always collected something. I collected coins, and seashells from all over the world when I was young. Then, as I've gotten older, I have been interested in music, so I originally had an eBay hobby business buying and selling music gear, and collectible vinyl and CD's. That began about 2002. As time went on and that market changed, I found myself without a creative outlet. And then one day I sold a couple of really nice silk ties on eBay, and I thought I would do that as a hobby. I appreciated the amazing beauty of all of the interesting silks I would find. As I would shop, my interest grew in all of the other really cool things I would find for myself, and the obsession just kept growing. I wanted to know what other people were interested in wearing and collecting too, and see if I could fill a need. At the same time, I started doing research and really going back to learn as much as I could about certain styles and fashion history.
When did you inevitably think to yourself, "Hey, I have a lot of vintage clothing. Maybe I should sell some of this stuff?"
I first opened an Etsy shop about 3 years ago. And I have sold items all over the globe. It has been fun to interact with a lot of different types of buyers. I have sold to major movie and TV production wardrobe departments, and opera production companies. And even a well-known celebrity or two. But as a dad to two little girls, and having a full time day job, I did find myself becoming overstocked. I am a great hunter. That is where the fun is for me. But I'm not always the best at getting my inventory out there. And I love a lot of my items a little too much I think. But it is great when someone buys something from me and is ecstatic to have found just the thing they are looking for, either for themselves or a friend, or even a wedding or other special occasion. That is the best part about what I am doing.
What is your all-time favorite piece that you've found?
Any piece of vintage clothing that is actually my size is my favorite piece of vintage. Much of what survives today is in smaller sizes. That is the nature of it. And I'm an XL, so I seem to be left out of a lot the fun. But I do still enjoy finding the great old original wool board shirts, or a pair of shell cordovan shoes. That, and I am a sucker for anything denim or canvas.
What's your favorite piece in your personal collection?
Hard to say, but the one thing I have had the hardest time parting with is my 1950's Woolrich Hunting coat. Not necessarily a rarity, but I'd consider it scarce in my size, so I will hang on to it until I find the other half of what's called the Pennsylvania Tuxedo. Then I'll wear it out and about to embarrass the wife.
What's the most interesting spot where you've ever "picked?"
I don't know about "interesting" but sometimes the "picker" instinct takes over in certain situations. I was in Kansas City just driving around in the ice and snow one winter, while taking a break from visiting relatives. I happened to drive by a house where there was man who looked like he was cleaning out his garage on this particularly cold day. I also saw what appeared to be a fly fishing vest hanging near the front of the garage. On a hunch i pulled up, got out and asked if he was going to get rid of that too? He was nice enough, and told me "yes", but it was for sale, as he was also getting ready for a garage sale the following weekend. I looked at the vest, and it was the coolest, most broken in and worn out vest I have seen, with tons of character and I'm sure, full of fish stories. I asked how much, and his reply was "$3". Surprised, I pulled out a $10 bill, as it was all I had, and handed it to him with a big smile and "thanks". The vest itself was a 1950's or 60's model with no name, but it just oozed with all of those intangible nostalgic qualities that makes vintage-hunting so enjoyable.
Do you shop and collect men's clothing exclusively, or do you sometimes find a dress or woman' blouse that's just too good to pass up?
When you appreciate the aesthetics of clothes, it's hard not to notice certain things, even in the women's section of a second-hand store or thrift. I have been known to peek at labels and really look at something closely if it appears stylish and something someone would want to wear in a modern setting. With both mens and women's clothes, that has been my Mantra - "find things that channel aspects of the fashion-past, but also translate to the modern setting, things people could very well want to wear right out the front door of the store". There are many many women's vintage collectors, including those here at the Dime Store, that are just way above and beyond a threshold that I could ever hope to reach in that respect. They are just too good at it, have much more experience, and they really live their art and curate beautiful things. For the most part, I leave the ladies to it.
Do your kids understand and appreciate the value behind vintage?
Over all, I know I will try to at least impress upon them the importance of an item's real value, But as far as vintage goes, not everything with an old label is necessarily "good", and not everything with a new label is likewise "bad". It should definitely be something "fun" that they enjoy. When they begin to get more interested in clothes and fashion, I know they will develop their own sense of style, and we'll see what happens.
How did you get involved with The DIME Store?
It was actually at the suggestion of my friend, and in fact husband of one of DIME's established makers. On a whim I asked if there was anywhere in Denton to consign vintage? In my mind I was really thinking of a place to more or less offer quality over quantity. And he told me to check with DIME. I applied online and eventually was invited to bring some sample items up. So far it has worked well. I have learned a lot in my first year, and am very grateful to contribute to the DIME experience.
Where else can folks purchase your wares?
My Etsy shop is E and E Vintage. It is always evolving. But for the most part, my collection is vintage woolens, dress clothes, shoes, Ivy league and a few accessories. At this moment, much of my inventory is available at The Dime Store, while I am doing a little bit of an online shop re-boot. The new year will bring with it extra time to process, and photograph, and offer for sale many of the good things I've been hoarding. I also post a lot on Instagram, @eevintagetx.
The DIME Store is a shop and artist collective in downtown Denton that features art, craft, and vintage from 40+ local makers. Rachel Aughtry and Shelley Christner act as the "curators and purveyors" of the shop. When they're not at DIME, you'll find them behind their sewing machines or enjoying a margarita at The Greenhouse.