I think I've spotted a hole, hooray!
I don't like vintage clothes in perfect or 'mint' condition. At least the ones I intend to wear. They make me uneasy.
It might be a garment that has survived 60 years unmarked, faded or damaged. What is inevitable is that if I choose to wear it, I will eventually ruin it somehow - well perhaps not ruin it exactly, but any pen marks, spots of hot cooking oil, snags from a rusty fence or lost buttons will be my fault and no one else's.
I'll be the one that wrecks its unspoilt record after all those years of survival in pristine condition. That's an awful thing to have on your conscience, especially if you hold any notions of posterity dear.
I can't shake off the feeling that 'perfect' vintage garments belong in museums, where they will be properly stored and cared for, and will remain publicly accessible for future study.
If something has a slight but not unsightly flaw, that's somehow reassuring to me - the pressure is off. The garment can be worn with a clear conscience that its not a potential museum piece doomed to disaster at my hands at some point along the line.
Of course, collectors and investors who have no intention of wearing their vintage items quite rightly place great emphasis on condition. They will probably treat and store the garments much as a curator would, and have no intention of adding them to their regular wardrobe.
But those who want to wear vintage, and demand mint or perfect condition - and this is possibly a controversial opinion - might be better off looking for newly manufactured retro or repro items. Or even sewing their own garments using a vintage or repro pattern (Wearing History is an excellent place to start - wonderful stuff!)
The last thing I want to do is sound judgemental or patronising, but this insistence on garments looking like 'new' feels like a fundamental misunderstanding about what wearing vintage is all about. Some might dismiss the standard vintage dealer spiel about the 'character' and 'history' evident in garments that have some signs of a life lived as a flimsy excuse to pass off less than satisfactory items, but its quite sincere.
I say give those flawed vintage garments a chance! If you're wearing an authentic piece of history, why shouldn't it look like something approaching its age? Not only will you pay significantly less for it than for 'perfect,' 'mint' or NOS ('new old stock') items, but you'll feel less need to worry about that first stain or rip because the stakes have already been lowered to a comfortable degree.
Besides, many types of garments - such as leather jackets and workwear - look better worn-in and a bit battered.
Realistically, how many of us manage to keep all our newly bought garments in mint condition for any length of time? Check your wardrobes - I'll bet most people have a lot of items with subtle flaws or signs of wear that they're still proud to sport on a regular basis.
Incidentally, after I drafted this I found Wearing History's blog post Why Sew Vintage - My Top Ten List. Its really worth reading, and she presents a very similar argument to mine in point 3!