A day out at Rag Parade, Sheffield

Friday, February 11th 2022
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When you stare at a shop enough on Instagram - seeing new stock highlighted every day - it can seem bigger than it actually is. 

That was the case with Jojo’s General Store (or Rag Parade) in Sheffield, which myself, Alex and Lucas visited last month. 

The shop is on the terraced Ecclesall Road, a trunk road running out of Sheffield town centre. It’s busy, and even though the shop is set back from the traffic, elevated behind a set of steps and a ramp, it’s probably not the space most people will expect from following the store online. 

I guess no one ever shows what’s behind a cameraman. 

Inside, however, Rag Parade is a jewel. Small, certainly, but stuffed to the rafters with vintage clothing from every era. 

It also has that feature which I find vintage shops often acquire over time, which is decorations that are just as interesting as the clothes. 

On one wall, behind a stack of knitwear, is a poster explaining the proper equipment for hill walking. Opposite it, there's a large photo of the Queen's College rowing team, plus the tiny jacket worn by the cox. Above are antlers, advertising hoardings, helmets and collars.

They're all beautiful, period things, but they speak to someone who’s a collector just as much as a retailer. 

One of my favourite points in the day was when I inquired about a pair of old trainers (above), and it transpired that the case they were displayed in was from a baker’s, intended for keeping pies warm. 

Getting the trainers out required Jojo and Dan to take the whole case down, clear a space for it on the floor, and slide open the glass at the back. Not to mention removing the mannequin, hiking hat and oversized white Converse from on top.

As the case is only accessible from the back, it's a wonderfully impractical way to display shoes. But it does look nice, and Jojo relished taking it down and telling everyone about it. 

Which of course also speaks to Jojo himself: anyone that has met him will know he is rarely anything but smiling and enthusiastic. 

That’s fortunate, because being a small shop stacked to the ceiling, the best way to browse is to ask Jojo or Dan for something you’re interested in, and then let them rummage for you. 

For example, I was interested in finding an old Belstaff Trialmaster jacket, ideally from the 1960s or so. Tracking one down in my size, with the right amount of character - very worn in but not actually worn out - has not proved easy. 

Trialmasters, like old Barbours, also vary in how much they’ve been waxed over the years. Some are virtually dripping and others are bone dry, making them look and feel like completely different materials. 

If I was being fussy I’d also like some patching or repair work on my jacket - and the original belt. I used to have a Barbour International that was perfect in that regard (covering on PS back in 2014) but it was always a little small and I eventually had to sell it. 

Jojo had big range of Trialmasters, from the 1950s to the 1980s. One on a mannequin, a lovely Sammy Miller model, had been heavily patched but only lightly waxed. It was perfect, but two sizes too small. 

In the end I think we went through about a dozen from the packed rail. Two were good candidates: a later model that was a perfect fit, but without much character and plastic studs; and an earlier piece with brass studs but rather snug. 

I passed on both, but didn’t feel frustrated. This is what vintage shopping is like: long periods of interesting but not necessarily successful browsing, punctuated by unexpected and glorious finds. 

I did walk away with a pair of old Nikes though: Oceanias from the year I was born, 1981. (The blue pair above, not the red.)

Although I rarely wear trainers, I also find it hard to find models I like. The closest I have is a Margaret Howell/Mizuno pair, covered previously here.

I want trainers that are slim and simple (again, discussed here) and old models are nearly always better. Even recent Nike resissues, like the Challenger or Waffle 2, aren’t as slim and unpadded as the originals.

(I think part of the problem is that the image I have in my head is George Costanza wearing his Cortez in Seinfeld. And he has tiny feet!)

I won’t get into a big discussion of 'modern' vintage like this here, but I do think it’s something we should discuss at some point. It’s a category Jojo specialises in (with a separate Instagram account, @contemporary_ragparade) and it’s interesting to consider how more modern vintage is different from the pieces from the 1940s and 1950s. 

The appeal, for example, is often more about unique design than about quality or patina.

For those that can only see Rag Parade on Instagram, the good thing is it's similar in many ways to being in store: Jojo presents interesting things from the racks, with a few thoughts and close-ups. 

As long as you keep a handy record of what measurements you need (pit to pit, body length, sleeve) it’s not too different from visiting in person. And he's usually happy to answer questions on DMs. 

Although, having said that, if you can visit Sheffield at least once, it's worth doing so. 

The store itself is an experience, and it’s in a lovely area of town: there's an antiques quarter behind, sprinkled with cafes and restaurants.

Jojo hosted us for lunch at JH Mann (below), and around the corner we had coffee and doughnuts at Eve Kitchen. I'd happily recommended both. 

Many, many thanks to Jojo and Dan for their hospitality, and for a lovely day out.  

If you'd like to hear more background on Jojo, and how he got started in vintage, try his interview on Handcut Radio here. 

My trainers were £200, while the waxed biker jackets ranged from £250 to £650, largely based on rarity.

The PS team were myself, Alex Natt and Lucas Nicholson, pictured below left to right. I am wearing an old PS watch cap sample, a wool fleece from The Real McCoy's, Full Count jeans and Edward Green waxed boots.

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Fred

So glad you are featuring this shop. It’s great to shine light on some of the great spaces for menswear entusiasts outside if London. As a sheffield resident, I love popping into rag parade for chat and a browse. It’s proper retail: friendly, knowledgeable and passionate.

darryl

Crikey I can’t believe that an old pair of second hand gym shoes cost £200! I know its not polite to simply rant on your otherwise wonderfull site, but surely that is truly crazy. To be honest Simon it almost feels offensive, at the current time what with a cost of living crisis for many. If it was a fabulous coat or suit I could understand it. Maybe I’m just too old to understand the world anymore. Sorry but i felt i had to say this.

darryl

Your first point is quite right Simon, I suppose it is the second one I can’t get my head around. If it they were Edward Green shoes, with a great leather, design etc I would say what a bargain! But to me the whole trainer thing feels like the equivalent of a Gucci handbag in that the ingredients and design seem rather trashy kitch. In both cases the ‘value’ seem to sit outside their actual physical existence. But to each their own.

Theo

It is that expensive for trainers. That’s a misleading statement. Go into any high street footwear shop and you will find the majority of Nike or other trainers are half this price or less.

Peter Hall

North Sea Clothing have a deck shoe which has a German army trainer vibe, Simon.

AG

Hi Simon, I think the point (irrespective of style) is that those trainers are over 40 years old, so one would assume that (despite the character they’ve developed along the way) they’re not in great shape and won’t give the next buyer too much wear. On that basis, surely they should trade at a decent discount to something new and comparable? Particularly if there isn’t any great scarcity value to them

John

Hi Simon, may i ask what size you take in Margaret Howell’s Mizunos? I see that recommend taking one size up, but they only stock them up to size 10. I think you usually take size 8.5, so did you take a 9 or 10? Thanks in advance.

SVT

Yes, it’s interesting. For £200 you can buy new NB made in England 991 or 990, 997, 998 made in USA etc. I have six pairs of NBs that I bought over the course of a couple of years and I will wear them until the soles come off to the foam that has been going on for five years. I have never bought used shoes because I don’t think they are for me, not my cup of tea, but I have 3 sweaters from the 70s and 80s that I bought on ebay and I really like them. Your next article Simon will be interesting. PS: very tall guys, knowing your height is 187))

Robin

Having followed PS for many years I’m (pleasantly) puzzled by your fascination with ‘vintage’.
On the one hand it’s high end tailoring and on the other it’s ‘rag pieces’.
You’ve let your age slip in the article so might all this be mid-life ‘crisis’?
P.S. doesn’t always come across so well in writing but I’m humouring you !

Jim

26 is quite young. Was that always your plan?

Shoddy

George Costanza as style icon? My head hurts.

Alex

Somewhat tangential, but it would be interesting to compare the styling on a show like Seinfeld to something with a more populist bent, such as Friends, with a view to exploring how those two shows have aged over the years. I would imagine the styling of Seinfeld has aged better than Friends. It’s also funny you mention Seinfeld as being the most poorly dressed of the lot on that show – his wardrobe seems to most closely mirror the styles of the Seinfeld and Larry David IRL.

Shoddy

Thanks- I’ll check that out. Kramer has a mad retro-chic, but George? He always seemed the apotheosis of unattractiveness. After all Michael Costanza sued on account of the likeness and the adverse effect it had on the way people saw him http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/202228.stm
There must be some ironic thing I’m not getting. Perhaps an early plus-size model? It goes without saying that Jerry’s wardrobe still seems vey much of it’s time, so dressing betteer than him is a low bar..

Peter

Honestly, if you separate the clothes form the person, the style was pretty classy, except for the down jacket maybe 😉

Stephen

Great to see a Sheffield shop featured. I didn’t know about Jojo’s but am now looking for an excuse to visit.
More generally, there is a ‘divided UK/levelling up’ kind of point here. If I’m being honest, proper menswear is predominantly a London phenomenon (and I’d include vintage). I don’t live in London any more, but love the capital and love a chance to visit to go to a few of the kinds of places featured on PS regularly. Though I’m a little wary of saying it, I think London is culturally and aesthetically in a different league from most of the other big cities of the UK. But that said, each of the major cities has a handful of brilliant outlets. They stand out very deliberately from the mainstream and need celebrating more (and indeed visiting more). In Leeds, there is All Blues in the Corn Exchange. And in Manchester, Doherty, Evans and Stott, Oi Polloi and Rivet and Hide (R&H is in London too, though). They are all very different, but have great identities and many followers – and, of course, very stylish and knowledgeable staff. I’m sure lots of other major cities have similar, but I don’t know them so well.

PB

Lovely profile. As someone who could never afford (or justify, perhaps) bespoke, these kinds of shops offer something similar: the chance to connect with experts and enthusiasts about unique clothing that oozes with history and tradition. Sure it’s expensive when compared to charity shop finds, but it’s not really expensive for the quality of the garments you can get.

Time to come over to Brooklyn and talk to Sean Crowley now!

F B

Kicking myself as I was in Sheffield only last weekend! PS Donegal did very well keeping the rain off- collar up, of course!

Stephen

Hi Simon,
There is a (what they describe as vintage) Belstaff very dark green trialmaster in a size L on Marktt at the moment. I have feeling it may be a little large for you, however they look good a little on the big side pulled in at the back (or around the body) with the belt.
On a related point, that you have alluded to over time (even whilst my body size has remained constant or a little smaller), like yourself, over recent years I have tended to prefer clothing just a little larger and less fitted – in my case if fitted at all. Maybe it’s my age!

As for the price of items featured generally on PS , I think it’s more about what’s is worth to the individual and what they are willing to pay and can comfortably afford. That’s not to say at all that one should prioritise over things like sustaining a family or get into debt. As for me I enjoy hunting out ‘value for money bargains’ although I don’t necessarily buy them!
Have a good weekend.

Oli G

Sorry for the off topic question but do you happen to know what’s happened to Benson & Clegg? Their shop in the arcade has been closed for months and Ollie Cross seems to have set up on his own (Ollie’s), does that mean he no longer makes for them? I hear they may have gone into administration.

Peter Hall

It’s the thrill of the chase. I’ve been searching for a vintage reverse weave sweatshirt for far too long.

I know I could find a modern version, but, where is the fun in that?

M L Santorsola

“…the thrill of the chase.”
How true!

BenMN
BenMN

Thanks Simon. They seem to have lightened considerably, and look right at home with vintage/denim/workwear. I’d be interested to hear your impressions of them now, having worn them in nicely. I almost bought the chukka, but never quite got there…

Jamie

And what did Alex and Lucas buy? That’s what I want to know

Jamie

It would have been great to have featured those items as well. I’d be interested to see them and hear the story/ reason for choosing etc. would have made for a nice inclusion within this article

DD

Certainly it would give a better persepective on the shop itself to cover some more of its products in detial.

Daniel

I have read and immensely enjoyed your blog for years. I am very glad you gave some publicity to this great shop. The guys who run it are fantastic and the stock they carry is great. I have turned up some great stuff there.

I think buying vintage is a wonderful past-time. It somehow feels much more special to uncover something that you never thought you would ever see again which has developed its own character over the years. It’s almost as if you are being put in charge of it to develop it further.

To weigh in the trainer debate, I completely back you buying 200 quid second-hand trainers. I am sure the pleasure they bring you will be worth far more than 200 quid. I think to dismiss something just because it is not made of quality materials is somewhat narrow-minded and in terms of design, many trainers (to my mind) are beautifully designed. Two of my favourite pair of shoes were the Adidas superstar (black with a cream shell-toe I inherited in the late 80s) and a pair of green Gazelles, worn to death in the early 90s. All of these were beautifully designed shoes which I love just as much as the Northampton made shoes I bought in the 2000s.

Rich

I used to visit Sheffield regularly and know Eccleshall Road but can’t picture the shop. I’ll have to make another visit, it’s a brilliant city. And, in other news, you were born NINETEEN EIGHTY ONE??!! Man, I feel old now! Great post, I really enjoyed it!

Jon

I love the Stone Island Marina coat and the Mille Miglia Goggle jacket Jojo is wearing. Looks like it’s the original from 1988. I have a love/hate relationship with these brands. As a skinny guy, I look utterly lost in most vintage though. Seeing that many vintage items are size XL and up doesn’t really help either.