Crowley Vintage: Shopping a look

Friday, November 18th 2022
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Crowley Vintage is a vintage shop in Brooklyn, New York with a more particular angle than most. 

We’ve talked in the past about different types of vintage - those that focus on older or newer, on rarity or thrift - but there are few that focus on a specific style, pretty much to the exclusion of other factors.

Sean Crowley is an ex-Ralph Lauren designer (we covered his history at Ralph here) who, after a brief sojourn at another brand, set up a vintage business stocking pretty much only Ralph Lauren and the kinds of clothes that inspire Ralph Lauren. 

Actually, it’s narrower that that, because there is very little western clothing at Crowley’s, no RRL or performance-based Purple Lapel. Instead it’s smarter and more British: dressing gowns and Fair Isle sweaters, country tweeds and Savile Row, plus varsity knits and some military.

Importantly, it covers all periods, from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first. 

At one point during my visit, looking for an old pair of chinos, I came across two pairs that seemed like decent candidates. Both were mid- to high-rise, both fairly wide leg. One looked more frayed and worn than the other. 

It was only when I tried them on that I realised the less-worn pair were original American WW2 chinos, and the more worn pair were Ralph Lauren ‘Rugby’, from the early 2000s. The holes and fraying were artificial. 

For a fan of this style of clothing, both will have their own appeal. But when I think of a Permanent Style reader going to shop at Crowley, this breadth of stock is one thing I feel they need to aware of.

The style is clear from Sean’s curation - the piles of striped scarves, the madras and seersucker. It’s even organised into different themes: tailoring, college, military, summer. But the range from old to (relatively) new won't be as obvious. 

Crowley is also not cheap - it’s towards the rarer, the more curated end of the vintage spectrum. Those that visit are doing so partly for Sean’s eye.

A couple of interesting tailoring pieces were the coachman’s coat above, and the rather ornate suit by New York tailor Roland Meledandri, below. 

The coat was phenomenally heavy, designed for someone that would be in the elements all day, without exception. It had a few details that suggested formality, but weren’t actually functional, such as large flap pockets that were nothing more than flaps. 

Sean and I also marvelled at how someone had managed to hand sew the buttonholes. 

The suit, in a cream jacquard cloth, would probably be of most interest to those in New York’s tailoring history (I knew Meledandri only from his connection to Ralph Lauren), but I guess there might be a more flamboyant dresser who would wear it too. 

“I have to say it’s all much clearer now we’re in this bigger space,” he says. “We’ve only been here two years, and it’s only in the past few months that some of this display has come together.”

When Sean started selling vintage in 2017, he only did so on Instagram. Then there was a shop, but it was smaller and less accessible. Today the store might be in a unit on the third floor (which requires various twists and turns to track down) but you can see the full range and it's easy to get to from Manhattan. 

“There’s still one area at the back that I need to clear up, but it’s curtained off so no one really realises that,” says Sean. “Otherwise it’s all nicely put together now.”

Something else that's at the back of the shop is an ironing board and a sewing box - Sean frequently repairs new clothes himself. 

"I guess that's one thing that makes it clear I'm still very much a retail destination," he says. "I sew, I darn, I reinforce buttons. I want the clothing to be as perfect as it can be when it's sold." (It's also evident from the extremely useful labelling - describing the size, waist and leg length.)

Compare that to somewhere like Stock Vintage, where most nips and rips are left in and the focus is more purely selling to designers. 

"There's a good network of repair places in New York too - for repairing knits, for invisible repairs on wovens," says Sean. All are apparently open to the general public, so I'll get the details and do a separate article at some point. 

I only walked away from Crowley Vintage with a couple of small pieces - an old Ralph hat and a belt - but then I'm never doing more than half shopping, with the other half of my brain asking interview questions. 

The belt, too, was a good example of a lovely style Ralph used to do, but no longer. Cotton canvas with leather-covered ends, it is slim, good quality, and much nicer than the elasticated ones you find more commonly. 

Sean has about 30 of them, all in different colours. I was feeling contrary and chose a pink one. 

I'd recommend Crowley to anyone that likes the style - that's crucial - and who's shopping vintage to find things that are unusual, rather than cheap. 

If you want more normal vintage - as in, a much broader range of styles and indeed of prices - you’d be better off over in Williamsburg at someone like 10ft Single by Stella Dallas, which is huge and varied. The cloth shop next door, the original Stella Dallas, is also worth a visit. 

Crowley Vintage is open Saturday 10-6, and Tuesday to Friday by appointment. Address: 147 Front St, suite 303, Dumbo, Brooklyn

Photography: Christopher Fenimore


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Hi Simon, i take it that “performance based” is a euphemism for synthentic fibers? Paul Stuart employs the same term for a variety of its polo shirts.


I like how slouchy Sean’s suit looks. Is that vintage or tailored?


It’s the Carry On suit from Buck Mason per his post on Instagram


I wonder what percentage of PS readers buy vintage?

Once I was paid a decent salary I moved away from second hand and vintage clothes.

Nowadays I could see buying a jacket (maybe) but would never buy a pair of second hand shoes for example. I did pick up a Liberty silk tie in Oxfam a few years ago but again there are so many good tie makers nowadays

Are PS readers buying much vintage?

Peter Hall

I buy plenty of vintage, both online and from shops. You certainly need to have a degree of knowledge, discipline and not fall into magpie syndrome .
I made a ‘to buy ‘ list…A vintage wool top coat, quality knits and a quality pair of brogues and any quality Ivy pieces. Most of all, it’s fun.


I for example buy mostly vintage clothes. Its not only a price matter cause i surely find rubato, mcs, colhays, drakes etc too pricy but i like to have clothes that are unique. I dont care much about sustainability etc but some clothes are really hard to find in new. For example i got a great pair of wide chinos that i couldnt find anywhere else and i wear all the time without looking like a hipster or a vintage guy. Jeans are also overpriced and you can find whatever you want on vintage and for me it was a pair of midlight blue that did the job and again the fit was great to me. Of course such things come after many many hours of shopping and failures and i dont just get in a shop and find something immediately. Most of the time i dont find anything and when i find something a lot of times i just dont wear it much. But the things that stay are really nice stapple stuff that i enjoy a lot. Of course shoes, belts, watch etc must be new and good and thats where i give most of my clothing money. I have 3-4 shirts that are true vintage and wear them a lot when i go out for bar hopping for example. From military i have only a green long coat that i wear rarely but when i do its a statement piece. Last year i found in amsterdam a shearling coat for 40 euros that ticked all the boxes for me, but after i tried 50-60 not first try. Of course some of them dont have the craftmanship and quality Simon and some readers love but to me if something gets a lot of use its something worth having. That said some clothes cant be found vintage or used easily such as shawl collar cardigan, good quality turtlenecks etc. But id say its more of a choice than something i do to save money.

Tony Hodges

I have heaps of clothes, so I’m only really interested in vintage these days!


Hi, interesting piece.
What does it mean when you say “not cheap” on the range from goodwill prices to normal RL prices to 2000 USD for a vintage sweater?


I visited last month and it’s an amazing store and need at least a couple of hours to browse. The only downside is that none of the items are priced. I asked an assistant how much something was and she didn’t know and said I’d have to ask Sean. Perhaps colour coded price banding stickers would help in lieu of an actual price tag.


I find the missing price tags baffling and an instant turn-off. It makes me feel like the shop keeper is sizing you up, ever in the lookout for the next sucker.

Jonathan Baker

Hi, Simon.
Really interesting article – thanks! I was expecting to be staying in Brooklyn for a day or two before Christmas so I could easily have visited Crowley Vintage, but I’m now not going until the new year. Very frustrating!
In the meantime, as someone new to vintage and interested in high-end ivy, western/Ralph Lauren, and also Saville Row, where would you suggest I try in London? Or would I be better to wait?

Jonathan Baker

Absolutely makes sense! Thanks, Jonathan

H. R.

What about Hornett’s Kensington? Don’t suppose you have any thoughts on that, Simon? I’ve never bought anything myself, but have heard good things


I think in London, Hornets in Kensington is the best game in town.


I’ve been here a few times, and have been able to come away with some gems, most notably, a formal evening overcoat in black wool. To Simon’s point, it is heavy as hell haha.
Sean is awesome and I highly recommend anyone visiting NYC to make the visit. As Simon mentioned, it’s easy to get there by train from the city.


Looks an amazing place. Not just the stock, also the general look and feel of something well curated that comes across in the photographs. Sean must be extremely talented to put something so beautiful together.


Hi Simon, is there anything equivalent that you would recommend in London?


Could you please add a picture of the belt?

J Crewless

As a huge fan of vintage (some 90% of my wardrobe), these are the articles I think many of us look for.

Great read.


Thanks for highlighting Crowley Vintage Simon. I used to live about a 5 min walk from there until we moved to the Suburbs 6 years ago. Unfortunately I don’t think Sean had set up shop prior to our move but I will definitely check it out the next time I’m in that area. My family and I still make it over to DUMBO for a Saturday visit every couple of months. Not sure if you noticed or stopped in but there is another great shop, FRONT GENERAL STORE just a few doors down from Crowley’s that also carries an admittedly less curated, but still solid collection of high quality Americana vintage clothes, leather goods and jewelry as well as unique housewares and other goods. It’s been there for as long as I can remember and is one of the most popular stores in Dumbo that’s frequented by models and fashion editors. I know that’s not your style, and it has a sort of hipper than thou vibe that I find off putting at times, but it’s a great shop nonetheless. If you didn’t stumble upon it this last trip, it’s worth a 5 min browse the next time you’re in NYC.

Fabrizio Gatti

Hi Simon. I need to adjust and change the linings of a blazer and a coat, both made by A. Caraceni more than forty years ago and wonder if you ever wrote the article on the repair places in New York City. If not, would you mind writing a list of the names you were able to gather. Thank you,