Flashbacks of Flashback

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
By Louis Magnifico
Flashback - Memphis' Preeminent Vintage Store
Flashback – Memphis’ Preeminent Vintage Store

After picking up some great vintage shirts to wear at gigs for our band this week, Char and I accompanied a friend to Flashback, Memphis’ preeminent vintage store, to see if we could put the icing on the cake.  While I didn’t leave with any new shirts, I did have a great time looking around a truly unique store.

Flashback carries more than just clothing.  We were greeted at the front door, for instance, by an old wood carving of King Tut found on a roadside in Arkansas, available for only $1,500.  But not everything was quite that vintage.  Most of the relics in this place were from the 1950s through the 1970s. Unusual clocks, 50s diner tables and stools,  lamps, clothing,  even a few velvet Elvis paintings lined the shelves and walls.

I really don't get the rainbow and stars beind the denim family.
I really don’t get the rainbow and stars behind the denim family.

One shelf contained an Elvis bust and a statue advertising Levi’s jeans.  Did you ever notice that Elvis and Levi’s are an anagram?  I never noticed this until I saw the two figures sitting next to each other.  Another more curious artifact was a coin bank bearing an image of a family sporting their new denim outfits.  Written on the bank was, “I’m savin’ up for a new pair of jeans!”  Look at the joyous denim family on the bank.  As I stare at them, I am left with one thought…  some marketing guy had to actually approve this design!  You know, it really does take a Bachelor’s in marketing to come up with an idea this, um, creative.  I do wonder where these posed people are today.  Was this bank their only claim to fame?  Did they have other modeling jobs? Maybe they had an entire bank line (e.g. maybe Hanes had a marketing promotion with “I’m savin’ up for a new pair of briefs”).  I have to wonder if this kid ever showed his wife this bank?  Certainly it would have been AFTER they were hitched.  Anyway… let’s move on.

Char once proudly wore a pair of red parachute pants much like this one.  Back in the day... didn't we all...
Char once proudly wore a pair of red parachute pants much like this one. Back in the day… didn’t we all…

The clothing at Flashback is a hodgepodge of old and new-that-looks-old.  Char, as is often the case, modeled several of the articles for me.  Fortunately, the camera was handy.  My favorite was the red parachute pants.  Char used to have a pair of red parachute pants back in the day.  Oh, what I would give for a blackmail photo of that!  Me?  I had black ones.  I was cool, you see.  Ironically, we visited this store the day before Michael Jackson’s death.  The last time Char donned a pair of red parachute pants, Jackson was making news headlines for record breaking sales of his Thriller album.  The next time she held red parachute pants in her hand, Jackson was in the news again…

This musical sidebar reminds me of the day Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was found dead.  I was working at a music store with my friend, Daniel Jones (by the way, visit Daniel online at www.memphisjones.com).  We heard the news and Daniel goes to a shelf, pulls the latest Nirvana CD, and ripped it open.  On the inside liner notes, he took a black Sharpee and wrote, “This CD taken 4/8/94” and signed his name.  I signed mine next to his.  We either left the CD outside, or dumped it off at a used CD store, one of the two – I forget now.  I wonder who came up with that CD and what he/she thought.  I wonder where that CD is now?  I wonder if it has made its way in and out of used CD stores and eventually wound up in the hands of a kid from a new generation of rock fans who are discovering for the first time the music we called grunge.  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, Michael Jackson.  Let’s get back on track.  There’s something disturbing about putting Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain in the same story, isn’t there?  I think I need to take a bath.  Anyway…  let’s move on…

Char tries out some vintage clothing

Char tries out some vintage clothing

What is it about clothing that makes it valuable after it has been handed down 10 or more times?  It seems clothes are purchased at a high price the first time around, then become “cheap hand-me-downs” after one or two owners.  Who knows what happens next – the mystery years for clothing – but after several more owners, the clothes suddenly become valuable again… at times, far more expensive than they were originally.  Clothes really are the ultimate collector’s items.  Some people collect overpriced toys, thinking they will increase in value.  In reality, most of these toys go on eBay for less than their original price even after many years and in good condition.  But take your shirts, keep them for a few decades, get use out of them, and then open an artsy shop years later and sell your digs for a mint.  It can be your retirement.

Flashback carries vintage clothing from many decades.  Char’s favorites were the 60s dresses. They actually seemed to look somewhat modern against her – she has a knack for wearing 60s clothing and still looking modern at the same time. There were also some jumpsuits that were just plain ridiculous.  I think there is a special prison set aside just for the fashion designers who designed such garbage.

What you don't see in this picture is the bucking bronco she's riding.

What you don't see in this picture is the bucking bronco she's riding.

There was also a plethora of hats to choose from to top off the outfits.  While most of them were in some form of taste, there were others that looked more like prizes from carnival midways.  In addition, they had an old, authentic Mexican sombrero.  I don’t know why, but when Char put on the sombrero, I suddenly felt like I was transported into the music video for “Knights of Cydonia” by Muse.  Great band, by the way.  If I ever see a Muse concert, I’ll have to write an entry about it.  Uh-oh – there I go… getting off track again.

Before I get all the way back on track, let me mention that they also had some collectibles from Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns.  Ahhh, the man with no name.  Uh-oh – I feel another derailment.  Back on track… for real this time…

Char in a New Wave rocker wig from the 80s.
Char in a New Wave rocker wig from the 80s.

The vintage clothing wasn’t the only thing Char tried on.  In addition to a myriad of dresses, pants, and tops, she also paid a visit to a row of wigs.  My favorite was a 80s new wave wig.  Maybe our band should start doing some female 80s new wave hits and she can wear this wig on stage.  I don’t know – it’d be kind of hard to switch from that to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” without getting some rather odd expressions from the audience.  Then again…. could be fun….  Maybe we can add Ah-ha’s “Take on Me” to our set lists and we can all wear wigs like this…

In addition to clothing, furnishings, banks, and Velvet Elvis paintings, Flashback also had a wide assortment of handbags.  Many were made of recycled material such as dog food bags – something Char is actually doing herself in her studio.  Others were from the Band in my Hand company and were made of vinyl records.  A very cool concept, indeed.

Char's new gym bag or something hideous from the feminist movement?

Char's new gym bag or something hideous from the feminist movement?

Browsing their selection, one bag led Char to the decision to take up boxing.  I volunteered to go along and be her sparring partner who just gets knocked around as she trains.  She can carry her gloves and towels in this handy gym bag.  Something tells me, though, that this bag wasn’t meant to be a gym bag, but rather is a relic from the early days of the feminist movement.  You make the call…

One last thing to mention about our trip to Flashback.  Outside the store and just down the street there is an old pay phone booth.  Gotta love those.  Sort of like drive in cinemas, you just have to stop and check out old pay phone booths.  Sadly, there was no phone inside.  I was looking forward to seeing a rotary dial phone with a dime slot.  Char and I got a picture taken of us in the booth then called it a day.  To read another story, please insert another dime.

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