by Esther Kwon
Photography courtesy of fortysouthst.com
Featuring mod dresses from the 60s, glam from the 70s and neon statements from the 80s, 40 South Street is a niche hub of vintage clothing and accessories. This store has lived in the pocket of Jamaica Plain for over 30 years and boasts an eccentric selection of colors and patterns. A red and grey checkered polyester coat and a tie-dye blouse of dark maroon and blue are a few examples.
Hilken Mancini, the current store owner, transformed the men’s-only vintage dealership called Gumshoe into an edgy store for both men and women. Mancini dove into the realm of vintage clothing through her active career in music.
“In the early 90’s I was in a rock-and-roll band and I toured a lot,” she said. “Since there was no eBay, I would thrift in between sound checks and shows in places like Charlemagne, Illinois or Lafayette, Louisiana. You’d go to the local Salvation Army and find great, great stuff. So, I kind of had the bug. I had a lot of vintage clothes.”
When Mancini settled in Jamaica Plain and looked for another way to make money, she encountered the old, vintage warehouse on 40 South Street.
“The storefront was grated and the owner would hang stuff there,” she said. “Inside, the whole wall had vintage denim. Dimly lit, no dressing rooms, stuff hanging everywhere. Many Japanese people were buying vintage from him.”
Mancini had a connection with the dealer because he was also an owner of a vintage store in Kenmore Square, where she frequently shopped in the early 80s and 90s. Mancini and the store owner were also neighbors in a way; she used to perform at The Rat, an underground club featuring original rock music, near the store.
Mancini’s legacy of rock music adds a new identity to the store. The electric sounds run not only on the sales floor but in the back office where Mancini runs a girl’s rock-and-roll camp. Customers can enjoy the store’s pulsing energy as they scavenge through organized racks of funky t-shirts, leather jackets, pastel knitted sweaters, striped and dotted button-downs, floral dresses and oversized, Hawaiian print.
“I have been to many vintage stores before that sell brands like Polo, Madewell, and Levi but the store owner cares more about the design. She takes an organic, raw approach to vintage clothes,” said Ellen Lo (ENG ’19).
Prices are maintained at a consistent, modest level. The average cost for tops and bottoms fall within the $20 to $40 range, with prices based on the design and material rather than according to name brands. The pricing method reflects Mancini’s unconventional philosophy of selling vintage couture.
“I’m not into labels. I’m more into something that’s cool,” said Mancini. “I’m not going sell Versace for $58 dollars if it’s not cool. If it’s a Gucci skirt I might sell it for $20 because I don’t care. I’m punk in that way where I’m anti-label, anti-status quo.”