5 Best Places to Find Vintage Denim in Metro Phoenix

Vintage denim creates a classic look, is pretty durable, and can be the basis for some of the most versatile pieces in your closet. But in an era when high-rise Levi's are coveted — and same goes for the perfect pair of cutoffs — we got to wondering where the Valley's fashion set heads when they need a new pair of old Lees. So New Times talked with Valley denim obsessives about their favorite places to hunt for throwback items, and how classic denim stands the test of time.

Here are five great places to find vintage denim in metro Phoenix.

Antique Sugar
801 North Second Street, #104

Set northeast of Second and McKinley streets neighboring Cobra Arcade Bar, Antique Sugar has been at this sunny location for a little more than a year, but in business since 2010. In addition to an array of vintage women’s and men's clothing and accessories, the shop features a number of vintage denim items. Think jackets, pants, skirts, and shirts.

Antique Sugar is a buy/sell/trade vintage store, meaning people bring in their used or found denim from brands like Wrangler, Cherokee, and Levi’s – even a custom New Kids on the Block jean jacket from God knows when. A pair of vintage Levi's jeans costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $36.95.

Co-owner Annamarie Sanchez says she can tell vintage denim by the tag, rivets, zippers, pockets, stitching, and more. But the Antique Sugar owners often sift through estate sales, thrift stores, and yard sales, finding mostly '70s items. Sanchez says a good piece can be “pretty easy to find because it’s such a durable material." However, some pieces, like "Big E" Levi's, can be difficult to find. “It’s kind of everything,” says Sanchez. “You can find vintage Levi’s for days, but if you find Big Es, you call a friend.”

The reason for all the fuss with vintage denim comes from the value of vintage denim, along with the overall look. “A lot of the new denim has elastic in it, which means it’s going to deteriorate faster,” says Sanchez. But older jeans will “stand the test of time.” Along with higher quality, Sanchez explains vintage denim just provides a classic fit – “except the high-waisted '70s jeans that don’t fit anybody.”
Buffalo Exchange
3450 North Seventh Street

Pick through the racks of Buffalo Exchange’s newer Phoenix location, and you’re bound to find some vintage denim mixed in with the newer stuff. (They did away with the separate vintage section from the old Seventh Street and Missouri Avenue location.)

Being one of the go-to spots for resale clothing, Buffalo puts out a wide selection of classic denim pieces, including brands like Wrangler, Levi’s, and Lee. Being Buffalo, a vintage Wrangler denim work shirt (or jacket, depending on how you wear it) runs about $20. Store manager Julia Mikolajczak says the "most obvious way to tell vintage denim is by looking at the construction.” She says there’s almost stiffness to the denim, and it's more rugged.

Mikolajczak believes people search for vintage denim because they "want something more unique.” Unique is a good word, as you may find an arrow-collared work shirt, a pair of striped bell-bottoms, or a full denim halter dress. Another location in Tempe (227 West University Drive) offers vintage clothing and denim to boot. Oh, and boots.

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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano