Bobby Goodwin of Legit Vintage
Bobby Goodwin is the founder of Legit Vintage, an online retailer of classic clothing for nostalgic sports fans.
How did you start your business?
I started my business and created my etsy shop on March 9, 2012, but I really didn't start listing a decent selection of items for sale until early June. After I decided on a name and set up my etsy and email accounts, I began accumulating a large amount/variety of product, which means I went shopping. It's what I really enjoy the most about what I do. For the most part, I dedicated any extra cash I could afford toward acquiring as much vintage as I could get. Buying and reselling vintage sportswear is the perfect marriage of both my childhood love of sports, and my teen years to present interest in fashion.
The name "Legit Vintage" has kind of a duel meaning, and I like how broad it allows me to be with my product selection. That's part of the reason I chose it: I wanted something "timeless," but also nonspecific enough to allow me to go in whatever direction I may want to in the future. I'm definitely an "enthusiast" at heart, and especially when dealing with vintage. While I feel like yes, you have to have a clear vision of what you want your shop or brand's vibe to be like to avoid coming off as a glorified thrift store or a crazy cat lady, at the same time, you need to keep an open mind. I rarely go out looking for specific items, unless I've seen a certain item at a particular location before and am going back for it.
I like "legit" because not only do I pride myself on only selling things that I personally feel are "LEGIT" (i.e. something I would wear), but I also am saying that what I'm selling is legitimately vintage, which etsy considers to be items that are at least 20 years old. There are a few exceptions of course, but when you're talking about vintage sportswear, I personally feel that as of right now, anything up to and before the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls era (which ended in 1998) can be considered vintage, in NBA-talk. When not a single player from a team or era is in his/her respective league anymore, in my mind, that's vintage. Or take the year 1995 for example—18 years ago but not quite 20—that was the year OJ Simpson was found not-guilty of double murder. I remember watching that car chase with OJ in his white Ford Bronco, along with the ensuing court case the following year. And to me, that's vintage.
I try to differentiate my shop from others by making it sort of eclectic swag (versus just a bunch of old sports stuff, or even worse, just a bunch of OLD stuff). But equally important, if not more so, what I sell has to be ON TREND. What I mean by that is stuff that "the kids these days" are into. There comes a certain point where vintage can teeter into antique, and what was once "cool" again is now back to just being OLD. In doing so, when you're trying to be fashion forward or predict what will be hot next, you definitely have to look at the more recent past rather than only 20 years ago and prior. The fashion world is always recycling trends, and everything inevitably comes back in style at some point, but you don't need to limit yourself to a technicality such as "from 1993 or before." That might sound a bit rebellious, but almost every designer looks to the past for inspiration, and what you personally consider to be vintage is totally subjective and completely up to the individual person as far as I'm concerned.
To be more specific, I had some cash, an iPhone and a dream. I take all of the product pics myself on my iPhone, list the items for sale by myself, as well as package and mail out all of my orders myself. Like most small business owners, I'm sort of a one-man show at this point, which is completely out of necessity at this stage in the game.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
Even after I stopped playing sports on a regular basis, I never stopped being a huge sports fan. I only stopped playing sports after most of the guys on my high school teams grew to be bigger and stronger than me. While my "playing days" have been over for some time now, my sports fandom has only grown. Me playing fantasy football as an adult is really not that different from collecting baseball cards as a child. In fact, from age 8 to around the time I discovered music and clothes, I spent seriously 95 percent of my money (albeit mainly modest funds stemming from mowing the lawn and babysitting) on baseball cards. A lot of basketball cards too.
Then high school happened.
Even in high school, I was on ebay buying '70s Levi's flair jeans and '80s Adidas track jackets. Don't get me wrong, I was a mall rat too, like most teenagers, but nostalgia is in my nature. Having lived in eight different states by the time I was 14, I've always tried to have a good memory and I have a tendency to have a strong appreciation for, and romanticization of, the past. My favorite subject during high school was history, and selling vintage is sort of like selling a piece of history. I've been thrifting since high school as well, often by myself. Coming from a relatively socially conservative family/part of the country, I've always tried extremely hard to at all times be myself, no matter how embarrassing I may find what I was into at that particular time in my life was when I look back on it.
While I've developed into an arguable workaholic—working a full-time job while pursuing my own business on the side—I don't have an inherently amazing work ethic. It's when you do what you love, and work with what you love, when work no longer feels like work. And I know I'm not even close to the first person to say that, but what's almost cliche to say is also more importantly, true.
I entered the clothing retail business after college because I realized I was more passionate about fashion than journalism, which is what my degree is in. I was like "hey, if you like clothes so much, go work at a place that sells clothes." Simple as that. As I've moved up and around in the retail industry, a few years ago I realized that I strongly preferred to rock a vintage hat than a new one, and so on and so forth. I've tried to work in a more specialized field of interest with each job switch I've had since graduating.
Once I got hip to nationally/internationally recognized vintage sportswear shops, I thought to myself, "if these guys are doing their own thing like this and turning a profit, why can't I?" And from there, I took inspiration from my favorite vintage shops, both online and physical stores, along with my favorite vintage brands/articles of clothing, and went for it. I try to only sell things that I would wear and pieces that reflect my personal style. I always thought it was such a joke when professors would try to tell us that as journalists we need to be objective at all times when writing. To me, humans by nature are such the opposite. Most everyone has an opinion, bias or sway toward one side or the other. I feel strongly about sports and fashion, and that's how I ended up in the vintage sportswear business.
What local resources did you take advantage of and how did they help?
If I named any specific places I went to, I'd have to kill you, but I am very glad to be able to say that all of my product to this point has been locally sourced.
Having said that, the majority of my product tends to have more of a national/international appeal (ex: a Nike windbreaker), but I do enjoy peppering in some local gear as well, especially during the Reds' and Bengals' respective seasons. Lots of Reds 1990 World Series tees and crews along with Bengals 1988 Super Bowl merch have a huge amount of local value, to the point where I've considered getting a vending license and just setting up a table downtown near the stadiums to sell merch on the street before games.
What would you do differently if you started your business again?
Honestly, not a whole lot. Which is something I'm proud to be able to say.
One big decision at the outset was etsy versus ebay, and although I'm very glad I went with etsy—I just strongly prefer their user interface and layout to ebay's—I have never closed the door on eventually trying to sell on ebay. I created a business account the day I started just in case, while I was still deciding between sites, so I could always go back to that. As annoying as ebay can be, it is sort of the Craigslist of online auction sites, or sites where individuals can sell vintage, and if etsy doesn't catch up to ebay in popularity as much as I predicted it would, I may have to bow down to the power that is ebay.
The next step for me though is to build my own web site, so neither etsy nor ebay are the endgame for me. After that, I hope to one day own a brick and mortar retail space downtown.
Besides potentially switching over to ebay, now that I'm more serious about selling vintage sportswear than I was a year ago, if I could go back, I'm sure there's some frivolous purchases I've made over the past year that I now realize would've been money better spent on more product for my business. With every sale I make, the profit from that is pretty much pumped right back into more product. If I'm not willing to invest in myself, how can I convince anyone else to back my business?
In the long-term, a website, but in the short term, my girlfriend and I (who now also sells vintage at weallneedvintage.etsy.com) both plan on participating in a month-long pop-up shop at LOHIOH gallery on 2157 Central Avenue in Brighton. It's run by Alex Jameson—she's a super talented lady and actually my former boss. Her jewelry pieces are so different from what typical jewelry looks like when you think of it, and her use of animal parts, such as antlers, teeth and bone (all of which is ethically found, by the way) is really creative, but also extremely well-done. I definitely have a huge appreciation for her aesthetic and taste level. Our tentative opening reception is planned for Saturday, July 6, but that is subject to change. A selection of our product will be custom-installed and for sale there for at least two weeks, but potentially all of July once it opens. I'm really excited for it to happen!
We also are both really pumped about our participation in Rise of the Cool Kids 2 (ROCK2), which is the coming together of local fashion-based businesses such as Sloane Boutique, Original Thought Required, District 78, Touch Me Tees and Corporate for a projected fashion show, party and pop-up. The pre-recorded fashion show was shot at Local Skate Park with models in a mix of outfits from all of the different local shops and featuring cameos from said shop owners. Both the date and location are not set in stone yet, but be on the lookout for more details to come this summer.
Interview by Sean Peters