Upcycling Nostolgia with Mass Vintage

Anyone walking through Amherst this past fall has likely noticed a new store that has cropped up, tucked away behind Antonio’s pizza. This store is Mass Vintage, and it delivers vintage clothing, memorabilia, and hats to its customers for reasonable prices. I spoke with founder of Mass Vintage Dan Williams about his origins in the vintage world, why minor league gear is the best, staying local, and the vintage hat elite inner circle. Settle in, it’s going to be a long one.

So how did the vintage clothing obsession start?

It all started with the hats. That’s kind of our specialty and what we know best. At that time I didn’t wear much vintage clothing, I wasn’t going out thrifting before the hats. I used to wear those Mitchell & Ness retro hats that looked old, and eventually I decided I wanted the real thing. It was in my sophomore year, 2013-2014 that I really got into it and started the hunt. I went to my cousins house and asked my aunt, I was like “Do you guys have any old hats kicking around? We don’t have any at my house”. She went down in the basement and came up with a black dome Patriots splash, like the OG Logo Athletic one, and it was my cousins from the nineties. Once I tried it on, it’s like the real, good fit versus the newer ones, and I was like, “This is it”. I realized Logo Athletic was the good brand versus Mitchell & Ness or whatever, so then from there I just started going onto ebay and instagram and stuff, and I ended up finding the underground hat world online.

What does the online underground hat world look like?

WWVSE is like the hashtag, for World Wide Vintage Snapback Exchange. I had always seen the acronym on hat posts on instagram and been like “What is this fucking acronym?” I found out it’s a group, like a really elite facebook group (laughs) like I’m in the group now, it’s some private group. Back then it was much more involved, it was a couple hundred members who were always posting, and trading.

So it was a couple hundred but still not just anyone could get in?

Nah, it was like literally VIP. There’s vintage exchange, which is a vintage group that’s open to the public. It’s kinda the, anyone can get in, but only certain people can be in WWVSE, they had admins. Someone would bring you up, and be like “Hey, thinking of inviting this person, how do you guys feel?.” and people would be like “Nah fuck that guy” or like “Yeah he’s cool” so they’ll invite different people that way.

At what point did you make it into the group?

I was still in school, that was 2015 or so.

You were probably excited right?

Yeah that was like “Bro I’m in the elite club” (laughs). I’ve never really liked the exclusivity of it too much, I was most interested in how these guys have been doing it seriously for two or three years, they had great collections, it was just a good resource, they’re good people, I just don’t like when they are mean and shit to people over hats (laughs). It’s about trying to create a culture at the end of the day.

What vintage team gear are you messing with the most, aesthetic wise?

I think minor league teams have the most interesting visual qualities and the best logos and names and colorways and all that. They’re also much more rare because of the smaller fanbase. The Worcester Ice Caps were my team from my hometown. They’re cool because when you find an Ice Caps Splash hat the person walked that shit out of the arena. You couldn’t have really gotten them anywhere else. I have a decent amount of IHL and AHL hats.

Did buying hats start as a thing for fun, or was it always about trying to sell the hats?

It definitely started as a collection hobby type thing. Everyone wants the coolest hats; the splashes, the sharktooth. Of course I wanted the Patriots, or the Bruins, and those cool ones are the expensive ones. After I bought two or three of those I realized, especially being in college, if I want to do this for awhile I can’t just do it on my own dollar, I gotta make use of the resource I stumbled into or whatever. I would buy hat lots, twenty or more, however many I could get my hands on and sell them. And there was definitely a bigger hat culture at the time. There were just generally more people like us putting out groups of hats once or twice a week to sell or trade.

Why do you think it has slowed down?

In comparison to t-shirts, hats require way more labour. You gotta clean them, keep them reshaped, you gotta know the teams, and the brands, and people aren’t as willing to get into all of that. There’s more money in t-shirts and things like that, especially when people aren’t cleaning their hats or taking care of them. What are you gonna sell unkempt hats for, fifteen bucks, unless it’s a rare one? We are delivering a product that is ready to wear, that we have restored, and that is what sets us apart from other stores.

When did it become Mass Vintage and not just Dan selling his hats?

I made the Mass Vintage instagram and honestly just felt super weird. I had been DMing people and buying hats through my personal account, but I never wanted to post shit for sale on it. I don’t know what it was, just feeling self conscious or feeling weirded out, especially because it wasn’t what it is now. No one outside of my immediate friends would have had any idea what it was. If I started posting hats, everyone would be like “What the fuck is this?” So I made the Mass Vintage instagram just so I didn’t have to post on my own and I figured, I kind of want to grow and make use of my time. If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna make it worthwhile.

Did you get any shit from people?

You know, 90% of people who say shit work a job that they fucking hate, so it is what it is.

How did your instagram page go in the early days?

Bro, when it first started, you couldn’t even DM pictures on instagram, so I had to use kik (laughs). So I would post a picture and be like “Yo kik me for more photos”. So I would be jumping back and forth between instagram DMs, kik, and paypal.

What were the next big steps after starting the instagram to get to where you are today?

July 2016 I made my website. It was so relieving to not be so hands on with every part of every transaction. We used Weebly at first, it sucked, but it was cheap. We’ve obviously switched to something better. The next two to three years were just growth of our product.

June 2017 I officially left my master’s program because I decided I wanted to sell vintage full time. I had thought about it for a few weeks and made up my mind. I was worried that I would be disappointing my parents, who put me through school, but they were the most understanding about the situation. It was hard to think that every minute I was there was a minute I could be instead growing the brand and thrifting and whatever.

September 2017 my fiance Maddie ended up leaving her job and working with me. I was gonna hire an employee, and she would see my sitting at home taking pictures of hats while she went to her job everyday and thought is seemed like so much fun. She already helped me so much, and enjoys vintage clothing too. During the earlier days I used to have a route I would drive to hit a bunch of different thrift stores to get product. It would take all day, like ten hours. The mentality was grab as much as I can for as little as I can. And I was still always buying hat lots online too. Now I just have people shipping my boxes every few weeks, and bringing in huge garbage bags full of clothes that they know I’ll want.

Since you opened the store has there been any competition in the area?

Fuck no. The vintage community is pretty positive and we support each other. Some people ask if we’re about to go under or something though, they think we aren’t doing well because they just don’t understand vintage reselling. They don’t get it.

What’s next for Mass Vintage?

We have a few things in the works. We’re trying to work with a certain outdoor brand for a capsule collection for Earth Day, to promote sustainability. We also are trying to find a way to reward returning customers, so we’re going to start implementing these punch cards, like the ones you might get at a coffee shop. Buy enough things and you’ll get store credit. We are also going to start pushing sustainability more. We have always cared about it, but we want our customers to know that by buying vintage they are saving water, saving materials, labour, and supporting a small business and not a large polluting corporation. Aside from that, we just want to keep moving our gear to good homes, to someone who will appreciate the clothes as much as we do.