If you’ve strolled down First Street in Hoboken, then you’ve likely passed by Vintage on First. Walking into the store feels like a fever dream, where miniature plastic baby pins, Trans-Siberian Orchestra denim jackets, and vintage cassette tapes line the racks and shelves. This offbeat aesthetic is the brainchild of owner Mark Rosado, who opened the shop four years ago. To his surprise, the city loved it.
Located at 257 First Street in Hoboken, this eclectic shop is an ‘80s and ‘90s streetwear mecca. Inside, they carry vintage items from brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci, as well as denim jackets, jeans, graphic tees, dresses and accessories. For Mark, it’s a passion project, but for the Hoboken vintage community, it’s paradise. From the humble beginnings of selling at flea markets to securing a bonafide brick-and-mortar vintage shop, Mark sat down with The Digest to discuss the store, his beginnings traveling the country, and how vintage went digital this year.
Can you tell our readers about yourself and how you got started in vintage clothing?
I would say it started probably when I was in college. Just as a lifestyle or a way to be different. This is going back to the early 2000s when I was in college. I had no real money. I didn’t want to dress like everybody else. Then, I just ventured off after college and didn’t have a real job or a real place to live. I just kind of traveled a lot. I lived in California, Florida, Spain, and I always just thrifted throughout those times. Then I ended up back [in New Jersey], I would say around 2012, and all I had was my clothing collection.
So, I threw something up on eBay and I couldn’t believe that it sold. It was an LA Raiders hat and it sold for $50. My mind was blown. So then I just started digging into it more. I started selling more on eBay and then I went to a flea market on the Lower East Side on Hester Street. On my first day out there I made $1,000. My whole life changed that day. Ever since 2012, it’s become my life, it’s a hustle.
How did Vintage on First get started?
I was just a flea market guy. I would pop up at the Brooklyn Flea, I actually had a space on the Lower East Side and even one in Rhode Island. I was going where the money was. I used to sell at flea markets in Philly, D.C., Miami. I was just chasing it. But then my wife and I had our child and I was locked into Hoboken. One of these guys on [First Street] had extra space and was like, ‘If you wanna do a pop-up here in Hoboken, you’re welcome to use the space. Here’s what the rent is, just try it out.’ We tried it, and the community was really for it. There were no other shops like that in the Hoboken area. We were blown away. It was amazing, and the people really were into it, and now we’re here four years.
The store prides itself on stocking handpicked, curated vintage pieces. What is the process for curating the store?
Well, it’s off of my taste and my wife does all the women’s picking. It’s also based on what’s wearable, nothing too antique. We don’t do anything from the ‘20s or anything like that. We try to offer things where you can mix and match with modern-day styles. The ‘90s is a very big style right now. Basics, but also super unique at the same time. It’s not easy.
Do you have a favorite piece of clothing that you’ve ever secured for the store?
That’s a good question, that’s every month. Every month something comes in that I absolutely love. I couldn’t really tell you one thing. I’m really into Ralph Lauren, I’ve had some really crazy Ralph Lauren pieces like Snow Beach. There’s also other designer stuff that we’ve found like Versace and Moschino. Recently I’m into concert tees. We’ve had some cool hip-hip concert tees like bootlegs from parking lots and stuff from the ‘90s. It changes, I’m into something every week.
Do you have a piece of clothing that you have yet to find? What’s your white whale?
There’s a bunch of Polo out there that I’d love to find. I don’t know, I’m pretty good at manifestation, and things just kind of come to me. I’m out there, I’m really involved in this world—flea markets, selling at other markets and boutiques, and other vintage dealers. If it’s out there and I find it, I’ll buy it. I’ve kind of had it all.
You have been expanding into the digital space lately from live auctions on Instagram to your website’s online store, how has that been?
I’ll tell you this, I feel like the world expects a lot from us these days. When it comes to selling on [Instagram] live or building a website, that’s not why I got into this. I got into this to go out into the field and find things, and interact with people in real life, and sell stuff. That’s why I’ve always done flea markets and opened a store.
But over this past year, we were backed into a corner where we just couldn’t. So, the closest thing for me was to jump on Instagram live and it felt semi-normal. I was able to just pick out a rack of clothes and just go through it and have fun in my living room and show the piece on the phone. Taking the website shots and measurements, that’s a whole other world. It’s way more difficult, and sometimes, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze because everything is so one of one. I’d much rather be in person, especially with vintage.
Do you ever see the online marketplace becoming the norm for vintage shopping?
It’s definitely become another avenue this past year that I didn’t think that we would’ve taken. But now we did it and I’m seeing all these other vintage dealers doing it. I’m seeing it become the norm to some extent. But at the same time, when the world starts opening back up, which it is, there’s nothing like going out to a flea market or into a store. You can feel it, seeing all the clothes around you, seeing all the weird little ‘50s pins, the music pumping, my energy, there’s nothing like that.
In your expert opinion, what are the must-have items for a killer vintage wardrobe?
A great vintage, worn out, super thin, 50/50 (50 percent cotton, 50 percent polyester), black T-shirt where it’s not even black it’s gray. I love a good T-shirt like that. I love a good denim jacket, like a good, vintage Levis denim jacket. I think those are just great. Everybody should have that.
What is your advice for first-time vintage shoppers to get the most out of their experience?
The clothing chooses you. Let’s say that. You can’t really go in there thinking that you’re gonna get one thing, and then be disappointed. You kinda have to go in there with an open mind. You might go in there [and find] this Large black t-shirt and you know you’re a Large, but it just doesn’t fit you. So that piece didn’t choose you, it’s not for you. You gotta let the clothing choose you.
Last question, where can people find you?
Instagram, @vintageonfirst. They can find me in-store at 257 First Street in Hoboken. We have a website, and that’s all the avenues.
Featured image courtesy of Vintage on First
About the Author/s
I'm a scientist obsessed with New Jersey's environment and geology. I'm probably reading science fiction. Or watering my plants.