The Male Guide to Going Vintage: The Date is in The Label

vintage_menswearDressing vintage can be edgy if you do know which pieces to look for. Walking into your local thrift store and rummaging through clothes that look old is not the best strategy if you intend to dress this way. There are tricks to the trade that will arm you with the tools you need to pull off an authentic vintage style. Part of the joy of sporting vintage apparel is that it is a subtle way of proving that you really know your history. So what is the best way to tell the difference between an authentic vintage jacket and a knockoff piece of junk? The trick is to check the label.

Union labels were developed in the United States in 1869 and were used as a way to show consumers that a particular product was made in America by union workers. As unionization rose in popularity, the union label became a branding staple. Donning a garment with a vintage labor label tells the world that beyond style, you also have a sense of pride and respect for working class America.

Some of the most popular union brands from the early 1900’s include ACWA, UGWA, ACTWU, and most recently, The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The ACWA label first came into production in 1934. Their tag is recognizable for its imprint of a vintage sewing machine and scissors. The label was redesigned in 1949 and from then on out, it was printed without the scissors. Both versions of this label have the words “Union Made” clearly printed on the interior.

The UGWA label features an illustration of a firm handshake. This label was first produced in 1903 and changed only slightly in 1908. The date of the organization of the union board is an important part of the imprint because it represents a significant moment in history.

The ACTWU label displays a simple stitching of the union name along with a classic sewing machine depiction. It is worth noting that the ACTWU employed 85% of the union labor work force in their hay day. Vintage labels are still relevant today, although they might not garner quite as much mainstream appeal. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is an example of a modern day union label.

There are many tricks to the trade when it comes to wearing vintage clothing. Knowing your history is a very important part of vintage style. Labels are a good way to assist you with dating the vintage clothing you have your eye on. If you know your label history, you’ll know exactly which jackets you should and should not be taking home.

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