Talking Shop: Vintage Menswear at Jojo's General Store
Business is good at 553 Ecclesall Road. Standing in brilliant contrast to its modern neighbours, opposite the cocktail bars and glossy haunts frequented by the Ecclesall poseurs, a striking deep teal facade projects an old-school frontage beneath a hand painted sign that reads: Jojo's General Store. The proprietor, Jojo Elgarice,is a charming and welcomingly eccentric character with an encyclopaedic knowledge of vintage menswear. He's a gentleman, a bit of a wheeler dealer and one of the trade's good guys.
No matter what your poison - from sewn-on-ship 1890's Royal Navy trousers to Massimo Osti's rarest and most coveted pieces - Jojo has it or he can source it. With a dedicated following on social media, a regular customer base in the UK and a growing demand from Japan, Jojo is rapidly becoming one to watch on the international vintage stage.
When Jojo turned in his notice in after a less-than-inspiring stint working at John Lewis, he took up a job working in a friend's deli. But that wasn't really for him either. Inspired by his mum's antique businesses, he'd had a side project bubbling along for a while - a rail and table selling vintage band tees and low grade bric-a-brac from a rented space in someone else's shop. This venture quickly evolved into Rag Parade: two dedicated selling rooms of carefully selected vintage pieces from the likes of Belstaff, Stone Island and CP Company. At the time, Jojo was a bit of a pioneer - he was selling rare Stone Island green edge linens for £70, pieces that might go for hundreds these days. A lot of people remember it fondly.
To get to Rag Parade you had to pass through a bright yellow shop front, past a women's vintage shop and up two sets of stairs. If Jojo wasn't in, there was a hole punched in the door panel so prospective customers could take a look inside at his renown collection. As his business grew, so did his connections. Big names from London and Japan started calling, including Vintage Showroom's Doug Gunn to whom Jojo supplied various pieces for his own archive.
Things were picking up pace for Jojo but Sheffield was a changing city and news broke that the building that housed Rag Parade was set to be demolished. The hunt for a new location was on. After some difficult negations with a shared tenant (a plus size women's dress shop) Jojo managed to secure his new shop on Ecclesall Road.
Jojo set to work making his vision a reality in secret: There was no 'coming soon' or opening announcement, there wasn't any social media buzz or mailing lists. Just a mysterious looking shopfront and sheets of brown paper over the windows. On April Fool's day 2016, one day before he planned to open, Jojo dropped a single mysterious Instagram post inviting his followers to an event. The next three months were a whirlwind.
Jojo acknowledges he took a risk moving his operation to its new location, this end of town wasn't as cool or vibrant as his old patch on Devonshire Street. But he also says the gamble paid off. Jojo makes the shop what it is through his personality and his interactions with customers. It's clear that visitors and passersby seem to really respond to this new and exciting mix of knowledge and personal service. Jojo's outgoing style and confident sales pitches must be a welcome change from the upmarket boutiques and wine bars the local residents are used to.
The General Store is a goldmine for true vintage aficionados. But this isn't your usual vintage shop. This is 1930s deadstock french workwear shirts and original German Gebirgsjäger Mountain smocks, rare-as-rocking-horse museum quality archive pieces. His International renknown means some of Jojo's best customers fly in from Japan just to spend full days running through his inventory and always leave happy with full bags.
Inside the store, perfectly patina'd pieces of menswear history sit side by side with unfathomly well preserved deadstocks. Jojo isn't a purist, he doesn't have a cut off date - if he likes a piece he'll buy it in; he isn't rigid about what's vintage and what isn't and he takes pride in the fact. He also prides himself on keeping the customer happy and building a proper relationship with them, sourcing out that pair of illusive trainers or that Trailmaster with just the right amount of wear. The best part though, is that he charges propper and fair prices for his wares. From seeing him in action, I get the impression he's always in the market for a deal.
According to Jojo, this is just the foot of an upward curve for vintage Menswear. The influences modern designers are taking from vintage pieces are clear on both the catwalks and the high street. Once again, men are starting to appreciate and recognise quality and they're starting to understand the value of things as opposed to the cost. Thanks to the internet and books like the Vintage Showroom, men are starting to educate themselves about vintage clothing in a new self-led movement back to Menswear's roots.
The resurgence in the trend for old school casual, especially 1980s Italian sportswear, is a marked separation from the workwear trend that has run roughshod over the menswear scene for the last five years. Despite this, Jojo is a big proponent of mixing and matching pieces from different eras and trends - an approach exemplified by him mixing a yellow 1930s Levis silk rodeo shirt with a 1993 pea-green Massimo Osti reflective jacket.
Stepping into Jojo's is like stepping back in time. The store has the feel of a familiar family run shop with an edge of American goldrush era outfitters. It's the kind of place you could spend hours picking over the shelves and rails in awe of the rare finds and surprising yourself with each new piece.
Jojo is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable people I've met. Vintage runs through him and his knowledge is master-mind level - he talks with such enthusiasm and imparts his knowledge with great generosity in his own indomitable style. If you're ever in Sheffield or you're on the hunt for that elusive piece, make sure you head to Jojo's General Store.
JoJo's General Store
553, Ecclesall Rd, Sheffield, S118PR