With the recent rise of vintage clothing, more and more college students are seeking out this type of apparel. Students at the University of Tennessee are no exception to this phenomenon because seemingly no one is immune to the allure of a piece of clothing with a history behind it.
However, before the market for this type of product began to grow exponentially, Jordan Coffey was already capitalizing on it. As the creator of the page @vintageUT on Instagram, Coffey has been selling unique vintage items since the summer of 2019. Since then, he has been able to successfully grow his customer base tremendously by accumulating over 3,000 followers on the sole platform.
Coffey’s grandfather used to recruit for the football team in the 70s and 80s, which initially sparked Coffey’s love for UT, even though he was never a student himself. Eventually moving to Knoxville around 10 years ago from Ohio, Coffey then became consumed with purchasing vintage UT clothing because of his attachment to the older logos and pieces.
“I started finding old UT stuff, and I caught myself buying things that didn’t even fit me. That’s when I knew that there was a problem. Then, my wife and I had a baby about two years ago, and we were running out of room. She told me that I have to do something with all this stuff … so I made an Instagram page,” Coffey said.
While this originally started as a way to clean out his closet, Coffey continues to pursue this because of his pure love for the hobby.
“When I run into someone or see them in the student section and they’re wearing a t-shirt that could have been thrown away … and now it’s in the front row of the student section, that is the coolest part for me,” Coffey said. “Nowadays a Nike sweatshirt at Alumni Hall or the VolShop is probably $70 to $80. For half that price, you could get clothing with a story.”
Jared Archer, a fifth-year student and loyal customer to the shop, further commented on the exclusivity of the products and other qualities that keep him a repeat customer.
“VintageUT provides gear that you just don't find anywhere else. Places like VolShop and Alumni Hall have cool things, but it’s also things that everyone has. If you are wanting to go to a game and wear something that makes you stand out, you aren’t going to find that at the VolShop,” Archer said. “I keep buying from VintageUT because you know that he puts in the work to go out and find it rather than waiting on hundreds of merchandise items from the back of a truck.”
Even though these products are typically less pricey, finding these vintage pieces is no easy task. In reality, there is no stock of vintage clothes readily available at a moment's notice. There is a thriving market for this product because of the extreme amount of time and difficulty that goes into searching for these items, which explains why people prefer shopping at a curated store.
“To me, I probably care about those articles of clothing too much to be honest with you, but they’re not making anymore 1996 Citrus Bowl sweatshirts. They made them. That’s it, and they’re gone,” Coffey said. “The official real vintage they’re just not making anymore. To find it, it’s a treasure hunt. It’s extremely rare.”
While Coffey has been able to sell many pieces, sometimes it is hard not to give into temptation by keeping unique pieces to himself, he revealed. For him, it is a process of “mixed emotions” because of this. However, there are still many items he keeps for his personal collection.
“I hang on to a lot of clothes. There are several hundred pieces that aren’t going anywhere. You couldn’t buy them with a really big checkbook,” Coffey said.
Through numerous pop-up shops and giveaways on Instagram, Coffey has been able to expand the scope of his small business. By adopting these new techniques, he has been able to grow as a company even more through personal interaction with customers. With potentially more to come in the future, Coffey is developing even more additional plans on how to expand his shop that are currently in the works which customers can expect soon.
To purchase vintage UT apparel, check out @vintageUT on Instagram and stay up to date on their Instagram stories for new merchandise becoming available.