Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Profiles in Vintage: The Howling Hobo

Where do hobos get their clothes?  One tends to think that hobos are solely preoccupied with their search for the next swig of hooch and the next bite of grub, but even hobos strive for that oft-unattainable look that can only be described as "Haute Hobo."  There was a time, not so long ago, when hobos had to rely on unattended clothes lines, rag bags and hand-me-downs. But time marches on and modern times have given rise to modern conveniences, modern amenities and a modern interpretation of the hobo.  No longer is today's hobo relegated to stealing clothes off of corpses, they can actually shop in a store just like the rich folk do - thanks to Marquis of Hobo's Vintage in Redlands, CA.  To provide you with a first-hand account on the life of a debonair hobo, we spoke with Marquis about clothing, music, history and a hobo's most dreaded pastime - paying the rent!

Hobo's Vintage

WT: First things first, what is the difference between a hobo, a tramp and a bum?
HV: Hobos work their way around, a tramp just roams at his leisure; a bum asks you for change at the gas station & gives you lip when you say no. Bums also never write their mothers.

Hobo's Vintage makes its home in the historic Fox Theater in Redlands, CA.

WT: Can you tell us a little about the history of the building in which Hobo’s Vintage resides? 
HV: The 1928 Fox Theater designed by L.A. Smith opened December 28th with a Laurel & Hardy film before the drama and a performance by the hot-as-hell, "all black," jazz orchestra, Curtis Mosby's Dixie Blue Blowers - wish I could have been there. The theater was showing films until the early 80's & then became a decrepit hole until it was renovated by it's current owners.

"Hardee Stomp" (1928) - Curtis Mosby's Dixie Blue Blowers

WT: What got you started in the vintage clothing business?
HV: Luck. I got a job at a mom & pop second hand shop in Redlands when I was 17.  After working there for 3 or 4 years I went to work at mom & pop vintage shop in Riverside. After working there for 4 years I decided it was time for me to open up my own shop & be broke on my own terms.

WT: How long have you been in the business?

HV: Been working in vintage for 13 years. Had my own shop for 5.

WT: What do you look for?
HV: I look for things that I would want to wear or keep. I figure if I want it, someone else would too. 1900's thru 1970's mostly but some killer 80's sneaks in on occasion.

WT: Has the range of era’s for which you shop widened or narrowed since you have been in business?
HV: It's stayed the same. I had a good idea of what I wanted when I opened.

WT: What’s your favorite era?
HV: That's a tricky question, different era's are good for different things...for wearable clothing you can't beat the 1930's thru the 1950's for flattering lines & textile grace. For idealized elegance the 1920's & 1930's is just dripping with amazement. Even different body styles have "favorite" era's...like how the 1970's was unkind to full figured folks while the 1920's was forgiving with it's sack dress chic.  For my personal style I like the 1930's simplicity with a peppering from every other decade...what a way to not give a clear answer.

WT: What was the first item of vintage you ever purchased?
HV: I was going to swap meets, wearing hand me downs with records in the cereal cabinets when I was a toddler but as far as the first item I purchased....lord only knows.

WT: What is your ideal vintage item?  Have you found it yet?
HV: I like things that I can buy cheap & sell for a still cheap retail price. That way my customers are happy. I find things like that all the time. It's very important that my customers aren't scared of our prices. I hate overpriced vintage "boutiques."

WT: Do you have a dollar limit even on rare/desirable items?  Is there a point where you say, “I’m not paying that much for…!”
HV: If I don't have enough cash in my wallet I tend to pass.

WT: Without giving away your secrets, do you find your best goods through hunting & pecking (swaps, thrifts, yard/tag sales), internet (etsy, ebay) or private sellers?
HV: Hunting & pecking.....and when people walk in the door with arms full of awesome I feel happy.

WT: What is the best thing you’ve ever found/bought/sold?
HV: I had a 1960's Les Paul SG walk in the door that I was able to make enough off of it to pay rent that month...but as far as the best thing...I forget.

A 1960 Les Paul SG

WT: Much of the vintage community adheres to a very strict standard, what is your view on incorporating vintage-inspired/new clothing into one’s wardrobe?
HV: I don't do the whole "sit in the lobby & stare at my labels" vintage thing but I can understand why some people do. I'm too much of a realist on a budget to live entirely in vintage.

WT: What separates vintage enthusiasts from trekkies?
HV: The same thing that separates them from Renn Faire folk - not much. All different cliques...just gangs - without the drug empires, usually.

We're all the same

WT: Are you a vintage purist?
HV: I'm more like margarine to the purity of butter.

WT: Polyester, yea or nay?
HV: On me?  Not if I can help it.  I like to have it for sale since the patterns are wacky sometimes.

Herr Hobo himself & Kazumi

WT: Do you have any style icons?
HV: Prewar photo snapshots, 1910's vagabond & hobo literature, half-remembered stories about people doing amazing things.

WT: Is your personal style more casual or formal?
HV: Casual without much denim & t-shirts - only when I'm jogging.

WT: Favorite labels/designers?
HV: The designers that care about the clothes they make are my favorites.

WT: You are stylish young man, aside from yourself, who is the best-dressed person you know and why?
HV: Ha! Janet Klein....always looking good. Her closet is full of gems for every occasion that fit her well. She knows that an amazing piece is only amazing when it has a purpose & fits, otherwise it's meant for someone else. Her realistic & hands-on approach to fashion is truly an ideal.

Marquis & his style hero, the inimitable Janet Klein.

WT: Have you ever been tempted to beat someone up so you can steal what he/she is wearing? 

HV: Only if I sold it to them & wished that I hadn't.

WT: Do you find that running your own business allows you more freedom or less? 
HV: More when I can bring my son to work & have rehearsals for my bands at the shop. Less when I have to be somewhere else & I have to get the store covered...

WT: Is managing a business easier, harder or just as difficult as you imagined?
HV: Just as difficult as I figured it to be but sometimes I forget what I figured.

WT: Have you made any major business mistakes about which you would like to warn other small business owners?
HV: Keep up with your bills! Especially the ones with the government in the mailing address.

Marquis is much more than the proprietor of Hobo's Vintage;
He is a dedicated musician and performer.

WT: How do you manage both your business and musical career?
HV: Both with equal amounts of inability.

WT: You know I hate to give compliments too freely, but you are an awesome bass player.  On what other instruments do you consider yourself technically proficient?
HV: Thanks! I love to play bass and I'm so glad that I've been able to express myself more with it...but guitar is my first instrument & I hope I'm as good on that as I am on bass...you tell me.

WT: How long have you played?  Did you get training or are you self-taught?
HV: I started on electric guitar when I was 14. Took lessons for a few years. It was kind of a dead end until my interest in acoustic music swelled up when I was 20 or so. I would say I got round about tutelage & inspiration from Riverside Music Maven Dave Brown & the late Fingerpicking Songsmith 'Picker from Perris' Victor Velardez. I'm hoping to reissue his recordings on my home brew record label.

WT: Who are your musical heroes?
HV: Adam Ant, Louis Prima, Siouxsie Sioux, The Harlem Hamfats, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong - really too many icons on my desktop.

Louis Prima

Siouxsie Sioux

Louis Jordan

WT: Do you have a favorite style of music?
HV: Good music - from violin concertos to Adam & The Ants, 1990 Megadeth to 1928 Secular Jubilee Quartets...good music is a personal thing.

WT: Please list the names of all the bands in which you play?

HV: Hobo Jazz, Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys, The Barrel House Boys, Captain Jeff & His Musical Chumbuckets, The Hobohemian Orchestra

Hobo Jazz

"Hello Bluebird" - Janet Klein & Her Parlor Boys

"Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me" - The Barrel House Boys

"Some of these Days" - Captain Jeff & His Musical Chumbuckets

WT: You, yourself have a music-related blog, "Howling Hobo,” why don’t you post more often?
HV: Lack of free time....I really do have a lot of things to post but it's on the end of my to-do list after all the things that make me money. Sad.

WT: Is fame part of the equation for your musical endeavors?
HV: Fame is the sunburn on the shoulder of success.

WT: I recently saw Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” If you could live anywhere in the world during any time where/when would you choose?
HV: I hear this kind of question a lot. It's the old "I was born in the wrong time" ideology. I think if I was born any other time or place I'd be a completely different person & I'd never have known the great things in my life. That being said...If I could live anywhere, "anywhen," I would like to spend a month in 1926 Redlands, then maybe a week in 1924 Berlin. A few weeks in 1920 Chicago (South Side please), A fortnight in 1927 New York, a month in 1927 Asheville, NC. A week in 1965 Los Angeles...oh, a couple days in late December 1928 in Redlands would be cool too, to see the opening of the Fox Theater where my store is. February 1949 in LA, January 1957 in Redlands to see my Grandparents have my mother........to see my pops being born in 1949 would be great too....

WT: There is a theory in that movie called “Golden Age Thinking,”  - basically, people have always overly romanticized the past.  What are your thoughts?

HV: People over-romanticize all times - the ancient past, the recent past, modern times, & the future. All times are amazing, all times suck.

WT: You live in 21st-Century Redlands, do you find that the city offers ample opportunity to showcase your business and music?
HV: I'm in Redlands because I love this town & am eager to offer an alternative to it's residents. As far as ample opportunity...it could be better. I see a Hobo's Empire in the future!

WT: It might seem anachronistic including modern technology as part of your vintage business.  Are you ever conflicted about fully employing technology, media, social networking, etc. in promoting Hobo’s Vintage, Hobo Jazz, Janet Klein, et. al.?
HV: No....every new technology is just a new way of doing the same old things.

WT: Have you found your dream job?
HV: Yeah! I buy cool things & sell them to people that like cool things! It's a self-feeding fun machine...with bills.

WT: Well then, can you see yourself in this career forever?
HV: No, I'll die before then.

Thanks Marquis - people may die, but hobos live forever!

If you haven't already, please be sure to "like" Hobo's Vintage on Facebook and check out the Howling Hobo blog.  Whenever you find yourself in or around quaint and historic Redlands, CA, do yourself a favor and visit Hobo's Vintage; the clothes are cheap and the conversation is free.

Hobo's Vintage
127 Cajon St.
Redlands, CA

Hours of Operation (subject to change):
Tuesday & Wednesday: 12-5pm
Thursday - Saturday: 11am-7pm



Mr. Tiny


  1. Ha! Love this interview!

  2. Loving the interview I love hobos it's the best and the prices are amazing!!

  3. Hey Chris, I am giving you the Irresistably Sweet Blog Award. Do you feel fancy now? Stop by the Affair and you can get your award and see the rules for passing it on. See you soon!