27 Apr 2016
Without the help of a Flux Capacitor, I found parts of Brooklyn that are still how they used to be 30 years ago
I remember going through a variety of trends as a young girl. In the 1980’s crop tops and balloon skirts forced their way into my easily influenceable teenage life. Luckily some new, but equally questionable trend would come along soon enough to replace it.
The only item of clothing I wore continuously throughout my pre teens were my beloved clogs. That’s right: clunky, wooden clogs. They were never really ‘cool’ but in the 70’s and 80’s Sweden made them bigger than IKEA around Europe.
Wearing my faithful clogs on holidays with the family.
On a trip to New York in January this year, I spent some time at the Brooklyn Flea Markets at Industry City in the Sunset Park area. Rummaging through vintage jewellery, gorgeous gilded picture frames and quirky young designer wear, I came to a stall that stopped me in my tracks. They they were, my childhood companions, re-imagined and brought into the future by a very clever designer: clogs.
Nina Z is a Brooklyn based designer who has re-introduced the iconic 80’s shoe to New York from her native Sweden. All her shoes are handcrafted by 5th generation shoe makers in Sweden using traditional methods. Not that I ever need convincing to buy a pair of shoes, but when the shop assistant enlightened me to the fact all materials used in making their shoes were 100% natural, I was sold. I love an item with a story that makes me feel connected. Particularly one that connects with my childhood.
For the first time in all my visits to New York, this year I decided not to stay in Manhattan and spend some time exploring Brooklyn instead. I picked a place in much less trendy Sunset Park in the south west to experience the ‘real’ Brooklyn. It wouldn’t have felt out of place to pass Johnny Manero strutting his stuff down the sidewalks like he did in ‘Saturday Night Fever’. Rather than trendy bars and cafés, here you’ll find old school diners and $5 haircuts. At Sunset Park Diner & Donuts it’s like time never went a minute past 1985. Even the prices here reflect the good old days with a full plate of breakfast and bottomless coffee coming to less than US$9. Red wine coloured leather banquettes in wooden booths, brown tiled walls and a waitress in a pinafore style apron all evoke a feeling of a classic 80’s New York movie. Nothing here is contrived. It’s just the way they’ve done it for more than 25 years. Why fix it if it’s not broken?
To continue our journey back in time, a friend of mine, who is an equally eager 80’s fan takes me to a favourite bar of hers. The place is Hanks Saloon on Atlantic Avenue at 3rd Avenue. It’s a skanky, grungey dive bar that’s been here over a century. Back in it’s initial stages it was the go to place for all the steel workers who built the Empire State Building. Today it’s a concrete floored, fairy light covered, sticky saloon that loves rock and roll and accepts all walks of life. The booze is cheap, ensures hangovers and most of the crowd looks like its spent one too many nights hanging out here. But the vibe is very welcoming, everyone is extremely chatty, especially to us foreigners, and we walk out having a bunch of new friends who all want to share their love of their city and particularly Brooklyn. #brooklynlove
Stepping back into modern day Brooklyn around Boerum Hill for breakfast the next morning is a reality check. We head to a wonderful brunch in the Brooklyn that most people come to see. The one where one café tries to out-hip the one next door. The ones without clogs, bottomless coffee and most certainly without the cheap booze. Both versions of Brooklyn have their appeal. It’s just nice to know that there’s places you can go if you’re a little nostalgic and fancy a trip down memory lane to a Brooklyn that may be forgotten, but it’s certainly not gone.
For your own trip back in time to an old school Brooklyn, these are the places we visited:
Brooklyn flea markets:
Winter: Industry City, 220 36th Street, Brooklyn
Spring/Summer: check website: http://brooklynflea.com/
Nina Z Clogs
At Brooklyn Flea markets or check her website: http://ninaznyc.com
Sunset Park Diner and Donuts
889 5th Avenue, Brooklyn
46 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn
08 Sep 2016 - Travel