So designers are always stopping by? M: Yes, the designers come three times a year. They get “inspired.”
So, is the influence from what you sold them to what’s on the runways obvious to you? M: I could tell you stories–and I won’t. [Laughs] Sometimes they don’t even change a stitch. Not one stitch. And a dress that they would buy for $175 will end up in the pages of Vogue for $6,000 and it’s the exact same dress but with fabrics and workmanship that isn’t as good, but it has their name on it.
Does that annoy you? M: It does, but there really isn’t anything I can do about it. So it’s best just to be grateful for the business.
We hear that Jack had a hand in creating the technique behind stonewashed and acidwashed jeans? M: In the 70s, Jack literally invented stonewashed jeans. And in the 80s he invented acidwashed jeans. J: Like all good things, it happened accidentally. There was a chemical reaction—I go, wow. Okay. We start to do it for clientele. Then there was a store owner in upstate New York named Tommy Hilfiger: we advertised what we were doing, and he must have read the papers. He started shipping boxes and boxes of damaged jeans [for us to wash them]. This was back in the days when it was only heavy dungarees, everything was so stiff.
But you didn’t patent the process? M: We were very young. J: They’re certain things you can’t patent. It was an accidental chemical reaction that we used for something, and it just did it.
Tell us—what should customers look for in a vintage store, or be wary of? M: When you walk into the store, notice if there’s a smell. If there’s an odor of mothballs or mustiness, turn around and walk out.
So, everything in your store has been cleaned? How do you clean your clothes? M: Jack has a degree in dry-cleaning. We’re a perfectly green industry, and nothing goes out on the floor until it’s absolutely perfect and clean.
Any favorite celebrity sightings? M: Bruce Willis and his daughters are the nicest people. His kids are lovely—really down to earth.
You had a huge space in Union Square until about five years ago. Why did you leave? M: Oh, the Batcave! It was 3 floors, 12,000 square feet. Max Brenner [the chocolate restaurant] is there now. The landlord wanted to raise our rent to a million dollars a year.
Cheap Jack’s is located at 303 Fifth Avenue, near 31st Street.
Previously: Five minutes with collectible clothing guru Shannon Hoey of vintage shop New York Vintage.