Antique, Vintage, Second-Hand, Retro: What Is The Difference?

Inadvertently, vintage has returned as a hot issue in fashion. Vintage, used, second-hand, and retro all are terms we hear in our everyday life.

Every time my friends come to see me in Paris. The first question they ask was always: “Where can I find some lovely vintage items?”

Even if you are not a vintage fashion consumer, if you walk across Paris’s Marais district or go to the cinema or museum, you will definitely encounter some young people wearing the vintage (or the second-hand).

As everyone is speaking about it, but does everyone knows the difference between second-hand, vintage, antique and retro fashion?

It’s normal if these words make you confused, as so many boutiques so often mix-use these terms. It can be hard to tell the difference between them, especially when some merchants intentionally or unintentionally mislead the buyers…

Let’s take two minutes to figure it out!


The primary distinction between an antique and a vintage object is its age. Most authorities believe that the term “antique” refers to something that is at least 100 years old. If an object cannot be firmly traced to 100 years or more, it should not be referred to as an antique. Vintage items are not as old as antiques.


All old forms of clothing are commonly referred to as “vintage.” Items manufactured between 20 and 100 years ago are termed “vintage” if they reflect the styles and trends of the period they represent, including a widely accepted standard.


An object is deemed second-hand if it has already been owned by at least one other person, regardless of age. All the vintage items must be the second-hand, but not all the second-hand items can be defined as vintage.


In the 1990s, the term “retro” referred to artistic movements in music, cinema, and fashion that were distinguished by their iconic or kitsch appropriation of the past.

Retro fashion accepted the use of revival or historical fashions from specific counter-cultural instances of alternative consumerism, stemming from the late 1960s idea of “retro-chic” created by the Paris avant-garde. Although retro-chic originated as a spontaneous anti-fashion, it rapidly developed into a successful, commercial-style characterized as “the nostalgia industry” by fashion critics.

Retro becomes associated with a playful, postmodern nostalgia where the past is used as a storehouse of fashion. 

Retro clothing, unlike vintage clothing, doesn’t really refer to a specific period of time in which it was manufactured.

Editor’s Picks – Markets & Boutiques In Paris

Flea Markets

Where you also can find huge selection of fine antiques

  • Les Puces de Montreuil
  • Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen
  • Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves

Vintage Stores

  • BRUT (3 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris)
  • Thanx God I’m a V.I.P. (12 Rue de Lancry, 75010 Paris)
  • Kiliwatch (64 Rue Tiquetonne, 75002 Paris)
  • L’obscur (61 Rue Quincampoix, 75004 Paris)

Second-Hand Stores (Multiple locations across Paris)

  • Kilo Shop
  • Croix Rouge
  • Boutique Emmaüs
  • Free’p’Star
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