These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone aged 16 to 25 who hasn’t bought second-hand. With Depop, eBay, Vinted and Vestiaire at their fingertips and the revival of ’90s and Y2K pieces reaching fever pitch in recent years, it’s no surprise that between 2016 and 2022, the clothes resale market grew by 149 per cent.
But before the apps, increasingly trendy vintage shops and Instagram Stories’ resale posts, there was the humble car boot sale. Each Saturday or Sunday, sellers from all walks of life open their bumpers to punters fishing for gold. And that’s the buzz of it – you’ll never be sure of what you might return home with (a quid for an original Titanic cardboard cut-out which once lived in Blockbuster – true story).
London-based photographer Arthur J. Comely has been a long-standing fan of the car boot, having frequently gone as a kid. “I remember the knock-off bootlegs and buying a BB gun when I probably shouldn’t have had one,” he says. Years later, he’s still a regular. “When I used to live in Peckham, everyone would go, and you’d bump into people on a hungover Sunday. There’s also a boot fair every weekend at Princess May Primary School [in Dalston, East London] opposite my studio, so we’d buy loads of clothes there, then style people we’d cast in the clothes.”
In his new book, £1 Entry, Comely documents well-dressed car boot regulars as a kind of subculture. “I was surprised how regularly people would go. You’d see the same faces every weekend – there is definitely a community vibe,” he says.
There’s even a new generation of car booters keeping the national weekend practice alive. Think: gem-toothed girls in Y2K-influenced camo mini skirts, band tee-wearing boys, casually cool art school styles and, of course, mullets. “The biggest interest for me is how people wear the clothes and what they buy,” says Comely. “You find real style at boot fairs.”
But, of course, £1 Entry is also a celebration of the car boot veterans. “It feels like a timeless zone full of old-school characters that London is losing,” says Comely. One of the most striking characters is Gerald, a seasoned regular who pops up in the book a couple of times. “He’s the best-dressed man I’ve ever seen,” Comely adds. “Every boot fair he’d pop up with his stellar vintage archive. Everyone knows Gerald!”
A launch party for £1 Entry will be hosted at Guest Editions on 1st June