The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday September 30th

Column: The tyrannical rise of vintage markets

Frat Court Flea takes place on Sept. 23, 2022.
Buy Photos Frat Court Flea takes place on Sept. 23, 2022.

Right when you’re about to give up, you see it — peeking out from a pile of SHEIN and H&M, a faded gray sleeve and a hint of Carolina blue stand out from the rest.

As if in a trance, you slowly walk over and extract it from its fast fashion brothers and sisters. It’s stained in two places, a little torn on the left sleeve and smells slightly of mildew – but it’s a 2015 UNC T-shirt picturing a winking Rameses sitting back as a Blue Devil kneels in front of him.

The shirt isn’t even old enough to be considered vintage, and its poor quality begs multiple questions about its heinous past ownership, but something about the potential romantic relationship between the Blue Devil and Rameses entrances you. You turn the price tag over, confident that it will be somewhere around your $15 price range.

It costs $3,000.

The year is 2025, and you’re at the annual Thrifty Tar Heel Franklin Frat Thrift Vintage Flea Market Pop-Up Fest. This event, which takes up all of Franklin Street, UNC's campus, Hooker Fields – and even bleeds slightly into Morrisville – is the culmination of the Vintage War of Fall 2022.

Allow me to explain.

In 2022, there were so many separate vintage markets (Tar Heel Market, Frat Court Flea and Franklin Street Market Fest, to name a few), that there was no way they could all stay in business. They had the exact same concept, clientele and clothes. They were each other’s greatest competition — and something had to give.

In late September, it gave. Tar Heel Market declared war on Frat Court Flea, who declared war on Franklin Street Market, who declared war on Rumors (all three locations). At 9 p.m. on a Sunday, the organizers of all five stores showed up to Hooker Fields with their finest clothes in hand, ready for battle. A representative from a local Uptown Cheapskate refereed, standing in the middle of the field with a whistle, ready to signal that it was time to charge.

TWEEEEET!

They were off. Frat Court Flea ran at Tar Heel Market, $200 T-shirts drawn like swords as they began senselessly beating each other with clothes. Franklin Street Market took a beanie to the thigh, but countered by swinging a pair of their thickest wide-cut pants right into Rumors’ abdomen. Frat Court Flea’s vision was obscured by a pile of ‘90s crewnecks, while Tar Heel Market’s legs were tied together with the laces from a pair of one-of-a-kind, 1985 UNC Air Jordan 1s (size 13 men’s).

Finally, the organizers collapsed to the ground, smothered in clothes and price tags. Rumors Durham and Rumors Chapel Hill were at a stalemate (and still are to this day), but the rest of the vintage markets limped toward each other, defeated and exhausted. 

“Has anyone seen my 1999 limited edition baseball cap?” Franklin Street Market asked wearily.

“Yeah, here it is,” Frat Court Flea replied, the cap in their outstretched hand like an olive branch.

The semester-long war had come to an end. Someone procured a 1987 felt tip pen, and the three groups signed the Treaty of Vintage.

After tending to each other’s (limited) wounds and divvying out the clothes, the three groups finally realized the only way they can keep collecting hundreds of dollars off vintage-obsessed students is if they combine into one.

A vintage village. A market multitude. A flea family. 

With that, they formed the first-ever, soon-to-be-annual, Thrifty Tar Heel Franklin Frat Thrift Vintage Flea Market Pop-Up Fest. In 2022, the event brought in $800,000. Now, in 2025, it’s already grossed $2 million. 

While most proceeds go straight into the organizer’s gray-washed, retro pockets, they have recently started donating .001 percent to their favorite nonprofit: Goodwill. 

So as you ponder the $3,000 price tag on the Rameses shirt, just remember the good that this organization does. Even with its bloody history, this vintage market just wants you to look your best, even if your bank account doesn’t. An old ratty T-shirt may seem worthless, but think of how much it will be worth in 2028. Or 2030. Or 2045. This isn’t an overly expensive purchase –it’s an investment. 

What IS the Blue Devil doing to Rameses, though?

@_hannahkaufman

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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