In 1991, Tim and Barbara Long were vagabonds of vintage, staying in motels around the country 250 days out of the year. They scoured thrift stores across the United States, hoping to find items that would appeal to trendy shoppers overseas, particularly in Japan.
“Young Japanese kids in the late 1990s and early 2000s were really into wearing American vintage clothes,” said Barbara Long. “In Japan, vintage clothes shops popped up like 7-Elevens.”
With their experience in cultural fusion and abundance of vintage clothing, they decided to open their own thrift store, Eugene Jeans, in 1997.
“Our kids got to be school age, and so we couldn’t travel all the time…,” said Tim Long. “We had been accumulating vintage clothes the whole time, so we just switched gears and opened a store.”
Eugene Jeans, which is located on 13th and Oak, is a whimsical adventure through pre-1990s clothing. As the owners emphasize, it is not your typical thrift store. It’s a purely vintage store, something that is hard to find in this world of used clothing stores filled with tattered Forever 21 clothes from 2009. But there are no tattered garments here. Every piece of clothing is expected to be of high-end quality, but the prices still manage to be inexpensive. If you want to find a pair of brand new Keds for $14, Eugene Jeans is the place for you.
Former owner Tim and wife Barbara Long are local celebrities of sorts. Tim Long is an entertainer, playing in bands at venues around town, such as Cornucopia. Being a local star makes getting people into your store easier, so Eugene Jeans has grown a large customer base. People around the country know Tim, too.
“So I was in New Orleans in December, and I was playing music down in the French Quarter…” he said. “Twenty minutes I’m out there, and this lady comes up, and she says, ‘Say, are you the Eugene Jeans guy?’ I really love that. It just reflects on the spirit of the business and how gregarious I am…and how much people respond to that.”
Customers like John Davis also highlight Tim Long’s outgoing personality. Davis, a University of Oregon freshman, has a self-described “eclectic” sense of style. Dressed in a flattering black ensemble, Davis is a vintage lover and frequent Eugene Jeans shopper.
“At first, I just thought it was another thrift store,” the New York native said. But, upon entering, he realized that its plain facade is deceptive. “Eugene Jeans has made me think outside of my personal box and helped to evolve my style,” he said.
He visits the store multiple times a month, hoping to find pieces that “scream” at him. “The style right now is individuality, and I think that is a really innovative trend,” he said. “It sets apart people who can do it from people who can’t: people who can just go to American Eagle, and people who can’t.”
Like any thrift store, however, it can take a little bit of searching to find the perfect quirky, offbeat pieces.
“It’s easy to go to American Apparel, to go to Old Navy, to go to H&M,” said Davis. “But the thing is, it’s honestly more expensive than going to somewhere like Eugene Jeans…you do have to pick through things, but when you find things here, they really speak to you.”
In reference to the styles of the people of Eugene, Davis said, “There is individuality here.”
Although they aren’t Eugene natives, the Longs embody the spirit of the city: they are hippies, washboard players and folk musicians. They are individuals. Korinne Breed, a student from Portland, says that the style of Eugene is all about that individuality: “Eugene style is kind of eclectic, but not designer, not fancy. We’re more focused on individuality and less trying to impress society.”
For the Longs, the eccentricity of this Oregonian lifestyle is instilled in every piece of clothing sold here. “My advice would be to wear something that you’re really comfortable in,” said Tim Long. “Do your own thing.” They want their store to reflect this advice.
Since her husband’s cancer diagnosis in 2012, Barbara Long has been running the store. He will sometimes stop by to entertain with his music and chat with customers, plugging his newly recorded album. For the Longs, sickness would not get in the way of being local icons and vintage clothing connoisseurs.
As a customer bought something that they were obviously happy with, Barbara Long made her mission statement very clear, “I like it when somebody buys something that they love. I don’t know, it just makes me really happy.”
Words by Taylor Griggs, @
Photos by Will Nielson, @