Once upon a time, Affleck & Brown was an elegant department store in Oldham Street where ladies shopped for gowns, furs and dress-making materials. In the 1960s, Oldham Street went downhill as Manchester shopping became concentrated around Market Street, St Ann's Square and Deansgate, and the store closed in 1973. In 1982 it reopened as Affeck's Palace, an alternative shopping venue, and despite two fires and a change of management in 2008, when the name was shortened to Afflecks, it has continued as an emporium for everything that is not mainstream in fashion, style and adornment. Over 60 independent small businesses are jumbled together in a labyrinth of stalls on four floors.
For the intrepid explorer wanting to make sense of teenage culture, an expedition to Affecks is essential. It's the ideal place to study the latest trends in tattoos or sunglasses; you can have your nose pierced or your hair done (all styles catered for including the
way-out); buy tarot cards, runes and crystals; add to your collection of games; acquire an old radio set or a Zippo cigarette lighter; or order a guitar with artistic doodles on it. By now the urban anthropologist may find their head swimming from too much exposure to psychedelic poster designs or Pokemon cards, and require some refreshments. It's time for a sandwich at the Manchester Vegan Café or (even better) an ice cream at Ginger's Comfort Emporium, before resuming the tour.
By far the largest category of merchandise at Afflecks is clothing - there is plenty of street fashion in the form of T-shirts, hoodies and jeans, but even more pervasive are the stalls selling old clothes. Here, hidden codes are at work that have elevated second-hand into the more stylish 'vintage' category - not to be confused with retro meaning new but looks old. Only one thing is certain - the kids will grow out of it just like we did.