The Second-Hand Clothes Trade
What was once called ‘totting’ had become known as ‘wardrobe dealing’ and involved
collecting and selling second-hand clothes. Arthur had made enough money from
his trade in gold jewellry that he had bought a house in Gibraltar Gardens, but
now had a large mortgage to pay off. Dealing clothes was something that remained
profitable even during the war, just like the gold trade was profitable in the
‘hungry-thirties’. This was due to the fact that many men had gone off to fight
and had lost their lives in action, meaning that their wives or girlfriends would
be eager to sell off all their old clothes. Arthur managed to earn enough money
to pay off his mortgage and all the rates, and buy a shop at 250 Brick Lane in
1942. He did this mainly because his mother had just died and his sister couldn’t
live in the family home anymore. Arthur rented the upstairs of the shop out to
his sister until he was issued an eviction notice in 1956.
During war time, clothing coupons were issued as part of the rationing system.
Burglars who saw the value in these books used to break into Town Halls to try
and discover where they were hidden. To find one would mean payday because a coupon
could be sold for 4 or 6 pence each, meaning that whole books could be sold for
three pounds at a time. Arthur used to buy the books and then swap them with people
for second hand clothing so that those people could then use the coupons to buy
more expensive clothes. This was most liked by the rich, including at one point
a magistrate, who would have a desire to wear more new clothes than other people
at a time when clothing was rationed.
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