constellations #21, guest star: on vintage clothes & talking to the stars

Hello! Today’s episode of constellations is a “guest star” edition, in which I hand the mic over to Sean Hagerty. Last year, Sean launched a really marvelous vintage store called Swan Shop Vintage on Instagram/in New York (which you should absolutely check out if you are the kind of person who freaks out over a classic ’90s Patagonia fleece or an L. L. Bean cast iron pan) and it has been doing quite well in the midst of the chaos of this year. He is also one of my dearest friends & the person who taught me basically everything I know about Neutral Milk Hotel and talking to strangers at parties. One time we met Ernest Hemingway’s ghost together in Paris. I asked him for an update on his shop & his life and this is what he wrote. Enjoy! xo, M


One of the things that I like about constellations is that it can just be whatever feels right at the time.

I have been feeling scatterbrained for about a month now, probably mostly due to the weird times, but also planning for the coming holidays, being in my childhood home, seeing old friends (maybe?), all the while navigating through this new project I started: Swan Shop Vintage.

A post shared by Swan Shop Vintage (@swanshopvintage)

For the past couple of weeks, I have been telling stories to the constellations* (*journaling in my Notes app) and asking questions to the constellations** (**journaling in my Notes app). Here are a couple of those Notes app conversations with the constellations (indented), interwoven with what I’ve been doing lately (not indented).

In high school, I had a friend who would (compulsively?) apply moisturizer to her face multiple times a day. I have been moisturizing my face every morning for the past couple of months (after giving up in early quar), and can already tell the difference. I wonder what her skin looks like now.

I have been frequently thrift shopping since high school. What started as a way to find interesting inexpensive clothing for me has turned into buying anything that I think is of quality for a yet-undecided other person. I have always wanted to open a vintage shop in some form. The volume of garments I have amassed has decided for me that the start time for that project is now.

When I was in pre-school, I got this pair of leather cowboy boots that I absolutely loved. I wore them around my house all day. One day, I wore them into school. During lunch that day, one of the other kids tried to make me give him my boots, threatening me with the plastic knife that had been packed for him alongside his lunch. I didn't give him my boots, but I never again wore those boots to school. Perhaps I have finally done enough healing to be ready for cowboy boots again.

Unordered list of some of my all-time best thrift store finds:

  • ’90s Patagonia Snap-T with The New Yorker logo (a gift for their employees)

  • The perfect Western pearl snap flannel from a church thrift in Omaha, Neb.

  • New $775 shoes, handmade in my home state of Mass., and in my size (Alden 2145’s)

  • Two silk scarves from the ’70s, made by Gucci in Italy

  • A Truman Capote caricature t-shirt that I’ve worn so much, it’s almost unwearable now [ed. note: I love this shirt!]

  • An entire suit for a wedding, including shirt, belt, shoes, and tie, that I pieced together after section-hiking the Appalachian Trail and only having my backpacking pack and hiking clothes on me

  • A Gap anorak with a $20 bill in the pouch

  • The bike that I use to this day ($20, or free with purchase of the Gap anorak)

I have been taking a lot of baths recently, mostly on Sundays, as a way to hold time for relaxing. Now that the weather has changed, baths have taken the place of setting up my camping chair in the sun at the park by my apartment. While I would much rather bake in the sun and watch live soccer games, tubbing and watching movies will do for the next month and a half. Although the time is meant to be set for relaxation, I try to watch something challenging, often something on the Criterion Channel. Today I watched a British documentary about Nick Drake that was pretty boring, and last week I watched Vagabond by Agnès Varda, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

When I graduated from college, my folks told me they couldn’t help to pay rent for me to live elsewhere, but that I was always welcomed to stay with them. To soften the blow, my mom also offered to get me a new mattress. For some reason, I chose a twin extra long mattress? That is the bed that remains in my childhood home that I stay in every once in a while, and the bed I sleep next to when my partner is visiting with me.

Unordered list of some of the wins from Swan Shop so far:

  • Customers posting IG stories, happily wearing the garments they've purchased from Swan Shop

  • Becoming peers with and chatting with folks in the vintage community who I have been following for over a decade

  • Making an enemy of one of those people, squashing that beef, and becoming friends with that person

  • Working with dear friends to come up with design/branding that I am thrilled with (s/o to Garden Party)

  • Making room in my apartment and money for an upcoming move

  • Teaching myself some rudimentary sewing techniques

My girlfriend and I will be moving to Austin, Texas in January. It is likely that we will never again live in NYC, which I feel like has been such a part of my identity for over a decade, since I decided to go to college in the city. I made a bucket list of things to do before moving. The one I think about most is eating a pastrami sandwich from Liebman’s Deli in Riverdale.

Twice now have I received horrifying wooden masks as Christmas gifts from separate people who both said they saw the mask and instantly thought of me. How many more have seen these masks, thought of me, and not bought one for me? [ed. note: Now I know what I’m getting Sean for Christmas…]

One of the best conversations I've had recently was surrounding the question, “If tomorrow, you could have one full day where COVID was no concern for anyone, what would you do?” All of my friends’ answers involved just being in close quarters of others: going dancing, seeing live music, eating at a beloved crowded restaurant. Perhaps it's not so profound to want to just be around other people after not having the chance for almost a year, but as someone who only wants more space and sets more boundaries as he ages, I cannot wait to spray spit all over my friends’ faces when we can chat in a small space again.

Thank you Marissa for giving me this space to speak! Feel free to follow my vintage shop on Instagram: @swanshopvintage


P.S. So many kind souls replied to my newsletter last week with cardamom recommendations! Thank you so much. I did eventually track some down in DC and made kardemummabullar, as the Swedes say, and they were pretty good.