Ben Hyle of Highland Throwbacks – Profile – Hustle and Clothes
words and photos by Floco Torres
Ben Hyle enjoys fashion, but he loves vintage clothing and the lifestyle attached to it even more. For some peering into the vintage world, it’s just hand-me-down-clothes, right? To Ben and others like him, it’s about experience and emotion. It’s this love that led him to open his own vintage shop, Highland Throwbacks in Highland Square.
“There’s a lot of really fashionable people around here,” Ben says. “The whole scene isn’t quite hip to it yet but the idea is bubbling.”
Ben is a 27 year old native of Kent, but he’s always liked Akron and admired Highland Square. Back in Kent, he hosted pop-up shops (short-term sale spaces) out of his art studio where friends would skate a mini pipe, bands would play and Ben would bring out a small rack of rare items he’s collected. The pop-ups continued to succeed and occasionally, he’d hit up the Cleveland area and set up a rack at other events. The opportunity to own a store in Highland Square aligned with the desire to sell vintage clothes on a larger scale, so Ben leaped at the chance.
“I felt like the Kent/Akron area really needed something,” Ben says. He wanted his spot to be more than just a clothing store. He envisioned creating a nostalgia store, and that’s exactly what it’s become.
Highland Throwbacks is a cozy boutique. The walls are filled with posters from the 80s and 90s, a Dennis Rodman action figure leaning on an old boombox, a Sega Genesis AND Nintendo 64 that you’re welcome to play and, of course, vintage clothes. He fills the racks by constantly sourcing to find new items at flea markets, estate sales and shopping online. Within his selections, brands are important (his favorite is Ralph Lauren and you can find plenty sprinkled throughout the store) but the focus is more on an aesthetic that appeals to customers. You won’t find anything that Ben didn’t think you would possibly like.
Not everyone has a great experience when they visit Highland Throwbacks. Some customers think the idea of paying $20 for a used t-shirt rather than just buying a new one is gross. But Ben argues that buying vintage clothes more frequently rather than going to the mall makes for a better experience, and it’s better for our society as well. He’s adamant about wanting to lower our carbon footprint and decrease our support of the modern day slavery that produces clothes that we’ll eventually throw away. He admits that it’s a difficult feat to accomplish entirely, but in some capacity it’s what we all should be doing.
Of course making money and staying in business is important, but Ben’s largest goal is building Akron’s “scene,” the type of scene that people run to Los Angeles to find. Venues, house parties and stores like Highland Throwbacks are imperative blocks that link us together.
“If people just invested themselves more in where they’re from, this would be the place to be.”
Ben just wants to do his part for that to become a reality and to “see everyone wearing vintage and everyone dressing fly.”
Floco Torres got a sweet Goodyear jacket from Highland Throwbacks and it was a friggin’ steal.