Miami is tacky and materialistic—that's not news to anyone who lives here or has visited the city. Or has any passing knowledge of it at all, really. Miami Vice certainly cemented the city's reputation for outlandish, if impractical, fashion. And the weather—which can only be described as being stuck in someone's swampy tender bits after an intense cardio workout—means things like layers and all-black ensembles are more torture than fashion statement.
But don't let Miami's thirst for designer labels fool you. Places like Bal Harbour Shops and the Design District are meant for the wives of Russian oligarchs and rich Latin Americans with questionable backgrounds. For everyone else, shopping around Miami is more about looking like you earn a drug lord-sized payout while shopping on a dime bag dealer budget. Places like Flamingo Shopping Plaza, a thrift shop mecca in the suburb of Hialeah anchored by a Red White & Blue and the Community Family Thrift Shop, have long been a locals-only secret. And it's not unheard of finding high-end brands among the mountains of clothes there.
Over in the Miami neighborhood of Little Haiti, Little Haiti Thrift & Gift Store also offers someone else's discarded threads, but without having to wade through the stretched out and discolored shit brands from your local mall. Instead, the shop keeps it simple and better organized in case you lack the willpower to try not to elbow someone's abuela while thrifting.
Other not-shit places to help feed your inner shopaholic include…
Compared to most record stores, Sweat is miniscule. But the place makes good use of its tiny space, offering the latest vinyl you're looking for plus some harder-to-find and out-of-print selections in case you're the kind of asshole who likes bragging about how complete your record collection is. To Miami's music scene, Sweat is more than just a record store, it's also a gathering place and event space, hosting everything from comedy nights to live performances.
Yesterday & Today Records
Located in an area where strip malls and chain fast food joints are more common, if you are looking for collectable and reissued vinyl, Yesterday & Today probably has it in stock. The shop, which is packed wall to wall with records, carries everything from rock, punk, soul, blues, disco, experimental, and more. It's the kind of place you'll get lost in while mindlessly looking through racks and racks of records.
Books & Books
Believe it or not, between all the silicone, cocaine and neon, Miami has a pretty awesome literary scene. Anchoring it is Books & Books, the local independent bookstore in the posh suburb of Coral Gables. It has a vast selection of literature, with special attention paid to local and Florida authors—because you can never read too much Carl Hiaasen. There are other locations in Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, and Downtown, but the Gables' locale is still considered the ultimate safe space for Miami's intelligentsia. (Which exists, we swear!)
Most bro on South Beach dresses a bit like a douche. Especially if they buy their clothes somewhere nearby. A way to avoid that is by shopping at Base Superstore, which has been the fashion barometer for Miami men since 1989. It carries a rotating array of international brands, and not all of them will make you look like a deep V-neck wanna DJ dickhead. A good store to help you avoid looking like you're trying too too hard
There's vintage shopping and then there's C. Madeleine's in North Miami. To call it a consignment or thrift store is an insult to what the store's namesake has done. One-of-a-kind vintage designer pieces are always in stock. With items from Bob Mackie to Oscar de la Renta, you'll come out looking like Elvira Hancock by the time you're done shopping. Often overlooked is the store's menswear collection, which isn't as extensive as the womenswear, but is just as top notch.
Don't let the dumb cutesy name fool you: This suburb vintage store is the sort of place weird girls in high school get their prom dresses. Miami Twice (oof! it really is a bad name) also carries contemporary clothes targeting the city's many subcultures from rockabilly to tropigoth (look it up). For the serious shopper, it carries vintage designer pieces and thrifty finds that have made it a favorite since Crockett and Tubbs refused to wear socks. Conveniently located next to the city's biggest reptilian feed store, Miami Mice, and Dungeons and Dragons' game-piece supplier, Miami Dice.
From Santeria to Vodou and Obeah, Miami's mix of cultures have also imported the Afro-Caribbean religions that mix Christianity and African religious practices. As a result, botánicas are a dime a dozen around the city. Flossie's is probably one of the most popular ones thanks to its central location Downtown. The store stocks crystals, candles, oils, and spells as well as plenty of items to please astrology buffs.
This MiMo District store has plenty of vintage and designer clothing, but what sets it apart from similar stores nearby are the vintage furniture pieces it carries that range from mid-century to art deco. There's also artwork, lamps, rotary phones, and tchotchkes for arranging around the house. Because what would you do without a rotary phone?
¡Ñooo! ¡Que Barato!
You aren't going to find the most fashionable stuff here—the store's name roughly translates to "Damn, that's cheap!"—but what you will find is the most Miami store in all of Miami. From bata de casas (the uniform of Hispanic grandmothers everywhere) to off-brand jeans, guayaberas, and blue-collar job uniforms, the only thing holding you back from a new wardrobe is some needle and thread to refashion whatever cheap pieces you end up buying. Even if you don't end up spending a nickel, it will get you out of South Beach and exploring the real Miami for a couple of hours.
Despite claiming to be fashion-forward, Miami has few homegrown designers not making the kind of stuff Sofia Vergara wears on Modern Family. Style Mafia's founder and creative director, Simonett Pereira, has made it her mission to strengthen the city's fashion culture by repping Miami's style in a way that's functional yet affordable, and fashionable yet comfortable, going beyond just making tight dresses for fiery Latinas.