XL3 Vintage sits at the heart of LA’s retro revival

Home to racks of authentic professional and collegiate league gear from decades of sports victories around the country, XL3 Vintage is LA’s own time-traveling DeLorean. (Erin McMahon/Medill Reports)

By Erin McMahon
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — Nestled on the corner of Pico Boulevard and Valencia Street in downtown Los Angeles is a mural of the Los Angeles Kings’ logo by street artist “loksangeles.” But look to the left and you’ll see a wrought-iron gate that encloses a time capsule of some of the most memorable moments in sports history. XL3 Vintage is a clothing store that specializes in sports memorabilia from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Satin NFL chalk-line jackets, deadstock NBA jerseys and authentic event merchandise transport shoppers back in time, evoking a sense of nostalgia and childhood remembrance. 

Ramiro Moreno started XL3 28 years ago to tap into the Japanese market for vintage clothing, but he’s always been passionate about sports dynasties in the city of champions. The Lakers’ five NBA championships and the Dodgers’ two World Series victories in the 1980s live on through his merchandise. 

“There’s been a lot of good memories from the ’80s, especially in basketball and baseball, so I think LA is the perfect area to sell vintage sports stuff,” Moreno said.

Retro gear dominates street style in Los Angeles, while local sports teams are pivotal to the city’s culture. Put the two together and you get a unique blend of LA pride and fashion. But there’s more to vintage than its undeniable swagger. Matt Powell, vice president and senior advisor of NPD, a sports market research company, said the effectiveness of retro lies in the marketability of nostalgia.

“Just think about the number of retro-themed commercials that were shown during the Super Bowl,” Powell said. “It’s an indicator that retro has a very powerful emotional connection to a consumer.”

Time freezes over at XL3. Kobe and Shaq are playing for the Lakers, Jim Everett is QB1 for the Rams, and Dusty Baker and the Dodgers just won the World Series. Moments in sports history are immortalized and hang from racks tagged with their original release date and a price. But retro extends beyond the people who were alive to experience these moments. Moreno said XL3’s customers are a mix of regulars and newer, younger sports fans. 

Zach Scola, a University of New Hampshire professor who has co-authored multiple studies on the framework of retro marketing, said the younger fans gravitate toward vintage items to show loyalty.

“When we look at especially sport memorabilia, I think retro gives the feel of a more attached and a more committed fan,” Scola said.

Los Angeles teams have capitalized on this. After returning to Los Angeles in 2016 after 22 years in St. Louis, the Rams reverted to its original color scheme. Now, coming off a Super Bowl victory, the team is in a good position to unite fans from over the years.

“I think we’re going to see a heavy nostalgia push from the Rams because it’s one of the most successful ways of attaching past fans to current teams,” Scola said.

For LA sports fans, the allegiance runs deep for teams like the Lakers, Dodgers, Kings and now possibly the Rams. Moreno said he thinks the unique history of sports in the city is what draws people to his business. But the collectability of the product and its distinctive quality is what keep people coming back to XL3.

“With the old stuff the material is always better, and the new clothing, it really doesn’t last that long anymore,” Moreno said. “Jackets I have from the ’80s are still in mint condition.” 

Powell said people will always be searching for an escape to a simpler time. Between sports’ inherent historicism and people’s connection to their teams, the vintage market offers both a trend and elicits nostalgia. For Los Angelenos, XL3 has kept the past alive and given them an eclectic place to revisit their favorite moments in time.

Erin McMahon is a graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter @erinamcmahon.