“THEY say old soldiers don’t lie,” says Maxine Smith. “They definitely do.
“Either that or they’re gullible. Honestly, if I had a pound every time I’d been offered something I was told came from Hitler’s desk or the German Chancellery, well, I wouldn’t be selling military jackets to students.”
The 41-year-old thinks for a second. “But I never tire of hearing their tales. They can come in here any time for a cup of tea and talk to me all day. I love it.”
Welcome, reader, to Not Just Military, Sheffield’s newest - indeed, Sheffield’s only - vintage army store.
Anyone who remembers Just Military, the semi-legendary shop run by Maxine’s late dad Terry in Abbeydale Road between 1985 and 2005, will know exactly what to expect.
That is to say, they’ll know to expect a chock-a-block unit full of old soldier jackets, 1940s uniforms, model toys, propaganda posters, replica medals, berets, second-hand books, army camp furniture and war-time music.
And they’ll know that shopping in the store, also in Abbeydale Road, you’ll find not just veterans telling (tall) tales, but a whole range of customers; from boys in bands wanting to look like The Beatles to baby-boomers having their father’s medals mounted; from Gay Pride paraders (“military shops always get a rush before a parade,” notes Maxine) to middle-aged men looking to, ahem, collect women’s war-time clothing...
“At my dad’s shop women’s clothing was one of our most popular lines,” says Maxine, of nearby Coverdale Road. “But the strange thing is it was men buying these 1940s dresses. I’m not suggesting they did anything other than collect them, of course. And I don’t blame them. They’re beautiful dresses.”
It was that old shop where the young Maxine learned her love for all things military
Terry, who passed away aged 67 in 2007, was something of a legend in these circles - partly because of the store, and partly because he appeared on the front of The Star on September 4, 1939, after becoming Sheffield’s first World War Two baby. He was born during Neville Chamberlain’s speech.
And it was because of him, Maxine got the bug.
“He use to take me to re-enactments as a kid,” explains the mother-of-four. “And it’s been in my blood ever since. It sounds daft but I love the smell of the old clothes.”
She worked in her father’s store when she was younger but never dreamed she would reopen it.
“That just wasn’t really the plan but I missed it,” says the former chef. “I started trading from a unit at Langton’s Antiques in London Road and my stock grew. I had a friend, Christine Merrick, who had a unit there called Sheffield Interiors and we decided together we could create Not Just Military.”
So they did. Doors were opened on Saturday, and custom is already roaring.
It’s yards from her dad’s old store which she likes. And for those who fear they might miss it, just look out for Maxine’s 1940s Pinzgauer army vehicle parked outside.
“I don’t have another car,” she shrugs. “I think this one sums me up perfectly.”
Dedicated followers of (Military) Fashion
The Beatles: probably responsible for more men in military regalia than Lord Kitchener.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge: foxier in uniform than Charles.
Pete Doherty: looked better in an army jacket than prison scruffs.
General Custer: famously strict about his men’s appearance, famously bad at battles with Native Americans.