Many years ago, long before the emergence of the vintage trend, my parents met working at a JC Penny store. It was an era where department stores were the only option for pre-internet shoppers who placed fashion and quality over frugality. For my mother, an item purchased at a JC Penny store was the best gift a person could receive, and to this day, I receive a horrendous sweater for Christmas every year and my mom’s response to my dislike is, “But it’s brand name!” As if the label emblazoned on the sweater’s breast should trump my personal style preferences.
For my mom, who had to make my childhood clothing by hand, the brand name on the sweater is more important than the desire for items that are uncommon and unique despite their less-than-polished appearance. Conversely, I seek out the rare finds on the shelves of trendy Portland boutiques, looking for that one item that is singularly unique and that tells the story of an aesthetic from an era long-gone.
I bring these items home, proud of my expertise in spotting the perfect retro accoutrements, and my wife eyes them with disgust. I am reminded of my mother as I try to negotiate the importance of this old-fashioned necessity, when I smile and say, “It’s vintage!”
Vintage – A Macrotrend
The Vintage trend is a Macrotrend that lets us take items from the past and give them new meaning today, without changing anything about them. It’s a renewed appreciation for an aesthetic that went from center stage, to the dumpster, and is now back in the spotlight specifically because it isn’t exactly like what everyone else has.
What’s more, the appeal of a vintage item is finding the class, simplicity, and durability of goods created in an era where less was more; a time when cars weren’t upgraded every few years and when one family used the same toaster for three generations. Purchasing a vintage item reminds us of our past—of where we came from—and encourages us to mine our history for the values hidden away behind the timeless aesthetic that still appeals to us generations later.
My parents’ and grandparents’ generations knew that quality items were worth working hard for. Rather than buying something cheap and easy to obtain, only to throw it out in a few years in search of a newer model, they saved their money to get the best—then they held onto it.
Paired with this mentality is the visible style change that occurs from decade to decade, housed within a vintage typewriter or coffee table, like time capsules from the living rooms of our great-grandparents. The vintage trend cycles through each decade as styles are repeated and reintegrated in a fresh new way.
The vintage trend has gone beyond the return of feathered hair and aviator sunglasses and is appearing now in more than just fashion and furniture. Portland is a great example of the way that shops and retailers are returning to the business concepts from the 1920’s and 30’s.
Barber shops, ice cream parlors, and fashion boutiques are reviving the business model that caters to the individual needs of the customer and focuses on small-scale, quality services rather than a vast array of non-personalized options. Business owners style the environment of their shops to match the aesthetic of the era they attempt to emulate by thematically designing their surroundings with nods to the past such as wood floors, antique furniture, and era-specific music, thereby enveloping the customer in the warmth and slower-paced personalized attention of an era they may not have even experienced the first time around.
The most time-tested example of vintage mentality is found virtually everywhere in the fashion world; from elite runway models to the hipster slinging coffee at your corner cafe: retro rules. Vintage items, such as retro shoes and accessories and tee-shirts promoting classic films, sell for dozens of times more on ebay today than what they sold for when they were brand new.
Likewise, popular looks from decades ago resurface in the clothing created by cutting-edge designers today, and although the actual look seen on the runway may not be comprised of vintage items, the aesthetic is retro, and sometimes each piece worn by a runway model is a throwback to it’s own decade. Fashion proves to us on a daily basis that trends are cyclical, and what was hip once will inevitably rotate back into style and take center stage once more, either in it’s original form, or in an updated version of the original.
The same methodology that allows a fashion trend from decades ago to resurface today in new designs applies to an almost limitless array of products. While someone may not actually want to buy a toaster that was made in 1953, they may be very eager to buy one that looks like it was made sixty years ago, but operates like it was made yesterday. Fashioning products that look vintage– and last for many, many years like grandma’s trusted frying pan did– yet are made with today’s technology, is one way the methodology of the Vintage Macrotrend can enhance a product and appeal to a wider array of consumers.
Instead of rejecting used goods, as many people do until they become “cool” again in a few decades, embracing the appeal of vintage pieces may open up new uses for these items. Through acknowledging the vintage styles, methodology, and values of the past, and adapting them to current brands, products can reach a more enthusiastic and dynamic market demand.
Figuring out what to pick and choose from the trends and eras prior to today’s is the biggest obstacle of this Macrotrend. There’s so much material and potential usage that it’s overwhelming to sift through all the content that preceded us. It’s important to distill the original aesthetic of a vintage piece in order to leave it’s appeal intact while moving it into today’s market.