InsightsPOSTED May 26, 2015

The value of vintage

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vintage clothes and housewares

Guest blog post from Jessica Kosmack on the value of vintage in our series of things that never go out of style.

I recently caught myself drooling over a woman’s white platform Nike Air’s on the subway. I surprised myself with that one. I mean, c’mon, **white** running shoes. Platform. Nike!?

I then spent the rest of the ride trying to figure out if she was still stuck in the 90s or progressive enough in her fashion sense to ‘bring back’ the Airs.

Today’s world of fashion – and, really, design in the most general sense – can be confusing to navigate.

It’s a complicated mix of new, old, new-to-look-old, and old-to-look-new. More than any other “fashion period” in the last 60 years, the one we’re in right now might be the most difficult to pinpoint a definitive, defining look and style.

The rise of {insert-your-neighbourhood-here} fleas, craft show pop-ups, and, of course, Etsy, have created an easy-to-access network of vintage finds. Finds that can bring a flood of nostalgia, but also individuality to our lives.

And with ‘vintage’ (at least in Etsy’s terms) being defined as anything older than 25 years, we can even start thinking about the 90s as a hotbed of vintage finds (cra-zy).

Vintage is about nostalgia.

And nostalgia feels good.

It’s pure, innocent happiness rooted in hazy memory.

Many popular vintage finds like Pyrex and Tupperware bring immediate smiles to peoples’ faces, reminding them of their mother or grandmother’s kitchen growing up. The fact that a piece of plastic storage can do that to someone is pretty awesome.

But, like any other trend, it’s wanting to fit in that remains the central theme of this shift in consumerism. We may sift through the thrift stores for used jeans and tooled leather purses but, well, we’re all doing it. The real shift here is the lack of a need for perfection or sameness.

I’m ok with a vintage dress that’s a little off in the fit; and I can live with a few scuffs on a perfectly used pair of cowboy boots. I don’t need perfect – but I want unique.

I want a story, and I want to somehow channel a certain innocence that seems captured inside old things.

Brands with long histories are wising to this trend towards the old and looking no further than their own pasts to do so.

Vintage 501s (APEX client) are coveted at flea markets and thrift stores; Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dresses really haven’t changed since they launched and are not only collected by fans, but new dresses are marketed under ‘vintage patterns’ – a nod to the fact that good design is lasting design.

Smart brands are confident in their past and their present – knowing that even if we’re vintage hunters seeking out the old, original versions, we’ll probably also buy the new stuff.

The penchant to look back on our lives – really just an ego boost to show how fantastic your last week/month/year/decade was – has made #tbt and #flashbackfridays the perfect chance for people and brands to gloat that old is truly gold.

We #tbt our travels, the simpler times of childhood, our fashions – and basically what we deem to be ‘the good times.’ Looking back is a chance to omit the tough parts of life and create a nostalgic nod to seemingly simpler times.

Like, maybe if I could somehow wear that same outfit from my trip to Woodstock in 1999 then maybe my life now would also be as fun as that weekend,

So, how do brands – and individuals – make the trend towards vintage an authentic and individual one?

I’d say that like most things in life, it’s about being true to yourself and sticking to what you know.

For companies that can harness the strength of their past, it’s about tapping into the appeal of nostalgia and recognizing the successes of their past. Air Jordans were popular for a reason – you don’t need to mess with that. Same with Doc Martens, Converse and Tretorns.

For the people – for us! – it’s about finding your vintage niche.

Personally, I’ve found my own personal niche is mixing old with new.

I recently found an incredible old lady gold watch at a rummage sale. It hasn’t left my wrist since, alongside my much newer Biko bracelet and a gold chain my grandparents gave me when I was a teenager. None of it obviously goes together, but it’s perfect.

It can take a certain inner strength to go vintage – whether it’s not wanting to be tagged as a hipster, being given dirty looks for buying “dirty” used shoes or tolerating that coworker asking you, “oh, is THAT in style again?!” – it’s a different kind of backbone. One, I say, is worth the price of uniqueness.

What do you think never goes out of style? Tell us and see what else we think.

Jessica Kosmack is a photographer, writer and seeker of wonderful vintage wares. Mom of two very blond children, music fiend, spiralizer, coffee lover. Follow her on Instagram | Etsy | Facebook | Twitter