What Makes Something Retro Vs. Old?

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I’m hanging out in the store today by myself (I’ve sold two CDs to one customer in the last three hours–but they were Sam Cooke CDs, so obviously he had good taste). I’ve been futzing around, straightening displays, checking in orders, posting stuff online–the usual. What I’m trying NOT to do is think about all the things that I need to do to get ready for this weekend, like getting the Retro Kitchen ready for the wedding cake baking marathon tomorrow, or getting my dress and accessories ready for Sunday. Or even painting the bathroom at the new house and schlepping stuff over there. Basically, I’m trying not to think about all of the productive things that I could be doing right now instead of waiting for customers who don’t seem to be interested in shopping today.

While I was scrolling through Amazon and linking things to our Retrogirl’s Kitchen Facebook page, I came across a set of colorful aluminum tumblers like my long-deceased grandma used to have in her kitchen, and I started thinking about what factors make us nostalgic about an item, and get excited about it, versus considering something to be old and outdated.

Obviously,  an item that sparks a fond memory of childhood, or a happy time may inspire you to consider it cool and retro/vintage. I think your design aesthetic also has something to do with it. If your taste leans toward vintage or vintage-inspired items, you’ll be more likely to consider it “good” old, instead of “bad” old. For instance, I love these tumblers. I had a set years ago, and while I was reminded of drinking from a canteen every time I used them, I loved the atomic-age vibe that they gave off. I loved the colors. I loved that they reminded me of my Grandma. They also fit into my style (and still do). Conversely, I also used to have a set of those little juice glasses with orange slices all over them. You know which ones I mean. I think they came from grocery stores or gas stations or something. I don’t have nearly the same retro love for them, because while my other grandparents had a set, they were kind of an everyday item and I never considered them special. I also don’t find juice glasses practical, because they hold like a quarter cup of juice, so what’s the point???

Maybe the usefulness of an item also has something to do with it? We might get nostalgic over our old Atari or Nintendo, but do we really want to play it again (yes, I know that some people do, but I’m not one of them)? Do we want to pull out our old printers, or desktop computers, or cell phones and start using them again? Nope.

I think about this kind of thing when we visit antique stores too. There’s usually a mix of  “real” antiques, vintage magazines (which I totally dig), and stuff that should probably be at a thrift store instead of an antique store. It’s totally up to the store or the person who owns the booth in an antique mall as to what they put in their space, but for me, if there’s too much stuff from the last twenty years in there, I’m more likely to pass it by. I think that’s kind of weird though, because when I was a teenager in the mid-late 80s, I loved stuff from the 1960s, which was also only 20 years earlier. Maybe because I wasn’t alive to experience those things in the 60s when they were new and could only appreciate them later? Regardless, the difference between 1969 and 1989 seemed a lot bigger than the distance between 1999 and 2019.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m old. Yeah..that’s probably it.

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