Retro-extremists? What are we called?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Senator Jack, Mar 8, 2010.

  1. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    See, there's where you go astray in your argument. An atavist, the way we've been definining it here, doesn't consider the prevailing culture to be "their" culture -- because they haven't been brought up to be part of that culture. What you seem to be saying is that everyone who lives in France is of necessity French -- even if they're actually German.
     
  2. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

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    I completely agree with this. I am certainly not trying to be anything but myself. I prefer vintage fashions in clothes, cars, housewares, so that's what I have. It just happens to go hand in hand with the way I was raised, in an old-fashioned manner. Now, anyone who was re-enacting would come in and go "Well, that shirt is from the 70's, your pants are new. That Console TV's from the 1980s, your lamps are too, your chairs are accurate, blah, blah, blah. My life and my world is not a museum. It's a reflection of my taste. That's where the difference is.
     
  3. JohnnyLoco

    JohnnyLoco Familiar Face

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    While I recognize that there are many cultures and sub-cultures, all with varying genealogies, that exist within a specific region and change, merge, and interact with each other, I was claiming that atavists are only a part of one of the many cultures that currently exist that can be identified as natural or legitimate, meaning that follows a natural history or genealogy that leads to the current day, whether or not that culture itself is prevailing, dominant, minority, or subservient.

    By not considering their own culture to be their own, I believe the atavist is attempting to live their life according to their presumptions of what another culture, of the present or past, is or was. A better analogy would be a German living in France attempting to be Ottoman, a country/empire no longer in existence, or Panamanian, a country he or she may know very little about, comparatively speaking.
     
  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    However, that's not what an atavist is doing -- you're setting up a straw man argument, which has little relevance to the reality of what's actually going on. As Tom says, there's no attempt being made to "recreate" a period. The atavist is simply living the way they always have, the way that they were raised, in a manner that isn't in synchronization with contemporary culture. Choice is not involved -- it's a matter of inculcation. I could dress up in a black turtleneck, comb my hair down over my face, put on a Lady Gaga record and a sullen expression, and join Facebook -- but I still wouldn't be a product of modern culture, because I wasn't raised as part of it, any more than moving to France would make me French. Same thing with various other folks who've posted in this thread.

    In that sense, the atavist has more in common with the Amish or the Lubavitchers than he or she does with the scenario you're describing -- you could take a solitary Amishman, move him to Williamsburg, turn him loose among the hipsters, and he'd still not be a part of that culture, even though half the kids there are going around with the same kind of beard. Same with an atavist -- we might be surrounded by contemporary culture, but we aren't *of* it.
     
  5. JohnnyLoco

    JohnnyLoco Familiar Face

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    I agree with you if that is the definition of atavism. I think we might be having a difficulty with semantics and the confusion that surrounds the term 'atavist.' I was under the impression that atavism had to with "reverting back" or "reemergence." As with the Amish, or other sub-cultures, they never went anywhere or disappeared. But even the Amish of today differs greatly from the Amish of yesteryear. The Amish speak English, even though their ancestors came to American speaking a dialect of German (which they still do speak with one another).

    I was really just objecting to the proposition that being raised by people from the 40s, or with 40s values, constitutes being a part of 40s culture, because this leads to an infinite regression--because much of those values are based on values from the generations preceding (20s, 30s), ad infinitum. An essential part of being a part of 30s or 40s culture is actually living in the 40s and it actually being the 1940s, because cultures are temporally relative.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  6. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Well, again, I think you're hung up on something that's irrelevant. We use "30s culture" or "40s culture" as shorthand that's easy for the modern to understand, a convenient frame of reference, but as has been repeatedly stated in this thread, atavism isn't about "recreating a period." I was a child in the 1960s and early 1970s, but the markers of "60s/70s culture" -- the worldview as well as the "pop culture" aspects -- did not pentrate into in the neighborhood where I was raised, so I can honestly say that I was not a product of that culture. The older I got, the more alien it felt to go to places where those then-contemporary cultures *did* exist.

    However, the general markers of what modern people would call "30s-40s-early 50s culture" *were* dominant in my childhood environment -- that culture didn't fold up and disappear on December 31, 1939 or 1949 or 1955 or whatever. Cultures don't observe the calendar. They evolve, they thrive, and then they die, and it takes a lot more than ten or twenty years to do that.

    And it's understandable that this particular neighborhood saw those influences lingering well past 1960 -- since the youngest adults in the neighborhood were born in the late 1930s, and the majority of adults there were born between the 1890s and the mid-1920s. There were comparatively few children -- and no teenagers in the neighborhood during the period of my childhood. Nobody was trying to "recreate a period," that's simply how things were. And that was the culture I grew up in, and which shaped my own worldview -- call it what you like, but it wasn't "modern" then, and it's even less so now. It was a throwback to an earlier generation -- an atavistic culture, for want of a better term. But there was no reenacting, no recreating, and no pretending involved.

    [​IMG]

    My hometown, c. the early sixties. We lived in the second-floor apartment at far left.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  7. missjo

    missjo Practically Family

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    I consider myself to be a Neo Traditionalist.
    I was raised in the 1970s by modern progressive hippies.
    There was absolutely nothing 1930s-1940s about my life except some of the stuff in our house.
    My upbringing was modern, left wing, anti authoritarian, liberal, open minded, etc, etc.
    Everything that was the 1970s, in short; do what you want, be free, be happy, make love not war.

    My only contact with history was my parents love for old furniture and little antique decorations here and there.

    So yes, I decided to become 1930s-ish, step away from modern society and many of its rules, I started to follow 1930s etiquette and the way of life because it was simply more appealing to me.

    I call myself a Neo Traditionalist because it fits rather well with that name, it is also used to describe a wave in art, architecture etc.
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Thinking about this thread, I thought it might be helpful for those of us who think of ourselves as primarily influenced by a culture prior to "modern" culture to post what we think of as some of the specific markers involved. This might help define the phenomenon in other than fashion terms --

    So, for me they would have been --

    1. A villiage/downtown/pedestrian-oriented/non-suburban community. All business was transacted in the downtown area, there were no shopping plazas/malls/big box stores. Our downtown had three grocery stores, a drug store, a hardware store, a clothing store, a radio/TV shop, a post office, a lunchroom, and a bank. The town population was largely concentrated within walking distance of the downtown area, and neighborhoods. The auto-oriented culture that defined the latter half of the fifties forward had little impact on us. My hometown was -- and still is -- about 25 miles from the nearest Interstate highway.

    2. A manufacturing/industrial based economy. Most people worked in blue-collar jobs -- we had poultry processing, shoe manufacturing, door-and-window manufacturing, and seafood packing plants, as well as a deep-water industrial port that processed heavy commodities. Very few people I knew growing up were college educated or oriented, and those who were were generally professionals of some sort.

    3. Families were concentrated in neighborhoods. It was very common for three generations of a family to live on the same street -- there was very little of what would be called "upward mobility." You settled on a block and you stayed there, and likely your kids would do likewise. (I was the first member of my family in four generations to leave our street, and my mother has yet to forgive me.) Family was more important than friends, peers, or job --if there was a conflict, your family obligations *always* came first, and this was never questioned.

    4. Mainstream religion was a heavy influence. In our town it was non-evangelical Protestantism -- everyone I knew was either a Methodist or a Congregationalist. Most people didn't go to church weekly, but religion was a defining aspect of one's cultural background, and most people had a working familiarity with the basic tenets of the Bible, regardless of what they believed about it. Respectable people didn't go around "acting religious" -- that was seen as being inappropriate and in poor taste, and "Bible thumping" was considered crass. Proselytism of any kind was considered extremely offensive -- your faith was your own business, and wasn't discussed in public.

    5. Most men had served in the military, and awareness of the military was taken for granted in every family. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day (still called Armistice Day by most people) were major events in town. Kids usually belonged to the Boy or Girl Scouts, and took the patriotism seriously. Authority was respected -- there wasn't the modern belief that all authority is adversarial.

    6. Sex was not discussed in public. It existed, and we knew it existed, but it was considered private business. You didn't pry into other people's private business, and you kept yours to yourself. This wasn't the same thing as blue-nosed prudery -- people who went around meddling in other people's business and tutt-tutting and gossiping about who was doing what with whom were held in contempt. It was more a matter of acknowledging that there was a time and a place for everything. Modesty (of both the personal and the sexual kind) were considered important virtues.

    7. Thrift was a way of life. Buying on credit was a mark of irresponsibility, one step up from going to a pawnshop, and conspicuous consumption was condemned as "showing off." You were taught that there were things you could have in life, and things you couldn't, and the sooner you learned the difference the better.

    There were other aspects, but I think these are the ones that were the major differences in the culture I grew up in and the mainstream culture of the sixties and seventies, and nearly all of these aspects are either gone from modern life today or so altered as to be hardly recognizable. I'd be interested in hearing if other atavistic types experienced similar influences in their upbringing, or what others might be cited.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
  9. bradford

    bradford Familiar Face

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    I've been reading through this thread and find it very interesting. I'm also realizing that despite my fondness for old movies, traditional clothing, the Great American Songbook, and especially fedoras and flat caps, I really don't have an interest in trying to give up modern technology. In fact, as I'm type this on my lap top computer over the internet, I'm watching the US Open on my 36" LCD flatscreen TV and I may later watch a movie on NetFlix streaming through my Roku Box and while it may be an old Gary Cooper film, it will still be brought to me through modern technology. And tomorrow at work I will likely have my earbuds in at my desk and may well be listening to Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland or Nat King Cole, I just as easily might be listening to Lady GaGa, Coldplay or Neon Trees.

    However, although I don't want to give up the tools of modern technology, I am attracted to the genuineness of old-fashioned society. So for me, wearing traditional clothing such as suits, ties and hats is a way to pay outward credit to the type of person I strive to be. And that is a person who lives by an old-fashioned code where a man's word means something, where a handshake is a binding agreement, a man who treats all others with respect and most of all where a man is genuine and straightforward rather than trying to be ironic or cool.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
  10. James71

    James71 A-List Customer

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    Wow... this is much more complex than I gave it credit for.

    I just like old stuff because of its lasting quality and aesthetic appeal and try to live by the values that my grandparents generation espoused because I think it resulted in a more pleasant, trusting and responsible culture than that which has developed since the baby boomers threw out the rules and made it all about the individual.

    I dont know what I should be called. Most of my friends just think Im a bit strange. Some of them describe me as "vintage" and I can live with that.
     
  11. James71

    James71 A-List Customer

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    Just read this. I reckon if we lived closer we could be mates. :)
     
  12. bradford

    bradford Familiar Face

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    Exactly! And like you, to many of my coworkers and people I've met in Sacramento, I am just "that guy in the hat".
     
  13. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

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    Lizzie, all I can say is that I am incredibly impressed with how well you've discussed all this. I can very much relate to it. The farm I grew up in, we were there for years, but were still considered to be 'new' because we had not grown up in that area. Our house there is still known as 'the old Hein farm" Every other family, besides ours, had lived on one of those farms since the 1800's. Everyone was Catholic and very traditional. People fixed and fixed until they couldn't anymore. Almost everyone's houses were about the same as they were when built, except maybe some paneling or linoleum here and there, and that asbestos siding was popular. It was common to see people driving cars and trucks from the 60's and 70's even though it was the late 90's, early 2000's. They would fix and fix until finally their vehicles just rusted out around them from the salt. Nobody put on airs or was snobbish. Everyone was in the same boat with the same mentality.
     
  14. Yeps

    Yeps Call Me a Cab

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    Yeah, I don't know if I posted here before, but I definitely don't really match for a vintage lifestyle description, whatever it is named. I am pretty much just in it for the style. Well, and the music, although I love modern music too. And really old music. And some of pretty much everything in between. Oh, and my profession (God willing) is rather vintage (opera singing). But I like the modern era, even if I don't like to dress like it.
     
  15. Gene

    Gene Practically Family

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    Don't know if it's been said, but I find I'm just a regular guy who happens to like old crap. I just describe my style as "old man" if anyone asks.
     
  16. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

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    That's what most people call mine lol

     
  17. The Good

    The Good Call Me a Cab

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    After spending more time discovering myself, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not really a retro-extremist, at least not as much as some folks here. I certainly have an appreciation for old fashioned values, style and hats, music, and cars, but I am still a man in touch with the current times. I'm not trying to ignore modern pop culture; there's a lot that I don't like, but there are some that I do as well. I like post Golden Age music, and that is actually what I listen to most of (not the modern pop junk either, mainly pre-1990s music that is not punk, metal, or goth). I also like quite a bit of these old time fashions, but apart from a vintage fedora (which is really a modified homburg), I don't wear or own vintage clothing, although I'm open to the idea of incorporating vintage elements into my style, if not completely devoting myself to "living" these fashions in the modern era. To describe a large part of my dress sensibilities, I'm just going to use two iconic fictional characters as examples here; as a general rule, if James Bond or Indiana Jones would wear it, then it's probably OK for me to do so as well. This doesn't mean I'll completely copy either of them, however.

    I suppose many members here would share similar views to me, but what I'm trying to say is, I'm not trying to completely emulate the past, although I respect those that try, as the modern world is a corrupt one. I understand the desire to be free from it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2011
  18. Godfrey

    Godfrey One of the Regulars

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    I personally think this is the most important point. Culture in modern society is often as much about choice as it is about past. We are exposed to a multitude of media, history, norms, ideas and thoughts. From this alphabet soup of culture we glean what speaks to us and what fits with our view. They may be reenforcing our lives to date or allowing us to pick from our experiences (for me it's often the code my grandfather lived by - a man who was as much mentor as relative). In the past choice would not be an option - you would conform for a multitude of reasons. Fringe was something for cities and the wealthy. No longer. The information anarchy of this age has allowed freedom to be far more permeable in society and for this little slice of culture to become a tribe of those with, mostly, like minds, thoughts and interests. Tribes have symbols, as do we. Our dress, our music, our life choices - they mark us as belonging. But they are not the culture. They are the manifestation of it. Thats not to say there are not those who will read this qnd say; "no - i just like wearing hats" - but for many its something deeper. A reclamation of much that was lost and should be found. Which is odd - as it's the act of being able to engage through possibly some of the most revolutionary communication media that allows us bent to our Atavism.
     
  19. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    It becomes sort of a chicken-or-egg question, I think -- I know in my own case, I had no idea that there was any kind of a "vintage subculture" before I went online for the first time -- I knew there were people who did not live "in tune with the times," but the idea of it being any kind of an organized movement would never have occured to me.

    Atavists existed long before the internet -- people who conformed to the culture they were raised under and ignored the contemporary mainstream. During the 1930s there was a rather famous woman in the town where I now live who lived her entire life in the style and manner of the 1890s, and I think she'd certainly qualify as an atavist under the definition we're using here. But I think the difference was they weren't especially forward or militant about it. It was simply the way you lived. And instead of buying your stuff on eBay you got it out of your parents' or grandparents' cellar or dragged it home from the dump.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011
  20. SGT Rocket

    SGT Rocket Practically Family

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    Old Man is how I describe myself too. A lady (from another country) made a comment about how I dress the other day when I dropped my kids off a daycare. I told her that I get my fashion ideas from 80 year old men sitting on park benches!
     

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