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Why vintage?

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10,691
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My mother's basement
We’ve touched on this in numerous other threads, but I see none centered on just what it is within ourselves that draws us to old stuff.

I have my theories. I’ve done some cursory reading of the psychological research on the matter, much of which (but not all) I take with a largish grain of salt.

Is it “living in the past”? I don’t think so, not for most of us. Knowing where we are and having some sense of where we’re going involves knowing where we’ve been.

Me, I’m not a collector per se, which is not to say I don’t have some modest collections of old stuff. But my swag isn’t centered on any particular era or any particular category. If it appeals to me visually, I’m interested in it. And none of it was acquired with an eye toward what it might sell for at some future point.

So yeah, it addresses some emotional need. It survives, and for now, so do I.
 
Messages
10,518
Location
vancouver, canada
I don't mind wearing used clothing (except underwear!) For me vintage is the optimal intersection of quality and price. I can buy items in barely used condition from my vintage seller contacts, sometimes as low as .10cents on the dollar. I can look like the wealthy (wearing their clothing) on a working man's paycheque.
 
Messages
19,005
Location
Central California
We’ve touched on this in numerous other threads, but I see none centered on just what it is within ourselves that draws us to old stuff.

I have my theories. I’ve done some cursory reading of the psychological research on the matter, much of which (but not all) I take with a largish grain of salt.

Is it “living in the past”? I don’t think so, not for most of us. Knowing where we are and having some sense of where we’re going involves knowing where we’ve been.

Me, I’m not a collector per se, which is not to say I don’t have some modest collections of old stuff. But my swag isn’t centered on any particular era or any particular category. If it appeals to me visually, I’m interested in it. And none of it was acquired with an eye toward what it might sell for at some future point.

So yeah, it addresses some emotional need. It survives, and for now, so do I.


For me it’s all about quality and styling. I don’t care that it’s old per se, but it’s the old hats that have the characteristics and looks that I prefer. If I had a vintage sized head I probably would never have considered custom hats. I like my customs, but the best vintage hats are, in my opinion, considerably “better” than even the best custom hats.
 

bn1966

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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3,097
Location
UK
Being a 46/48 chest dependant it’s difficult to find original vintage clothing in my size so I use the likes of SJC Cathcart, Pike Brothers and Eastman Leather Clothing. I do have an original 60’s Cafe Racer that fits. Old watches thankfully do fit. I’ve always liked well designed quality clothing from about the age of 14 as a 79 Revival Mod as I was at the time, including an M-51 Parka. Thankfully when it comes to nylon and cotton military vintage jackets sizing accommodates me. I also like modern clothing that is nicely tailored from quality textiles, some Barbour clothing for instance. I mix and match periods too because I’m not a film extra :)
 
Messages
10,691
Location
My mother's basement
For me it’s all about quality and styling. I don’t care that it’s old per se, but it’s the old hats that have the characteristics and looks that I prefer. If I had a vintage sized head I probably would never have considered custom hats. I like my customs, but the best vintage hats are, in my opinion, considerably “better” than even the best custom hats.
In most ways they are, the better ones anyway. And this coming from a guy who makes custom hats.
I have many nice vintage lids, which I rarely wear, because I wish them to remain in a good condition. And I can always replicate a hat I made for myself. And only a hat aficionado would know it wasn’t made 80 years ago.
 
Messages
10,691
Location
My mother's basement
The market for vintage stuff is a study in itself. It’s driven by emotion, largely. Some items fetching big money now weren’t going for much at all a few years ago, and that stuff may again be worth zip a few years hence. Or not.

Some of it is predictable. Cars, for instance (with the exception of the crazy expensive examples, the Concours d’Elegance machines and the like) tend to peak when the guys who coveted those cars when they were new are age 60 and up. Those guys got the scratch, they’ve survived a health scare or two, they’ve buried friends and family members younger than themselves, and dagnabit, he’s always wanted a ‘68 Mustang.

On the latest episode of Detours, the Antiques Roadshow podcast, one of the Keno brothers repeated the “If it’s brown, it’s down” mantra. In this case, the “brown” is in reference to “real” antiques, the 200-and-more-year-old furniture crafted by hand in little workshops on the East Coast, mostly. That stuff is still generally quite spendy, but nowhere near as expensive as it was before the blue hairs who loved that kinda stuff kicked the bucket. So this might be a good time to buy, on the perhaps misplaced expectation that the market will rebound (there’s evidence it has, to a limited degree).

Less exclusive swag has bounced back from its lows of a few years ago, and it’s a pretty high bounce at that. Is it worth it? It is to the people buying it, so I suppose it is. But as I noted in this thread’s opening post, I don’t buy with an eye toward reselling.

EDIT: As it turns out, the latest episode of the Detours podcast alluded to above is an encore of an episode dating from January of 2022. The market has changed some in the intervening 28 months.
 
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Messages
10,518
Location
vancouver, canada
The market for vintage stuff is a study in itself. It’s driven by emotion, largely. Some items fetching big money now weren’t going for much at all a few years ago, and that stuff may again be worth zip a few years hence. Or not.

Some of it is predictable. Cars, for instance (with the exception of the crazy expensive examples, the Concours d’Elegance machines and the like) tend to peak when the guys who coveted those cars when they were new are age 60 and up. Those guys got the scratch, they’ve survived a health scare or two, they’ve buried friends and family members younger than themselves, and dagnabit, he’s always wanted a ‘68 Mustang.

On the latest episode of Detours, the Antiques Roadshow podcast, one of the Keno brothers repeated the “If it’s brown, it’s down” mantra. In this case, the “brown” is in reference to “real” antiques, the 200-and-more-year-old furniture crafted by hand in little workshops on the East Coast, mostly. That stuff is still generally quite spendy, but nowhere near as expensive as it was before the blue hairs who loved that kinda stuff kicked the bucket. So this might be a good time to buy, on the perhaps misplaced assumption that the market will rebound (there’s evidence it has, to a limited degree).

Less exclusive swag has bounced back from its lows of a few years ago, and it’s a pretty high bounce at that. Is it worth it? It is to the people buying it, so I suppose it is. But as I noted in this thread’s opening post, I don’t buy with an eye toward reselling.
When my wife and I first married we were pretty broke. I saw a bedroom suite in a used furniture/junk store for $150. Not really an antique as it was just 45-50 years old but real wood, no veneer. We still have it to this day 50 years later. It seemed old then but now it is twice as old. Still not a desirable antique but still good solid working man's wooden furniture.
 
Messages
10,518
Location
vancouver, canada
The market for vintage stuff is a study in itself. It’s driven by emotion, largely. Some items fetching big money now weren’t going for much at all a few years ago, and that stuff may again be worth zip a few years hence. Or not.

Some of it is predictable. Cars, for instance (with the exception of the crazy expensive examples, the Concours d’Elegance machines and the like) tend to peak when the guys who coveted those cars when they were new are age 60 and up. Those guys got the scratch, they’ve survived a health scare or two, they’ve buried friends and family members younger than themselves, and dagnabit, he’s always wanted a ‘68 Mustang.

On the latest episode of Detours, the Antiques Roadshow podcast, one of the Keno brothers repeated the “If it’s brown, it’s down” mantra. In this case, the “brown” is in reference to “real” antiques, the 200-and-more-year-old furniture crafted by hand in little workshops on the East Coast, mostly. That stuff is still generally quite spendy, but nowhere near as expensive as it was before the blue hairs who loved that kinda stuff kicked the bucket. So this might be a good time to buy, on the perhaps misplaced assumption that the market will rebound (there’s evidence it has, to a limited degree).

Less exclusive swag has bounced back from its lows of a few years ago, and it’s a pretty high bounce at that. Is it worth it? It is to the people buying it, so I suppose it is. But as I noted in this thread’s opening post, I don’t buy with an eye toward reselling.
I made a custom hat for a fellow about to turn 65 and retire. He bought my most expensive felt, a beaver/chinchilla blend. He said "I have worked hard all my life, provided for family and always put myself second. Now I am treating myself, indulging myself a little bit for all the times I did'nt buy what I truly wanted.

When he picked it up, tried it on, he got all teary eyed as he finally had a good hat. So yeh, that 60+ years old cohort makes up a goodly chunk of my business.
 

jchance

One of the Regulars
Messages
220
Location
Los Angeles
For me, it’s about seeking out quality that has withstood the test of time. Modern stuff is seemingly made as throw-away after a season or two.

What’s the common saying? “They don’t make stuff like this anymore!”
 
Messages
10,691
Location
My mother's basement
For me, it’s about seeking out quality that has withstood the test of time. Modern stuff is seemingly made as throw-away after a season or two.

What’s the common saying? “They don’t make stuff like this anymore!”
That’s often but not always true. Much as I love old cars, for instance, later models are superior in most measurable ways. (They sure are expensive, though.) But in the case of most household goods the old stuff will likely still be in use long after the stuff bought at IKEA and the like will have rotted away in the landfill.

There’s nothing of great monetary value under my roof. Very little of it was acquired new. A few pieces I’ve had for half a century or more, and most was well used before it came my way. Most is true vintage (as opposed to retro), and a couple three or four items might qualify as actual antiques, if the criterion for “antique” is it being a hundred or more years old.

I don’t want to be the first to put a ding or a scratch on a piece. With older stuff, that’s rarely a concern.
 
Messages
10,691
Location
My mother's basement
When my wife and I first married we were pretty broke. I saw a bedroom suite in a used furniture/junk store for $150. Not really an antique as it was just 45-50 years old but real wood, no veneer. We still have it to this day 50 years later. It seemed old then but now it is twice as old. Still not a desirable antique but still good solid working man's wooden furniture.
I have a dresser and a writing desk left behind by a tenant in a relative’s rental property. It was old when I grabbed it, going on 50 years ago. Both pieces were factory made for the mass market and kinda dinged up, so not of much monetary value. But odds are excellent that I’ll be using both for the rest of my life. It’s a part of me at this point.
 
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GHT

I'll Lock Up
Messages
9,477
Location
New Forest
Why vintage? Fashions are so individual, music is easy on the the ear, you can actually dance to it. That's Latin and ballroom dancing rather than standing around thrashing arms aloft wildly.
Cars weren't designed in a wind tunnel.
Appearance, everybody went to work looking like they had made an effort in front of the bathroom mirror.
Even shoes, real leather ones, were polished and shone.
Why vintage? I love it!
 

AHP91

Practically Family
Messages
965
In most ways they are, the better ones anyway. And this coming from a guy who makes custom hats.
I have many nice vintage lids, which I rarely wear, because I wish them to remain in a good condition. And I can always replicate a hat I made for myself. And only a hat aficionado would know it wasn’t made 80 years ago.
Ehh just throw the old hats on, boss. Most people wouldn't know the difference if that vintage lid was made 2 years ago

-- I've never quite grasped the concept of purchasing cool old stuff just to have it sit in your house, too scared to touch it. Maybe if you're intending to produce a collector's book/website/whatever. My mother always said to me - don't buy it if you're not going to use it.
 
Messages
10,691
Location
My mother's basement
Ehh just throw the old hats on, boss. Most people wouldn't know the difference if that vintage lid was made 2 years ago

-- I've never quite grasped the concept of purchasing cool old stuff just to have it sit in your house, too scared to touch it. Maybe if you're intending to produce a collector's book/website/whatever. My mother always said to me - don't buy it if you're not going to use it.
I definitely know the difference, “boss.” An 80-year-old hat that survives in a good condition (or pretty much any old item of attire) wouldn’t be in such a condition if it saw hard use over even a small sliver of that time. The old hats were of a higher quality than most of what’s been made more recently, but they’ll show signs of hard use just the same.

Household furnishings and such are another matter, usually. My place is furnished in old stuff, mostly, but it isn't a museum, and I don’t wish it to be. Still, though, just as Grandma had her special tableware reserved for special occasions, so it is with my vintage hats. I won’t be wearing a high weave count vintage Panama straw hat when I expect to get dirty and sweaty while cutting brush. But it might be just the thing for an outdoor wedding in June.

My friend the rug merchant has antique carpets worth big money in his house, where shoes are removed on entry. I don’t live that way, but I’m not critical of it. Dude knows his rugs, and he respects the effort and artistry that went into them, a century and more ago. My rugs don’t approach the dollar value of his (not even close), but I’m American born and bred with dogs and cats and I wear my shoes in the house and the wheelchair using member of this household brings in grit on her tires so yeah, it ain’t the place for high-dollar rugs.
 
Messages
10,518
Location
vancouver, canada
Ehh just throw the old hats on, boss. Most people wouldn't know the difference if that vintage lid was made 2 years ago

-- I've never quite grasped the concept of purchasing cool old stuff just to have it sit in your house, too scared to touch it. Maybe if you're intending to produce a collector's book/website/whatever. My mother always said to me - don't buy it if you're not going to use it.
Both my parents grew up during the Depression, dirt poor as children but they pulled themselves up into a middle class, as adults, suburban lifestyle. My mother was frugal to a fault and the things she bought she wanted them kept nice. I was not allowed to sit on the living room sofa as I was too big and squished the cushions. She hated how I walked on her wall to wall carpet as she said I dragged my feet and was wearing it out prematurely. God forbid I should close the fridge door too hard! So, I share your Mother's perspective. The things I buy, yes I treat them well to make them last, BUT I use them (well and often) and once i have worn them out I celebrate the enjoyment they provided. No closet queens, no saving the nice china for special occasions, no sacred cow possessions.
 
Messages
10,691
Location
My mother's basement
I wish I had found this before I opened this thread. It’s a brief, entirely readable examination of nostalgia — what it is, the role in plays in our lives, what the research says is going on in our brains when we are experiencing it. It rang true to me.
If there are any neuroscientists in the house who might confirm or debunk any or all of it, I’d welcome their input.
Great pull quote at the opening: “Nostalgia is a resource that people use to move forward.”

https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/the-science-of-nostalgia
 
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Tiki Tom

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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3,237
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Oahu, North Polynesia
^^^^ Great article. Thanks! I agree.
I’m just nostalgic about nostalgia. :)
Sometimes I just want to wallow in the fantasy of a romantic past where people looked sharp, chivalry existed, and the world was locked in a clear-cut struggle between good and evil, Nazis vs the good guys. (I know, I know. It wasn’t always that “romantic” in reality. There was plenty of racism, etc, etc, to throw a wet towel on the daydream.) Nonetheless, sometimes it’s enough to dress vintage and listen to my 1940s playlist. The movie Casablanca represents perfect escapism to me. I’m a romantic at heart, and the modern world isn’t very sympathetic about romanticism. Wearing a fedora is My small statement about soulless modernity.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,870
Location
London, UK
Interesting thread. It's been a while, I think ,since we delved into this, and it's always interesting to see how the TFL community in general varies both across itself, and over time. I think it's fair to say that at one time we had many more people who were close to 'full immersion' than is perhaps the case now. I'd say these days we have many more members who are interested in very specific aspects of the period, whether leather jackets, hats, movies or whatever than perhaps there are of those interested in the period as a whole. I have a feeling that there are perhaps also many fewer around these parts now who would go back and live in the forties in a heartbeat than was maybe the case when I joined.

For me, it's a mix of things, I think. I blow hot and cold on the idea of identifying as a "vintage person". I'm not opposed to it, but I think perhaps I'm more of a..... dieselpunk / atomicpunk type, definitely very much full time Chappism. By which I mean.... I'm very much interested in the history and popular culture of particularly the first six decades of the twentieth century, but I'm not one of those folks who regards it as a "better" time or wishes to go back and live then. (I'm much the same with regards to nostalgia for my own youth - I've been lucky, I suppose, in that I've been happier with myself as I get older rather than looking back on an earlier time in my life and wishing it was then). Diesel /atomicpunk is a good way of describing my particular thing. I suppose you could also say neorockabilly, though my wardrobe ideals are somewhat broader than that. Which is to say that while my perfect world would *look* full on midcentury-modern with smatterings of older stuff thrown in, I don't want to drop the good stuff from the 'now' either. I'd be very happy to live in a place that looked like the 50s, but where I still had my internet, my mp3 player, my mobile telephone (I very happily waved bye bye to a landline I'd only ever had to facilitate the internet when we got fibre optic broadband fitted a few years ago). Chappism - as in The Chap magazine - is all about preserving what was great about the past, while embracing positive change as well. "Modernity in moderation" - adopt the new tech that works for you, see it as an option not an obligation (ideally - I know all too well this also has its limits).

I remember reading an article on the vintage subculture at its peak maybe a quarter of a century ago in which a psychologist discussed the commonality of people romanticising a period about ten to twenty years before their own birth (this could well explain the boom in eighties and 90s revivalism now, coupled with those around my age reliving their own pop-culture youth). I suppose this also goes to what I love about the 30s-50s style. And specifically, *my* 30s-50s style is very much an American Hollywood version - not the drab, grey, North of Ireland 50s my parents grew up in, for example. Being a retronaut of whatever variety allows me to indulge the fantasy rather than real with the reality. I know people who love earlier era again - Victoriana, the Regency.... it's a lot nicer that being about knowingly dressing to the fantasy (I have a young friend on the Chap scene who dresses regency on a daily basis), rather than what would have been for many of us the reality of (relative) poverty. One relative spent part of the Sixties owning nothing other in the way of clothes than their school uniform.

When it comes to buying actual pieces, I'm not averse to the occasional thing, but to be honest I have long much preferred repro. We're getting to a point now where for the stuff I like it's mostly more available more affordably, certainly in my size, and I can wear it as day to day wardrobe without feeling like I've destroyed a piece of history if the worst does happen - it gets torn, or mothed, or whatever. As original stuff disappears (certainly over here) into the hands of a small number of collectors or just become unwearable, it's nice to see more and more affordable repro starting to arrive for men. When I first got into this all, maybe twenty years ago, if you'd gone to an event in the UK a sizeable proportion of the men would have been in either a military uniform or a pair of rockabilly jeans because that's what was available - the ladies were always more 'dressed'. Womens' repro seems to have been more available, more affordably, and more surviving vintage too at that time. I know once you take into account that ladies required the 'correct' underwear for everything to sit it costs more than "just a dress", but certainly trousers are more expensive than the average ladies' period look skirt, and tend to wear out faster.... I'll stop here as I'm rambling a bit, but that's where I'm coming from in all this. Bottom line, when it comes to wardrobe it's about the look and style for me, I want to do it full time, and so repro is better for that by this point.
 

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