Like an old VHS movie

by Nathan Stout

Retro is in. Old this, old that, something old, something blue… oh wait. Head to any mall and you will see stores filled with retro stuff. Fashion, games, music, you name it.

Chris and I played a 1985 Clue VCR Mystery game the other night and enjoyed it’s cheese thoroughly. Did you know VHS was back in fashion too? I suspect that any moment people will be screaming for cassette tapes and my Roxette’s Look Sharp! will be worth a small mint.

What is is about old stuff that makes it so popular nowadays? I have a few thoughts:

  • It reminds people of their childhood or simpler times in their lives.
  • It is a way to link to a past that people might have missed out on.
  • It was just plain made better.

The first point is what primarily drives the market. I think people like connecting with the past, and they can do this by buying a Bert and Ernie shirt, or going to see 80’s remakes at the movies. I have a penchant for G.I. Joe stuff. There is a whole 25th anniversary line of ‘retro’ Joe figures, complete with 80’s style packaging. It reminds me of my childhood, so I give my money over to Hasbro for those little bits of happiness.

My second point usually applies to the later generations who grew up after something had come and gone. For instance Generation Y likes 80’s stuff too. You will see some tween wearing a Strawberry Shortcake shirt, even though that child was only a glint in the milkman’s eye when Strawberry Shortcake was happening. My wife likes 40’s pinup art, and I think the 50’s Shadow radio shows are great. We weren’t around then, but we like that stuff nonetheless.

The last point is about actual items of the past, not necessarily something that has come back into fashion and is being reproduced today. Take VHS for example. They are pretty tough. Little kids can beat the crap out of them, and they will work fine. Here is an obscure example: box fans. Yes, people collect and refurbish old box fans because they were built so much better in the past. You didn’t see that one coming did you. Isn’t the interwebs great?

Chris doesn’t really fit into any of these categories because of his lifestyle. He still listens to tapes because he still has them sitting around (although that will be changing thanks to his great dumping project of 2010).

I fit into all of the points I made above. I like retro stuff on different levels. I still think listening to records is far more satisfying (go the 1:45 mark) than listening to a clean recording when it comes to certain music. I still enjoy audio tapes because they are tough to break. I love all those 80’s cartoons and toys that I grew up with, and have spent money to get a taste of that childhood.

Does feeding into the whole retro craze stop progress? No (unless it comes to movie remakes, sheesh). Designers and manufacturers will continue to invent and design new and better. Buying into retro is just another diversion that will come and go (and come again).


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