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This Rockabilly Christian Lifexshamethestrongx / Flickr

This Rockabilly Christian Life


Jun 24 2014
Retro style and the inescapable, human longing for times gone by.

My rockabilly friends hoard 1950s-era fiberglass lampshades and Formica-topped tables. They drive clunky, chrome-trimmed, gas-guzzling cars that have no seatbelts and sometimes leave them stranded on long trips. The guys sport gabardine suits and greased-back pompadours. The gals carry '50s Lucite purses and wear full-skirted dresses with armfuls of bangles. They swing their dance partners to thumping music played by tattooed upright bass players.

Walking into these events, a retro dance or hot rod car show, it feels like traveling back in time. These 21st-century folks live and breathe the culture of the 1950s. Yet again, in our seemingly endless cycles of American nostalgia, everything old is new again.

The '50s revival is popping up everywhere, from television shows like Mad Men to fashion runways. This spring, GQ declared rockabilly the style trend for 2014. Models sported pompadours, cuffed jeans and embroidered western shirts. Even musicians are showing bits of vintage rock 'n roll style. A writer for Modern Salonnotes, "Then it was guys like Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Carl Perkins driving the trend… today, it's Bruno Mars, David Beckham, and Henry Holland."

Some cultural critics attribute the obsession with this time period to a collective longing for simpler times when "American" values were more clearly defined. In her blog for Ms. Magazine, Amy Williams suggested, "The late 1940s and early 1950s tend to be remembered in the popular imagination as a time of virtue."

Portrayals of the 1950s are often idyllic with bobby socks and saddle shoes. The clothing and cars evoke memories, real and imagined. But today's '50s-loving crowd also collect vintage items and adopt retro styles as a way resist the conformity of modern-day shopping mall chains.

Forbes reported, "At surface level, the obsession with vintage clothing among young people may be baffling. In an age when newer is better in most industries, that many people are choosing to wear blatantly outdated apparel seems counterintuitive." This newfound interest in vintage has resulted in the rise of Internet sites like Etsy and Ebay and even retail shops offering reproduction vintage wear.

I remember my first purchase at an antique shop, a white vase with pink roses – the only thing I could afford. I went on to buy felt hats from the 1940s with sequins, netting, and dusty floral embellishments to hang in my bedroom. In graduate school, I wandered into a vintage clothing store and bought a red embroidered 1940s cocktail dress that made me feel, for one moment, like the glamorous woman who wore it first.

Related Topics:Clothing; U.S. History
From: June 2014

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