Jump directly to the content

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 In an age when newer is better in most industries, that many people are choosing to wear blatantly outdated apparel seems counterintuitive."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
Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didn’t learn to.
Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

I know from experience what happens when children face moving, divorce, or other stressful life change—and how we can help them.
The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

After interviewing 120 women, I saw glimmers of a truce in the Mommy Wars.
The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.

Follow Us

Twitter

  • RT @denverseminary: Super proud of Katie Jo, a current student, sharing about living with w/ an autoimmune disease over on @CTmagazine htt2026
  • How do we keep our kids safe, while still living in community with friends and neighbors? https://t.co/708pIr3j79
  • A good day to remember abolitionist Hannah More https://t.co/KT6MvTpTyt https://t.co/6Rl7QaC1Dp
  • Tough subject. Thankful for Nana Dolce's willingness to share from her own experience. https://t.co/61N3Edlmlh
  • When acquaintances can be abusers, even Christian fellowship can be tricky for families https://t.co/708pIr3j79


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
This Rockabilly Christian Life