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 In an age when newer is better in most industries, that many people are choosing to wear blatantly outdated apparel seems counterintuitive."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.

Article continues below

Is loving the past foolish? Whether the lure for the glittering Gatsby looks of the '20s, the big hair of the '80s, or the classic '50s styles that I can't resist, does dreaming of the past distract us from the present? In the movie Midnight in Paris, a man obsessed with 1920s Paris is granted his desire to travel back in time. He mingles with Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. His friend scorns his obsession with the past, saying, "Nostalgia is denial for the painful present. It's a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present."

Even the Bible seems to warn against concentrating too much on the past. Lot's wife turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back at the town she left behind. The apostle Paul urges, "Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Phil. 3:13). But, taken in context, it is clear that these passages focus on a personal sinful past, not the rejection of people and times gone by.

I don't think the Bible takes a stance against appreciating the lives and styles of those who have gone before us, in fact, I think it endorses it. The New Testament begins with a genealogy, detailing each life that preceded the birth of Christ. Each name is evidently important enough for us to know and remember. One of my favorite chapters of the Bible, Hebrews 11, lists the "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before us. One by one they are named and their lives remembered in detail. We are to appreciate our legacy and even treasure it.

Image: Courtesy of Jamie Janosz

My Christianity, like my closet, is more than a little bit vintage. I adore the old hymns of the church, even in the days of electric guitars and synthesizers. I find comfort in singing with a piano to "bringing in the sheaves" and "rescuing the perishing." I appreciate the seemingly dated language of the King James Version of the Bible, not because I do not value the present, but because I also cherish the past. I want to know the entire story of the faith, not just the part I'm living in. For me, the best parts of the Christian tradition are steeped in the past.

A healthy view of vintage allows us to enjoy the best parts of the past while living fully in the present. We must resist idealizing the past, even while appreciating the benefits of what has gone before. It is not an all or nothing issue. Everything new is not better, just as everything old is not worthless. Addicted to smart phones and WiFi, who hasn't waxed poetic about a day uninterrupted by modern technology? Maybe that's why this nostalgic version of '50s culture repeats itself in modern mainstream society.

Article continues below

In her article for Forbes, Hennessey suggests our interest in vintage is about telling a unique story. She says, "This living form of art holds power – power to control a part of one's image. A person can play a role, embody a story or represent an era based on what he or she chooses to wear."

Whether you wear a circle skirt or parachute pants, appreciating vintage culture allows us to blend the past and the present. When we tap the keys of a 1950s typewriter or strum the strings of a vintage upright Kay bass, we embrace the full circle of life – the good and the bad.

We show our appreciation of all that came before us and use it to create a story that only we can tell.

Jamie Janosz is a writer, wife, mother, and can most often be found exploring thrift and antique shops. She and her husband, Milt, enjoy participating in the Chicago rockabilly scene. Jamie works as the Content Strategy Manager at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and is the author of When Others Shuddered: Eight Women Who Refused to Give Up by Moody Publishers. Read more about women of faith and her passion for collecting vintage at