Life through sepia coloured lenses

Ray-Ban Wayfarers, record players, Polaroid cameras and pre-worn Doc Martens are all evidence of popular culture’s current obsession with all things “vintage”. Writer Carlie Auclair explores our infatuation with nostalgia.

By Carlie Auclair

When it comes to all things vintage, I have to admit I’m on board 110 per cent and always have been. I can’t resist the intricate romantic detail that goes into a good piece of antique jewelry, and nothing gets my blood moving like a dusty old curio shop filled with weathered relics from the past. Gilt frames excite me and retro furniture makes me giddy. Since I could remember, my parents have claimed I was an “old soul” and that I was born in the wrong decade–and despite their accusations, they did have a point.

I could never pinpoint why I gravitated towards the days of yore and all the artifacts surrounding them; I just always felt more attracted to older movies, books and fashions. It’s probably because, in my opinion, people seemed to care more about their style and overall appearance back then. Everything seemed more dignified; cars had the delicate curves of a Rubenesque painting and houses seemed to be constructed with passion and care. How can you not cling to these whimsical intricacies when we are surrounded by a world of cookie cutter neighborhoods and silver sedans?  Is there anything more romantic and exciting than a Toyota Camry?

It’s hard not to notice this sudden throwback mania everywhere I go; it appears that everyone has their hands in the vintage pot. On a recent trip to San Francisco, vintage culture appeared to be more than thriving. I noticed this when I checked out a couple of hip new restaurants and the majority of them seemed to embrace classic cocktails and the retro culture surrounding them.

Names like Vodka Gimlet, Mint Julep and Gin Fizz filled the cocktail menu pages. Yes, they do seem like the senior’s special du jour, but when paired with a taxidermy spackled wall, a few shelves of antique books and a mustachioued bartender, it all manages to work quite well. Even hipster retail giants like Urban Outfitters and the recently doomed American Apparel have been cashing in on the vintage trend for some time now.

The knick knack or “Gift” section at Urban Outfitters’ are a perfect example of this. Basically, it looks like a garage sale at my aunt Mabel’s. Record players, Polaroid cameras, and manufactured jewelry made to look antique flood the eye-level shelves.
The part I find funny is that all of this stuff is carefully marketed to kids who have never even come close to setting foot in the era in which this stuff first became popular. It raises the question that maybe our youth has finally had it with the over processed culture we live in. Could we be searching for something simpler?

Finally, during a quick browse for fall clothes, I spied a pair of already “worn in” Doc Marten boots that retailed for $150 at Urban Outfitters; the same pair, in fact, that I found at the Salvation Army for $20 (and I can assure that included in the price was that gritty “worn in” look). It seems silly to pay such high prices for jeans with holes in them and sweaters that look like they have been found in a heap at the bottom of grandma’s closet. But whether it’s silly or not this trend is on the rise and young people are opening their wallets.

In my opinion, if you can’t live without that $200 Cowichan sweater from Aritzia that looks cozier than a pumpkin spice latte on Vancouver Island, maybe save yourself 170 bucks and head down to the thrift store. I guarantee you, their version is way cheaper and is of far better quality.


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