The Older the Cooler—Our Fascination with “Vintage”

Recently I overhead someone ask where they could find a vintage version of a college T-shirt. Meaning one that “looks used and old.” They didn’t want the new seal or mascot, they wanted the old one. The original. It got me thinking—what makes us so fascinated by the “antique” or “vintage” look? Isn’t the idea to move into the future, not into the 1960s? Obviously not, and the same seems to apply to our attitudes toward t-shirts, parents, and cars, among other things.

Stage one is the novelty stage—we love what’s new, because it’s new, and are excited about our new purchase. The “honeymoon” stage of buying a car fits in here. We are the first to drive anywhere during the first year we own the car. Our attitude toward our parents are the same: in our first 5-8 years of our lives our parents know everything, and we love them to death. They know all. Until stage two, when it all starts to go downhill.

Stage two is, in vehicle years, from about 40,000 miles to 100,000 miles. It’s not new enough to be fun still, and it’s not a vintage old car with a wooden dashboard. This is also the “teenage” phase if you apply it to your parents. They aren’t so fun anymore between ages ten and twenty. That t-shirt is also just outdated at this point, or stained with sweaty circles. Not vintage old, just boring old. It’s not new, and not yet cool and vintage (if it will ever reach such esteemed status). See the trend?

Stage three is the coveted, but rarely attained “old school” category. This means the t-shirt, or vehicle, has aged beautifully and is now a rare gem that few people have. Maybe the rarity makes it special, or maybe it’s the sentimentality that comes with it being so daggon old. Either way, everyone wants it, and almost nobody can have it. It’s similar with parents. After age 20-25, parents start to get smarter, and hanging out with your parents is no longer uncool. In fact, by this point everyone’s mature enough to recognize a great relationship, t-shirt, or vehicle, when they see it.

What else do you think gets better with time?