You hear it a lot. Everyone is using ‘retro’ in connection with almost anything, be it fashion, cars, games, posters, aesthetics, kitchenware, decor, music etc. You know ‘retro’ can be a good thing, and you know it’s probably about “Oldies, but goldies”. But just how old are we talking exactly? Let’s find out!
What Is Retro?
‘Retro’ comes from the Latin word for “backwards” or “behind”. It entered the English language through the French short form of ‘retrospectif’ (retrospective). It is an adjective used to describe a usually nostalgic return to a style or a trend from the past. So something can be retro even if it’s not old. It can give a retro vibe; it can be of retro inspiration, meaning it may very well be new and feature details that are fondly reminiscent of the recent past.
How far back does retro go? The consensus is that retro pertains to the past 20 to (close to) 40 years. Relative to the 2020s, that would mean that the styles of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s are retro.
It is also a widespread belief that some furniture companies, for instance, try to misrepresent their merchandise by labelling it retro, when what they are, in fact, selling is just old and outdated.
Something that is indeed retro is evocative of a time when things were simpler – therefore better – financially, emotionally or socially. In that way, retro is also comforting and aspirational. Basically, it’s your happy childhood years!
Retro In Fashion
The ideas that set the tone here are sustainability and affordability. All garments that fancy themselves falling into the retro fashion category have to be sustainable and invite nostalgia in a way that doesn’t bankrupt anyone. That is if the goal of said garments is to be hip now, in the early 2020s.
Retro In Interior Design
In the case of interior design, the previously mentioned period of 20 to 40 years applies just the same. The general opinion is that retro design spreads from the 1950s to the 1980s. If it makes early years’ memories flicker in your mind, and it’s roughly 20 years old, it’s most likely a piece of retro furniture. That is also true for memories brought back by pieces that are, let’s say, only a month old, but manage to capture the aesthetic of your childhood bed frame or bookshelf.
Retro In Cars
The retro motor vehicle world is all about recent car models whose manufacturers went for fresh sources of inspiration and found themselves admiring older designs. Therefore, this category is comprised of cars that are about all the latest technology under the hood and today’s performant materials, reinterpreted in the style of past successful editions. Among the most appreciated examples of such cars, there are MINI, Ford Mustang, Fiat 500, Porsche 911, Mercedes G-Class, and Suzuki Jimny.
What Is Vintage?
“Of age” is the meaning of the word “vintage”, so there is no doubt that, in this case, back in time means at least 50 years ago. Unlike retro, vintage is not the new paying tribute to the old. It is about the old that survived into the present, giving it a touch of uniqueness.
Vintage In Fashion
Clothing that is old enough (older than 20 but under 100 years old) and also features style characteristics of the time when it was manufactured is considered vintage clothing. A good place to still find it is curated thrift stores. Thrifting has become increasingly popular because it meets several needs, such as recycling as a solution to fast fashion and saving money.
Vintage In Interior Design
Since there are several decades that vintage design can refer to, many vintage styles have appeared during the years. Therefore, there are many options for interior designers and their clients to choose from. Some of these styles are art deco, shabby chic, industrial, mid-century modern, and French-country. The materials most frequently used are wood (stained or distressed) and natural fabrics combined with authentic or aged pieces of furniture.
Vintage In Cars
When it comes to cars, opinions are diverse and different from other areas of interest in which one can talk about vintage. Motor vehicles built between 1919 and 1930 have the moniker of vintage. These cars are either authentic or rebuilt according to the manufacturer’s specifications and are not bought for daily use but rather for collections and shows. Examples of vintage cars are Ford Model T Sedan (1919), Hudson Super Six Phaeton (1921), Aston Martin Grand Prix (1924) and Cadillac V-16 (1930).
What Is Antique?
‘Antique’ is used to describe objects that are valuable because of their age, historical significance, beauty and uniqueness.
Antique In Fashion
Antique wear is considered clothing that is at least 100 years old. Since we’re talking about fabrics, we can easily imagine how rare such old items can be, and therefore how costly. The golden rule for antique garments is that their age must be verifiable. Otherwise, it is better to label them as vintage.
Antique In Interior Design
As with antique fashion, antique decor is the name given to objects older than 100 years. Antique style is a broader term that encompasses all the different styles that meet the age criteria. Examples are Art Nouveau, Neo-Greek, Victorian, Rennaisance Revival, and Gothic Revival.
Antique In Cars
The age factor requires cars to be over 45 years old to be catalogued as antique. Similar to vintage cars, they are not meant for daily drives but rather for long-term projects and shows. Some of the most memorable antique cars are Ford Roadster (1932), Volkswagen Beetle (1938), Oldsmobile Super 88 (1951), Porsche Speedster (1956), Chevrolet Corvette (1957), and Dodge Charger (1968).
Vintage Vs. Retro Vs. Antique
In conclusion, different fields have different ways of keeping track of what is vintage, retro or antique. However, retro is certainly the new inspired by the old. Vintage is under 100 years, and anything older is antique.