What is retro, vintage and antique?

It is quite amazing how quickly the years slip by and when style and fashion comes around again being described as vintage or retro, you know you are getting old or as we like to put it here at Cheltenham Vintage Retro, maturing into middle youth! It is shocking sometimes when you hear a song on the radio described as a Golden Oldie and realise its on your favourites playlist on your MP3 that’s if you are not still using your vintage stereo system with vinyl records! When you have to try to be down with the kids, then you really are not and so before we completely fossilise, let us take a look at the meaning of what is retro, vintage, and antique in terms of style, fashion, and décor.

What is retro? Madonna & Mick Jagger? Or are they just antique?So considering Madonna is nearly sixty and Mick Jagger is nearly seventy, in vintage and retro terms, this makes their older records and music memorabilia very popular with collectors of all kinds. The same applies to almost everything for the home and different eras had different designs, different sense of style in furnishings, décor, carpets, lighting and art work – sometimes tasteful sometimes kitsch but collectible to many enthusiasts. Looking at a piece of furniture or textile will give you an imaginary timeline where the item sits in terms of retro, vintage or antique. Remember also that contemporary reproductions are available when trends follow a particular vibe, but they cannot replace the originals.

The age of an item is the invisible value and identification of whether it is antique, retro or vintage. Rarity is another of the intangibles that need to be taken into account along with the condition of an object, the quality and whether it was bespoke or mass-produced. Nostalgia is a force to reckon with and often people will but objects that remind them of childhood or a different age they feel drawn to. Perhaps they like the music or culture of the time or saucy postcards remind them of seaside holidays.

It is difficult to certify dates of origin particularly with more common objects and unless you are a real expert, it can be difficult to assess what is retro, vintage and so forth and easy to be taken in by spurious claims on eBay for example. This is why a local reputable dealer in retro and vintage finds can be your best port of call.

Finally, let us take a look at what different terms mean now we have had a little tour into the past!

Antique – Antique items are at least 100 years old with provenance where the age can be proved by maker’s marks, hallmarks, and so forth. The term antique does not necessarily mean an object is valuable. As is usual, quality and scarceness add value as does exceptional craftsmanship and popularity with collectors. For example, old medical instruments will appeal to a small niche of collectors whereas old sporting postcards would be more popular and while available in large quantities, demand can push the price up. Whether teaspoons, dressers or first editions are your choice, antique is always old!

Vintage – is likely to be an object you find in the attic or in the grandparent’s wardrobe. It is also a great term to describe used objects that have seen better days. However, for real vintage enthusiasts, the object will be under a hundred years old and no less than forty years. This wide time band can incorporate some spectacular objects and collections, vintage guitars, sports equipment, ceramics, kitchenware, clothing and furnishings are usually style related within this period. Vintage can be trendy and is a popular interior design theme that could be postcolonial or kitchen kitsch. Naturally, the best of design and manufacture will be sought after.

Retro – There is definitely more than a touch of nostalgia about retro fashions and styles. Most people find defining what is retro difficult. Most dictionaries define retro as either “relating to”, “reviving” or being “the styles and especially fashions of times past”. Retro looks appear in fashion trends that make mothers feel old when they see their daughters in the same fashions they wore yesteryear and makes fathers rue the day they bought their first pair of light blue flared trousers to go with the tank top their aunt knitted.

Retro furniture may not be very old, but it takes the essence and looks of a previous era. Real retro furniture is likely to be identified by the styling of any labels and general wear and tear.

2 Responses to “What is retro, vintage and antique?”

  1. Lynda September 23, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Great explanation! And yes very scary how the years tick by, laughed at the Golden Oldies on the playlist! Hmm, too familiar. Thanks for the post!

    • Len September 23, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      Cheers Lynda. Love the look of bachology, best of luck with it!

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