The label that is “vintage”. Put it in front of anything, and stuff suddenly becomes cool…
My bicycle at university, for example, the mighty and appropriately-named Lance was the most hideous shade of pink. It was a skinny vintage Raleigh bike that had seen better days with drop handlebars and a distinct lack of braking power.
But it was vintage, and therefore cool and rapidly became the most desirable item I owned. The number of compliments I received back then…even though Lance let out a screech which sounded like an elephant giving birth at every red light.
A while ago I stayed with a friend near Limoges and we spent a lot of time toddling around the markets which sprouted up every Tuesday in the neighbouring villages. On one occasion, browsing a car boot full of tat, I came across an acceptable jewellery box that had quite an interesting design. I opened it to find a couple of dead flies and a tube of ointment which must have gone off in the 70’s. Curling my lip, I was putting it back when an old man who was sitting under a fig tree shouted something unintelligible. Smiling warily I waved and said “Non merci!” in my chirpiest French. This did not do the trick, and he hobbled over. Placing his hand a little too far down my back, he started explaining why I needed this hingeless wonder in my life. He claimed it used to belong to Marie Antoinette. My resolve strengthened. He told me it was a pretty thing for a pretty girl – but I stood firm. And then Cara bounced over and said “Oh wow, that’s cool, love it! Vintage, yeah?” Next thing I knew I was handing over €25.
Being a clumsy person, I’m generally a fan of old things, like my second-hand car which doesn’t mind getting its wing mirrors scraped. There’s something about newness which makes me slightly uneasy, like women who wear white trousers. It makes me uncomfortable when something is so perfect, I just know that I’m going to break it. My iPod lasted an impressive four hours before receiving its first scratch. My laptop was doing well until I dropped a plate on it. Most books in the house have been dropped in the bath or had tea spilt on them, but for some reason it makes them feel more mine. This is quite the opposite to vintage I suppose, when the value of the item stems from the fact that it was once someone else’s.
The thing is with vintage is that it makes it all the more unlikely that anyone else can have it. It’s never fun when you turn up somewhere and there’s another person wearing the same thing. You can pretend all you like that you honestly don’t mind and laugh it off with a cry of “twins!” and pose for a photo.
My fashionista New Yorker friend bought me a pair of vintage boots for my eighteenth birthday and even now I love being asked where I got them and being able to come back with “oh actually they’re vintage”, accompanied by a facial expression which clearly means “Ha!” Such power with this simple reply. By claiming an item’s vintage status, you’re asserting its uniqueness and mind-bending unattainability. It can be difficult to fight the magpie-like tendency to fall for anything shiny and new, but vintage stuff often expresses a lot more originality and personality than your everyday purchases. And originality and personality are never going to go out of fashion.