Vintage! Vintage! Vintage! (Frankie – 2009)
Press stud check shirts and three piece flared suits
Art Deco prints and mod Beatle boots
vintage scrabble with no pieces missing
a few of my favourite second hand things.
Ah yes, like Scrooge McDuck used to flap wildly about in his columns of cash, the modern young thing can interpretive dance around shelves of perishable trinkets and wardrobes laden with long-lost fabrics, basking in the wealth of yesteryear. Boy/Girl, do we love vintage! If we had it our way, the whole world would be one big ‘the 60’s.’ Psychedelic pop art, milk in bottles, mint condition Stones records and no-one would have to go to work. We’d be too busy running barefoot through the sun drenched grass, on our way to the Sunbury markets.
For me, like many, a relationship with retro began as a child. Stomping about on orange and cream carpets, fighting with crochet pillows, being scolded for getting too close to the Royal Doulton tea sets – soothed by the bottle green pleats of Nan’s polyester skirt. Second hand stores existed within our first hand homes. Who hasn’t looked through the square window of childhood photos and seen a vintage catalogue. Your two toned blue Hawaiian t shirt, your Mum’s maroon cardigan, the yellow and chestnut diamond curtains – you’d happily buy it all. We learned to associate the bright woollens and warm vinyls of the past with a safe, adoring environment.
After rinsing away the brainwash of high school, we strolled independent through the bell-tripped opportunity doors. Baskets and racks, tables and shelves lay brimming like twenty cent smorgasbords. A museum of manufacturing seen through a Kodachrome kaleidoscope. If there are super foods then surely these were super things! Collectibles you could wear. Secrets you could sift. Modern antiques you could pick up and play. Treasure hunts, dress ups, shopping and charity all wrapped up in one glorious ball of wool. In a corruptible world, op shopping was our ideal private universe.
Ten years on and corruption has crept in like mildew. What was once an innocent love affair has been exploited into a vintage ‘industry.’ We are mere consumer demographic for big city boutiques; A-grade hoarders glued to E-Bay like arty pokie victims. Ironically, at a time when quality retro is supposed to be running out, we are granny blanketed with prize finds that have had the ‘treasure’ sucked off them like chocolate and the price tags privatised. Second hand has been sanitised for the mainstream. Like meat was once hunted and vegetables were grown, vintage was once ‘found.’ Now, it comes marked up and mark free.
Last year, in an attempt to keep up with this acceleration, my op shopping became more aggressive. I bled my internet trigger finger until my post box was choked with the 70’s ties I collect. I patrolled the inner-city circuit, budget blind and paying up to $20 dollars a piece. I chatted up store assistants and asked to look through the boxes out the back – on my hands and knees, rummaging through the retro rainbow, forever out of reach and drawing me forth. I was trying to collect an unlimited set. With the sense of discovery and bargain aspect gone, what was left? This was no casual afternoon browse, this was calculated retail therapy. I had mutated my hobby into a necessity, a distraction, a competition, an emotional drug. I was trying to buy my way back to better times. I was just another consumer filling a void. I had out retro’d myself.
With the commercialisation of vintage, it’s easy to lose sight of the wide-eyed wonder that drew us to it in the first place. I’ve recovered from my blow out, learning to put the mod in moderation. It helps to venture out to the country, where many op shops still remain untouched. They remind us that second hand cannot be measured in monetary wealth, but in that childlike elation where one’s trash becomes your treasure. The surprise hug from the past, somehow meant just for you.