Why is “Retro” Coming Back?

I have always loved the term “retro”. In the recent past, it was a throwaway term for some song or clothing that was old and out-of-date. “Oh, you’re so retro!” was the refrain. It wasn’t derogatory but it also wasn’t high praise.

However, times sure are changing!  Now, thanks to hipsters “retro” is so in. From Herman Miller office chairs to restaurant condiment squeeze bottle sets, retro and things like “Mid-Century Modern” are all the rage.

When we use the term “retro” what we mean is a style that consciously imitates trends, music, modes, fashions or attitudes of the past that no longer seem modern. As opposed to revivalism, also thought of as “unsentimental nostalgia,” retro creates a shift in thought from unsentimental to sentimental when referring to the past. I love the word and all that it means.

I recently visited a friend’s home in the Upper Midwest. Although we had been friends since college, I had never been to their home. They were ahead of their time when they built a rustic home filled with shiplap, repurposed bricks, wood floors and beams. What really caught my eye was their retro white Chambers gas stove from the 50’s. They had picked it up at a yard sale several years ago for $50 and refurbished it. This beauty didn’t have all of the modern bells and whistles of today’s stovetop ovens, but the look and feel of it screamed - “I’m retro and you should love me!”

My friends live in a rural area, not far from a major city. When they built their home, they wanted to maintain a throwback tone in their entire decorative theme. From repurposed kitchen floors, to an old farmhouse sink, to the lovely retro stove, their home was both nostalgically and practically retro.

Remember when you were a kid and your mother had all of her friends and neighbors over for a Tupperware party? I sure do. Who could forget the avocado green containers or tumblers of our childhood? Today, people love to collect retro Tupperware. It’s a hot item. What was once a throwaway item in your grandmother’s cabinets is now quite valuable. In fact, you can find a complete vintage/retro 1950’s era Tupperware set on eBay for $139!

“Who wants this stuff,” you ask. Obviously, there are a lot of people out there looking for retro/vintage items because the market is really booming. Original Mid-Century iconic chairs by Charles and Ray Eames commonly sell for thousands of dollars. Maybe the hit show Mad Men helped usher in the Mid-Century modern craze. Now people from Manhattan to Midland are collecting and selling epic items from their childhoods.

Vinyl records are retro, back in style and collectors’ items. Early albums from The Beatles like “Please Please Me” and “Introducing...the Beatles” have recently gone for $7,000 - $8,000! For Christmas this past year, I bought my father a record player so he could both put the needle on his old records, and also play his song library from his iPhone. Maybe now is the time to go to your parents or grandparents attics to find their lost collection of Frank Sinatra or Led Zeppelin?

Lastly, who doesn’t love Star Wars? With all of the new releases that have hit the theaters in the past few years, Star Wars memorabilia is at an all-time high. It is cool to walk around in a retro Wookie t-shirt from the 70’s.

Last year, the Kersten’s Antiques team became friends with Order 66. What and who is Order 66? Order 66, located in McKinney, Texas, is the largest Star Wars toys and collectibles store in the world. Jeff Durrazzo and his son, Josh, are the owners of Order 66 and they are considered the standard bearers for authenticating Star Wars memorabilia.

When we met with Jeff at his Order 66 store, he showed us Boba Fett’s original jet pack along with hair from Chewbacca’s original on-set costume. We were blown away at not only his collection and the story behind him starting the store, but more interesting was the value of some seemingly trivial memorabilia. For instance, the Spanish language version of the original 1977 Star Wars movie poster goes for almost $1,900 on 1stdibs.com. That is crazy, but I love it!

So, why has retro come back in style? Well, simply put, I believe it is because we all have a nostalgic longing for things of the past. We have memories crystallized in our minds that revolve around say a Star Wars figure or a playing the drums on a set of Tupperware bowls. Good memories warm your soul and we want to keep the good times rolling, don’t we?