At Thanksgiving I heard one of my friends mention something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. The idea that our generation was born with nostalgia for things we never experienced. This is something that I have often thought about. We dream of being born in other decades. We try to recreate pasts we were never apart of.
When I was a child and obsessed with reading all the American Girl books and the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, I wanted badly to a pioneer woman. Every day I put in my hair in two long braided pigtails and for Christmas I was ecstatic when I received the American Girls cookbook where I would learn how to make old fashioned recipes that maybe Kirsten or Felicity had made. In the fall my mother and I made strawberry jam to enter in the Dixie Classic County Fair (honorable mention- hell yeah!). Soon though I learned about the 1960s. Flower Power has very popular at Limited Too at the time and I had grown up on my parents Oldies music. I spent all my time listening to 93.1 Golden Oldies music and making posters that said Make Love Not War. My sister hated this. This stayed with me all through high school. I wanted to be a part of the sexual revolution and burn my bra! (Not really, bras are expensive! I didn’t wear one for several years though as a protest. This was not a popular decision in my family. ) I wanted to move to San Francisco and live in Haight-Ashbury. I dreamed of listening to great musicians and writing beatnik poetry.
This is a sentiment that I’ve seen repeated in many of my friends. We ignore the fact that sexual harassment and discrimination was rampant back then. We ignore the prejudices we ourselves would have had back then. Maybe it would have fun and maybe all the 1960s freedom and love would have terrified my suburban ass.
And yet, even today’s styles are nostalgic for the past. We also see fashion trends that repeat (if you wore it the first time, you don’t get it to do it the second time around) but so quickly and intensely? The whole hipster thing? I’ve seen the book cover, “Dad was the Original Hipster.” Oh no, my friend. Dad wasn’t the original hipster. You just dress like your dad. Like your weird, embarrassing (and probably cool, no offense Dad!) father and you don’t even have kids yet. Everywhere in Austin are styles of yesteryear. Boys wearing tight jeans, short shorts, mustaches and flannel are as common as rainbow sandals and popped up polos are in the Carolinas. Girls wearing high-waisted bell bottoms, ’90s army jackets, combat boots, and midriff tops surround me in every bar and ’40s style swimsuits are just as likely to be spotted as too-tiny string bikinis. And I love it! Many of things live in my closet too. But it’s a little strange right? Fashion didn’t always look to the past for inspiration.
And it’s not just fashion. This idea of DIY, eating local, eating homemade foods that haven’t been processed is also a grasp at the past. Canning is the newest hobby. Everyone’s growing gardens as if Uncle Sam asked them too. This is also fantastic! I haven’t managed to kill my lemon tree, basil or chive plant and I find that pretty victorious. I love using things I’ve grown myself, but it all comes back to this idea that we’ve gotten too far away from our roots and we’re trying to find our way back. When did that happen? We repaint old furniture. I have a record collection and drink out of mason jars. I shop at vintage stores. Older is better. The more history you can associate with the object, the more success.
There’s also a nostalgia for times that have barely even passed. In addition to learning about the “21 things that Miley Cyrus and her bleached eyebrows look like”, on Buzzfeed.com you can also read about things like 31 Items of Clothing ’00s Teens Will Never Wear Again, 30 Signs You Were a Teenager in the Early 2000s, 29 Signs You’re Stuck in the ’90s, and 25 Important Style Tips Rayanne Graff from “My So-Called Life” Taught You. I mean, really?And that’s barely a blip on the radar of all the blast from the past sort of stuff they have. And people love it! I read these too.
Is it because we grew up with people always referring to better times? Things just aren’t like they used to be and all that? Is it because our generation is so wrapped up in technology and careers that we find ourselves searching for things that will tie us to something real? Or is this just the way it’s always been?