New Old Stuff
April 15, 2009 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Is there a term for the rising popularity of new things manufactured to look old, such as relic guitars, faded jeans, and worn picture frames?

I am fascinated by the rise in popularity in the last 10-15 years of "false vintage" or "manufactured antiques". A new lamp or painting that's already got chips and scuffs on it... jeans that are faded or have holes in them... "relic" or "road-worn" guitars... etc. It seems like we love the idea of old things but don't have the patience or resources to wear them out ourselves.

My question: is there a general term for this cultural phenomenon that encompasses all of the above? They are related conceptually, but each industry or category has their own specific terms that don't apply to the others (i.e. you wouldn't call a pair of jeans with holes in them "relic"). Is there anywhere I can read more about it?
posted by relucent to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Some of this falls under shabby chic, perhaps? I hate that term.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:53 AM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: I've also heard "faux vintage" used as a catch-all term for this kind of thing.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:54 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by onshi at 7:55 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:55 AM on April 15, 2009

posted by twirlypen at 7:56 AM on April 15, 2009

"Antiquing" or "distressing" is a pretty generic term for the act of making artifacts look older than they are, particularly the sorts of objects you're talking about. Wikipedia includes it as part of a movement known as "shabby chic", but I'd never heard that term before, and the article has no references so, yeah.

Some of it is a lack of patience, but it's also attributable to a higher demand for old-seeming goods than there are goods of sufficient age to have taken on the desired appearance. There aren't enough 1950s guitars to go around, but it's pretty easy to make a guitar look old, even if it was made last month.
posted by valkyryn at 7:56 AM on April 15, 2009

I call it "Anthropologie," but "nostalgia" might be closer to the mark. I wouldn't say it means that people love the "idea" of old things so much as they like the look of them. On preview, "shabby chic" and "distressed" for sure.
posted by rhizome at 7:57 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Vintage" is the phrase I hear used most often.
posted by aheckler at 7:58 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nostalgia chic?
posted by synecdoche at 8:09 AM on April 15, 2009

Like 99% of "Is there a word for this?" AskMe questions, you're asking this because you've noticed a phenomenon there doesn't seem to be a word for; predictably, none of the suggestions exactly describes it. "Retro" and "nostalgia" don't just mean things that look worn-out. "Vintage" means things that truly are old, not things that are artificially treated to look old. "Distressed" is exactly right for jeans but not so much for picture frames. "Faux vintage"?
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2009

posted by wyzewoman at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2009

Old-timey? I have friends whose bands fit the "new music in an old style" model, and we tend to refer that music as old-timey.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:15 AM on April 15, 2009

nthing distressed
posted by asras at 8:16 AM on April 15, 2009

"Vintage" means things that truly are old, not things that are artificially treated to look old. "Distressed" is exactly right for jeans but not so much for picture frames. "Faux vintage"?

I don't see how distressed works for jeans and not for a picture frame -- in what way is that term garment-centric other than the fact that it is often applied to denim? I have seen it used with reference to furniture, which I think is nearer to picture frames. An alternative would be "antiqued", although that refers more to a subtle patina or other changes in colour than to gross wear-and-tear (knicks, scratches, gouges).

Faux vintage would be new goods manufactured in the style of a previous era, not roughed up to look worn (as I understand it, vintage goods are prized/valued more when they are less worn out). Would there be any distinction this and and "re-issue" or "reproduction", beyond minor variations from the original product (perhaps to avoid trademark or related issues)?
posted by onshi at 8:23 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Web designer Cameron Moll called this "that wicked worn look."
posted by bcwinters at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2009

2nding valkyryn. My mom and her friends did this in the 1970s and they would call it "antiquing" something. For example, they would beat a piece of furniture with a hammer and then rub stain into the cracks and crevices. My point is they called it antiquing in the 70s.

Also, in the 70s we called fake aged jeans "acid-washed". (yes we had them back then too!)

Stock photographers use the words "grunge" and "vintage" as keywords for images with a fake aged look. But that doesn't seem to transfer to other things - you wouldn't call a fake antique table "grunge". So I'm following this thread because I'am also curious.
posted by cda at 8:25 AM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: I think "nostalgia" is one of the terms that fits some of what relucent is asking about, but not all of it. My own intuition, anyway, is that it fits better with things that recall specific eras. A rusted 1950's Coca-Cola sign going for $1000 in an antique store could pass for nostalgia chic, but simply pre-faded jeans? If they're bell-bottomy or have some kind of hippie patch on them, then sure, but otherwise I think it needs a different term.

As for whether we like the look or the idea of old stuff, we like the look because we like the idea, no? And we like the idea in the sense that old things appear (probably falsely) to have an authenticity lacking in the present?

Maybe the catch-all term this suggests is something along the lines of "fauxthentic". But then that casts too wide a net, where "nostalgia" cast one too narrow...
posted by Beardman at 8:29 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nostalgia + chic = nostalgchic?
posted by jamjam at 8:36 AM on April 15, 2009

My personal term for this is "fauxthentic".
posted by Benjy at 8:42 AM on April 15, 2009

I like "faxuthentic" or "faux vintage." People like vintage things, but the price may be too high as the items become valued, or they want something that looks old, but has the features of something new.
posted by fructose at 8:49 AM on April 15, 2009

Best answer: If you are fascinated, Gilmore and Pine's 'Authenticity' and other books - and their TED talk was recently on the blue - discuss this in the context of real-fake and so on. I don't have my book with me so I can't tell you what class they'd organize replicas like that in, but their categories are useful for mentally describing stuff like this.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 8:51 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by plokent at 8:59 AM on April 15, 2009

Nthing shabby chic (or, as craigslist furniture ads occasionally, hilariously, spell it, chabby chic).
posted by rustcellar at 9:04 AM on April 15, 2009

Wabi-sabi? "The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete" (...) The words wabi and sabi do not translate easily. Wabi originally referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; sabi meant "chill", "lean" or "withered". Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations. Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. It can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs."
posted by iviken at 9:15 AM on April 15, 2009

Also, in the 70s we called fake aged jeans "acid-washed". (yes we had them back then too!)

I don't know about the 70s, but distressed jeans today often appear to have been worked on (perhaps by hand) with abrasives or other tools so that they are scuffed, frayed, or otherwise "aged". There's more to it than an acid wash, though you can still get 'em that way, too.
posted by onshi at 9:19 AM on April 15, 2009

Wabi-sabi is a related concept, but I think that purposefully adding imperfections or wear as a stylistic affectation is probably antithetical to that aesthetic.
posted by onshi at 9:21 AM on April 15, 2009

Patina, and specifically applied patina, is also related.
posted by umbĂș at 9:30 AM on April 15, 2009

Response by poster: How about I invent one! "Manufactured authenticity."

Maybe what I was referring to isn't actually oldness like I first thought, but rather the look of the item having been through something it wasn't (regardless of age). A relic guitar doesn't need to be 40 years old, it could just be 10 years old with heavy touring (or Stevie Ray Vaughan), and that's "authentic", rather than a custom shop relic that came off the line a couple of months ago looking that way. The jeans don't need to be from the 70's, they just need to have real holes in them from actual work.

Thanks for all the answers so far, you guys have been very helpful.
posted by relucent at 9:50 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I remember in the late 90s, this was really popular with furniture in little boutiques -- side tables with worn paint and the like. I remember the term "shabby chic" was used a lot...
posted by pazazygeek at 10:07 AM on April 15, 2009

I call it "heritaged up".
posted by verstegan at 10:22 AM on April 15, 2009

"Vintage-look" and "retro-styled" are the most common ways people (and by "people" here, I mean "editors who assign hackwork to underpaid magazine writers") describe the overall phenomenon of new things manufactured to look old.

I would suggest that this is pretty far away from wabi-sabi as an aesthetic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:32 AM on April 15, 2009

Fake antiques.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:37 PM on April 15, 2009

I think distressed works for just about anything.
posted by magikker at 3:16 PM on April 15, 2009

I just came across a pair of jeans in a mega-thrift store (the Unique Thrift Store / Value Village chain) that was photo-printed to look like faded premium jeans. They were some Euro brand I can't recall. I looked at the back side of the fabric and it was white (not the blue/white stripe effect of regular blue denim weave).

Those jeans attained some netherworld of contrivance, or else hip irony, depending on in what spirit someone wore them.
posted by bad grammar at 4:45 PM on April 15, 2009

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