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October 27, 2009 6:00 PM   Subscribe

I need visual examples of vintage influences (1920s-1950s) in current popular culture to prove retro design is still hip with the cool kids.

Putting together images for a style presentation. I want to hire a retro illustrator for a project but last week someone expressed belief that young people aren't interested in waxing nostalgic for a time they didn't live in. I just need to show solid proof of how off base that is. I need visual examples of pop culture and design (magazine ads, interior decor, popular products like the Dangerous Book for Boys, anything really...) to prove that modern people are still embracing very vintage inspiration and that retro style is still relevant in popular culture and embraced by younger people.

I have a lot already. Just want to see what I might not have thought of. Thanks oodles. You da bomb. Yes, you.
posted by miss lynnster to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You mean, beyond "Mad Men"?!
posted by ErikaB at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2009

Man, absolutely everything to do with Bioshock, the game, is retro-ed out, including some great takes on the style in poster format.
posted by disillusioned at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2009

Bioshock and Art Deco.

You could pick a hundred different music videos. Christina Aguilera for instance.
posted by fire&wings at 6:09 PM on October 27, 2009

I love this. MCM furniture, of course, is popular now. Some of the women's clothes in that link are not far from what you see now at Talbots, among others.
posted by jgirl at 6:10 PM on October 27, 2009

Don't forget Fallout!
posted by june made him a gemini at 6:11 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of Ikea's furniture has a retro style to it and Ikea is massively popular.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:14 PM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: Mad Men is 1960s. I'm talking earlier. This image is similar to the style I'm trying to pitch. Yes, it's dated. But it's classic American comfort food, with a tactile quality to it. Not slick digital looking stuff.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:20 PM on October 27, 2009

The Amy Winehouse song Rehab sounds very retro to me. Kind of reminds me of Ella Fitzgerald. Same with You Know I'm No Good.

Inglourious Basterds has a 60's/70's influence that is later than your timeframe, but you might want to consider it since most 20-somethings embraced it despite being born in the 80s.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2009

What ages are we talking here? Kids, teens, tweens, twenties?

Teen pop culture right now doesn't get any more poppier than Twilight, and there are tons of retro influences in the film (have never read the books) the ones that spring immediately to mind are the Converse sneakers that Belle wore, the red Ford truck she drove, all the Mies van der Rohe and Corbusier furniture in the Cullen house (all 50s, I believe).
posted by iconomy at 6:24 PM on October 27, 2009

Response by poster: I'm working on a board game. It's got classic rules -- nothing shockingly new -- so I think having a retro feel to the graphics is super appropriate. We want it geared to attract relatively hip 25-30 somethings.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:32 PM on October 27, 2009

young people aren't interested in waxing nostalgic for a time they didn't live in.
You could refute this point easily using skinny jeans, legwarmers and Ray-Bans on 18-year-olds. Doesn't help you with the art deco business specifically, but you would have an opportunity to yell "HEY-YO!" and slam the table triumphantly.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:33 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look for wedding blogs. SO much vintage-inspired stuff there. This blog has just changed its name, but used to be called Vintage Glam Weddings.
posted by pised at 6:39 PM on October 27, 2009

I'm sure you've thought of this, but if the image you just linked to is the style you're trying to pitch, just go to any store that has a healthy clientele of alternative 14-16 year-olds, and look at the buttons and fridge magnets they're selling. Half of them will be wittily-reappropriated 30's to 60's commercial iconography, often Rockwellian (though not in the examples I could find). Here are some random examples:


Also, here's someone else who thinks it's a fun idea to sell new things with old style.
posted by Beardman at 6:47 PM on October 27, 2009

If you haven't done so already, watch "Zathura"? It's a kid's film, but it's about a magic board-game from the 50s, and the movie has lots of loving lingering closeups of all the board-game art and pieces (an exquisite modern distilling of the 50's deco styling and art and typography).
I don't see screencaps of those closeups online though, and unfortunately the art in the movie-tie-in board-game was not as good :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 6:50 PM on October 27, 2009

Anne Taintor is apparently where all of these retro magnets and coasters with updated texts I've been buying are coming from.
posted by june made him a gemini at 6:58 PM on October 27, 2009

This "We Can Do It!" poster I've spied in many of my friends' bachelorette pads.
Bob Dobb will be a lasting manly image on his own, and lately there's been 'Smiling Bob' pitching Enzyte.
posted by carsonb at 6:59 PM on October 27, 2009

There are a bunch of pretty popular retro artists in the designer toy / "street" art world.

Shepard Fairey (that Obama Poster guy)
Josh Agle ("Shag" - post your period, I guess)
Mark Ryden (Creepy 50s kids never looked so good)
Brian Taylor (the Rustboy guy, new stuff is very "vintage")
Banksy (Won't link, might encourage him)
posted by ecurtz at 7:04 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could use Google Trends data as a good way to make the case that retro is still relevant, either by showing the increasing popularity of certain search terms (retro, vintage, wayfarers), or by looking at their increasing popularity versus other trends (vintage vs. stylish, vintage vs. new look, Clint Eastwood vs. Elijah Wood).
posted by The White Hat at 7:07 PM on October 27, 2009

'Keep Calm and Carry On' on posters, pillows, t-shirts etc. and all of its spawns are super hot right now. The original poster is from 1939.
posted by iconomy at 7:08 PM on October 27, 2009

Turner Classic Movies web design, logo, promos, etc. Yes, they're pitching classic films, but the fact is that TCM is marketing to a younger set - not to the people that will already watch the channel for the films they actually went to as kids. For example, the bumpers that have the people all coming out to see TCM on the makeshift drive-in in an urban setting, the night scenes with vintage signage, etc. Those are all produced to appeal to 18+. Besides, it's not "cool" to admit you don't like Turner Classic Movies (even if you don't).

Great thread, btw. I'm finding lots of great stuff from the answers above.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 7:14 PM on October 27, 2009

Yeah, go to Urban Outfitters.

But it's for a game design? Have the naysayers take a look at the design of two of the biggest-selling games of recent years, Cranium's Party Playoff and Apples to Apples. Party Playoff mixes Victorian-style engraving-look stereotype graphics and titling with 1960s fonts and layouts. Apples to Apples is very late 70s, with its Volkswagen-y card font and bursting-with-groovy-homemade-joy 70s block lettering on the box.

But I'm not sure anything is going to make sense to people who don't have a grasp of the cyclical nature of style motifs in pop culture.
posted by Miko at 7:16 PM on October 27, 2009

I seem to recall that you are based in LA, so I would think you would pretty frequently see "rat rods" out there which are almost always driven by 28-38-somethings with all the plaid, greased hair, tattoos and poodle skirts you can stand.

I think clothing and clothing labels often draw on vintage looks to give a sense of authenticity.

As someone who was a professional designer for five years and now teaches college-level design, I might steer away from identifying a style as specifically vintage and focus on some of the other descriptors you've used like textured, bold, friendly, hand-drawn, quirky, authentic etc. In my experience young people, including my students, don't respond to vintage imagery because of its time period so much as the visual qualities that are more prevalent at some times.

I wouldn't worry about an image appearing vintage and would maybe suggest to the client or the design team that we live in an era with lots and lots of different visual styles coexisting. I don't think a vintage look would turn anyone off or necessarily interest anyone on its own - again, I would focus on the specific visual look of whatever style you choose and extol those virtues.

Good luck with the project!
posted by Slothrop at 7:17 PM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lots of retro-styled decor on Apartment Therapy including these appliances, fans and clocks.
posted by contrariwise at 7:28 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

The retro magnets reminded me of the posters I've seen in many, many other college students' rooms:

1, 2, 3, 4

Old images + ironic commentary = super popular.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:41 PM on October 27, 2009

Burlesque, pinup, and rockabilly is SUPER trendy right now, and a lot of the style is based on that era.
posted by divabat at 8:34 PM on October 27, 2009

The not-so-recent interest in authentic replicas of Air Force MA-1 flight jackets by Buzz Rickson, kickstarted by William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

Gibson explains the trend here:
posted by nihraguk at 9:15 PM on October 27, 2009

The Wii has very similar industrial design to the original NES. Just rotated 90°.
posted by Netzapper at 9:20 PM on October 27, 2009

Comic books, too. Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library; swathes of Jimmy Corrigan, though the best 'retro' images in that are more 1890s)--Seth (It's a good life, if you don't weaken)--plenty of others, including lots that I don't know about, and that are [even] more recent. Looking through the two recent anthologies edited by Ivan Brunetti (1, 2) will yield more--just check out the covers. For someone designing a board game these things would be of obvious use.

This book, and probably others that Amazon might recommend to anyone browsing for it.

And plenty of blogs, websites, and so on, if my suggestions so far are too early-2000s.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 9:21 PM on October 27, 2009

Sky Captain? The Puppini Sisters?

Throwback cereal boxes?
Other brands and logos have been going retro too, I think... can't seem to think of which, though.

carsonb, I'll never forgive you, it's JR "Bob" Dobbs, and he's bulldada, not kitsch.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:48 AM on October 28, 2009

Lingerie aimed at your target demographic is tremendously retro-inspired, and the retro trend has been growing year on year for about the past five. The hottest lingerie labels right now are brands like Made by Niki, Fleur of England, Miss LaLa's Boudoir, all who have vintage-inspired pieces like highwaisted knickers, control girdles, slips, suspender belts and french knickers in their collections. There's even a lingerie store that caters specifically to that vintage look.
posted by ukdanae at 3:13 AM on October 28, 2009

On a completely different note, cycling seems to be going retro as well. Over here the English brand Pashley is doing tremendously well with their vintage-style racer the Guv'nor, and the adorable Pashley Poppy has turned up in magazines, shop windows and all over the web.
posted by ukdanae at 3:21 AM on October 28, 2009

Jay-Z goes for classic styles in suits. Example, example.
posted by electroboy at 6:49 AM on October 28, 2009

The Christina Aguilera song & music video: Candyman

(um...maybe don't play the whole thing in your presentation, the lyrics get pretty explicit)

Michael Buble is a pretty big deal in my social circle (early 20-somethings).

Outkast did the movie "Idlewild" back in 2006, which was set in 1935.

And I've seen posters like these in countless dorm rooms.

posted by castlebravo at 6:59 AM on October 28, 2009

Guinness Signs have never gone out of fashion, since the '30s.
posted by yhbc at 7:32 AM on October 28, 2009

To be honest, they're right. The retro style in graphic design really hit a peak in the late nineties/early 2000s: think of Altoid Ads, French paper company ads, the appearance of 1950s stock photography; the aesthetics of cheesiness (The Baffler, I think, even did a few article on cheesiness)--all more popular around a decade ago. Even a lot of the things that people are mentioning here (like Chris Ware and Seth) are things that were cool in the late nineties. If anything, the influence of obvious vintage is waning: American Apparel has pushed out Salvation Army and Urban Outfitters (which bankrupted the vintage t-shirt style) and ironic t-shirts and cowboy shirts now look incredibly gauche. A good example is the cardigan: they're very popular right now, but not the 1950s boxy cardigan of the '90s but a sleek, redesigned, fitted cardigan that is trying to avoid nostalgia at all costs. Most of the things that people are citing--such as retro greeting cards--are things that are pretty explicitly uncool; this retro style is, really, something that people in their mid-thirties might like and it's hard to imagine my hipper interns finding anything from the '50s attractive the way that a lot of thirtysomethings I know do. I feel like the cool kids (I'm not one of them) are into a very deconstructed, industrial look, like pop art and '80s New Wave filtered through the austerity of the '30s.

If there is a type of Americana that I think is popular among kids it's a sort of subliminal 1930s: think of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the recession, rounded collars on button-up shirts, a kind of couture Americana daintiness. There was even a Sartorialist post from a year or two ago where he said that he felt like the look he was seeing around the world was a sort of exaggerated Americanism: shirt buttoned to the top, classic menswear, etc. We're also seeing a lot of plaids and flannels--a sort of revival of Woolrich/Montgomery Ward clarity of color, rather than the sort of heavy-handed faux Americana of Pleasantville. While a lot of this probably has to do with the capricious and arbitrary changes of fashion, I think part of it has to do with a cultural change: in the late nineties, there was a sense that the retro design was a recovery project--an attempt to recapture the so-called innocence of an earlier, kitschier age; in a more globalized, post-Obama age, it's hard to see the same sense of wonder in these icons--often vaguely self-parodic images of the 1950s white nuclear father figure.
posted by johnasdf at 9:44 PM on October 28, 2009

johnasdf is totally right. The stuff other people linked to is dated and late 1990s-early 200s.

Retro certainly is cool, but not the poppy vintage fifties stuff. The "exaggerated Americanism" is a much better example of what's really popular now: heavy leather bags, boat shoes, lots of canvas, peasant boots. Check out A Continous Lean, the best website I can think of now that really exemplifies the style. There's a retro-patriotic ad here, but the posts about vintage Oxford shirts or pictures of Hemingway are way more dead-on. Or these pictures of the original IMB Thinkpad, rather like the new Field Notes notebooks; people were going crazy over those.

Otherwise, the dirty seventies (like the hippy/denim part) and the flourescent eighties are really what's popular right now, specifically in youth advertising.
posted by timoni at 3:54 PM on October 29, 2009

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