WHY VINTAGE? – What are you going to do with some old rags that someone else threw away?
Rationally speaking, there are few reasons why an old sweatshirt with a quarter century’s worth of closet must should inspire covetous impulses and longing glances, or why the same printed graphic would be considered a holy grail on one t-shirt, and a dime a dozen, disposable fodder on another, based solely on the shirt’s age. In fact, to a lot of outside observers, it looks a lot like an unhealthy obsession with old junk. Basically, the question is why vintage?
One of the side effects of the internet age is that everything is present and available, but often devoid of context. To put it in a harsher light, you could say that having everything just kind of floating in space online has stripped formerly significant cultural signifiers of all meaning. Trends and movements are willed into existence, seemingly out of thin air. All you need to do is stick a cut up Cradle of Filth shirt and a tropical, wide brimmed straw hat on a model, and the next thing you know, Volcano-Goth is trending on all the fashion blogs. Sure, culture evolves, and things will be experienced differently than when they originally appeared, but to have the original context swept away entirely by a wave of insta-consumption constitutes a very real loss.
The word most commonly thrown around the broad appeal of vintage product is authenticity, but that gives the complex range of emotions between the individual and vintage pieces something of a short shrift. Make no mistake about it; the vein that vintage taps into is definitely an emotional one, which occurs on an individual, piece by piece basis.
On one level is the deeply personal, nostalgic connection that exists between person and object. Take a couple of the most common pieces of 90s pop culture, a Chicago Bulls hat and an nWo shirt. You can still get a Bulls hat anywhere, and you can get a retro reprint of the iconic New World Order design, but it isn’t the same thing as actually having the stuff from a time in your life when Michael Jordan was actually a superhero, and Kevin Nash and Scott Hall too sweeting three of their fingers together was the coolest thing on earth. Having that specific vintage piece allows you to tap into that feeling. You can’t relive the past entirely, but you can hold in your hands for a little while.
On another level, the right vintage piece rises to the level of object d’art. Instead of an emotional reaction to pop culture, specific production methods, like chain stitching, or reverse weave, are lovingly pored over.
The common thread between the personal reaction and craftsmanship appreciation is that notion of clothes having a deeper meaning than simple commoditization. What makes an old t-shirt special compared to a recreation is that it comes from a time when you were crazy about that thing, and wearing the shirt was an expression of that genuine enthusiasm, not because some sort of secondhand coolness had been bestowed upon it by a third party influencer. Similarly, when the construction of a vintage Champion hoodie or military jacket is being admired, there is a distinct air of “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” about it, because those vintage garments were made to perform a specific function, and not merely part of a lifestyle, marketing aesthetic that reproduces the look but not the quality.
It’s about here that the relationship between vintage and contemporary fashion starts resembling an ouroborous, because the feeling of non-commercial authenticity engendered by vintage pieces is the exact quality that makes them valuable as a commodity when they reenter the marketplace.
VINTAGE IN STREETWEAR – Know Your Roots
If you had to distill the origins of streetwear down to the most generalized explanation possible, it would basically be something like, people liked the way athletic shoes and clothing looked so much, that they started wearing it for non-athletic purposes. In a time not just before instant global availability, but before the concept of lifestyle sportswear was even recognized by the major brands, the prevailing ethos became, by necessity, that style was something that had to be actively hunted down. Even with all of that effort, you might still have come up empty. Maybe that shoe wasn’t sold in your market, or just flat out discontinued. It was here that the extreme fetishization of specific shoes and items of clothing took root.
Vintage inspiration cycles through the fashion industry as a whole, but, because of the culture’s historical roots, the influence is especially pronounced in streetwear culture, not just as nostalgia, but as the foundation stones of everything that followed. In streetwear, historical roots extend past purely vintage product. Think of how many shoe models are reissued with the descriptor ‘OG.’ Without the proper understanding of a shoe’s cultural backstory, it would be just another option among thousands.
VINTAGE WITH A (re)PURPOSE
With the sheer amount of vintage product available online, literally anyone can get their hands on some old clothes and resell them, the need to maintain a connection between the items and their history is more pressing than ever.
Vintage has played a significant role in Bodega’s identity. The store’s 2006 project with the Victor Frankenstein of streetwear, Dr. Romanelli, was one of the first collaborations the store embarked on. The doctor’s deconstruction and reconstruction of vintage outerwear presented these pieces as a vital part of contemporary style, instead of something either too sacrosanct to touch or something to slavishly reproduce. This project helped to define the idea of Bodega as a place to expect the unexpected, even when it came to the familiar.
The inspiration for the new SERIES by Bodega: Repurposed project brings together the idea of vintage as a living, continuously relevant aspect of modern design, and the impulse to archive, catalog, and educate. Bodega has, by request, teamed up with the New Era Cap Company, the definitive name in baseball caps, to remake a selection of vintage products as New Era’s iconic headwear. New Era’s background makes them a uniquely qualified partner for a project of this nature. Their long history of domestic production, top quality craftsmanship, and cultural cache, brings together all aspects of the vintage equation.
The product selected for the Repurposed project was chosen and contributed by committed experts in various vintage genres. By working with these collectors, and their meticulously curated archives, the Repurposed project seeks to tap into the original spirit of vintage, the spirit of taking something that already exists, and personalizing it through your own journey.