Archive for ‘rant’

November 2, 2011

“vintage”

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The above carrier bag, which held a jacket I bought on Sunday, summarises a debate about vintage I’ve been having with myself for quite some time.

I wear a lot of “vintage clothes”, which, lest you are confused, means clothes that are old, rather than clothes made of wine. My colossal inner pedant has never been happy with the term, although it doesn’t have a problem with “vintage cars”, probably because I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever on vintage cars (which, lest you are confused, means cars that are old, not cars made of wine, etc etc).

I understand why “vintage” entered the fashion lexicon, to denote valuable, not-old-enough-to-count-as-antique garments, and distinguish them from “second-hand”, ie clothes that were too shit for somebody else to hang on to. Now, although vintage still commands greater prices than second-hand, it is sweepingly used to describe any clothes that have no qualification beyond having previously graced a human body. Browsing on eBay, I come across “vintage” items which are 3-month-old Topshop, which is hardly akin to stumbling upon a well-preserved Horrocks dress. I’m now old enough to find clothes in vintage shops that I remember from the first time round, and not because I spent any time shopping at Dior or Madame Grès over the past century, but because they’re from H&M and even Primark!

So many liberties have been taken with it that I feel the already unmotivated “vintage” has been stripped of relevant meaning, and have reverted to using “second-hand” although I feel it smacks of inverse snobbery. So, friends, help me out: what do you think would be a better term?

My granny, who used to volunteer at her village’s thrift shop (thanks to which we had a dressing-up box full of dinner suits in improbable sizes – massive waist with stumpy legs, tall and skinny with short arms, etc), deployed the euphemism “pre-owned”. This, I now realise, would also cover stolen goods, so I begin wonder whether granny’s thrift shop was really a front for the shady industries of the North Hertfordshire criminal underworld.