Wearing Nostalgia on Your Sleeve

By: Izzy Hermelin

We’re all guilty of saying, or at least thinking,  “I don’t want to grow up.” The good news is, with the help of vintage and youth-inspired clothing, we never have too. Tattered Betty Boop t-shirts and faded Snoopy crewnecks allow us to hold onto our innocence and project our childhood exuberance. Pairing a “throwback” item with a contemporary piece is a great way to bring out our “young at heart” energy. While the article of clothing may be new, these allegorical symbols are representative of our youthful past.

The famous Disney character, Mickey Mouse, celebrates 90 years this year! This inspired our favorite childhood brand, Disney, to collaborate with more sophisticated brands, such as Rag & Bone and Karen Walker. In the past, there have been collaborations with “Disney x The Hundreds,” “Disney x Supreme,” and even “Disney x Vans.” All of these collaborations utilize Disney imagery to enhance and rejuvenate their clothing items. But this trend is not just limited to Disney iconography; a spectrum of brands thrive on the integration of nostalgic pieces into the contemporary market. From Gucci’s Bugs Bunny apparel to Madeworn concert tees, all brands use the desired past as an effective marketing strategy.

But why does nostalgia sell? Partly, because we will all want to relive our glory days. But in a different regard, there is something so universal about the past. You are immediately connected to people who watched the same TV shows as you grew up, or listened to the same Rock band; nostalgic clothing can foster this instantaneous connection. Vintage clothing is not just a talking point, but a point of shared understanding. On the other hand, the past is generationally specific. That is, our version of nostalgia is different from the generations that come before us and those that will come after us. When two individuals are wearing the same vintage Woodstock t-shirt, there is a moment of unique shared experience. Vintage clothing can be passed down generationally, but only certain people can testify as being real-time witnesses. While nostalgic clothing can create commonality, it also creates a sense of exclusivity. Pop-culture is constantly evolving with the times, as is the iconography that commemorates these groundbreaking moments in our cultural history.

Brian Zhao