Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dressing vintage, a sub-culture?


Lina Sofia made a comment on my post Properly Dressed? about dressing in a vintage style at a sociology institution where some people study the retro sub-culture. I have been thinking about this before, on and off, and her comment put it on again. Am I and you and you part of a sub-culture just because we opt to dress a certain way? To me a subculture have always been more than about the way you dress, even is fashion is a significant way off defining yourself to belonging to a certain way of life. It’s about sharing an outlook on life, setting yourself voluntarily apart from what is considered the norm in society. I have never felt that people interested in vintage are uniform enough to warrant the label sub-culture. I discussed the subject with Pimpinett who pointed out the diversity of what she calls “retrophiles” (which I think is a very good name, btw.) There are those involved with the burlesque scene, those who dance, living role-players, rockability and so on. All with different outlooks on how they define vintage and what they want from it.




However, people who are not involved in it, often seem to define an interest with vintage to “a young woman who used to be into other alternative styles, like goth or emo, who now are into a pin up-look”. There was even an article in The new York Times recently,
A Sly Wink to Pinups of the Past. I don’t think it’s a particularly good article and it annoys me no end that they work so hard to sexualize a look that is actually rather demure, using code words like “Playboy” and pin up style”, but I think it’s a good illustration on how vintage style is commonly seen.



I’m not in my twenties, I never did dress very alternatively, if you don’t think spending 15 years in black clothes avant-garde and I’m not interested in cultivating an overly sexual “pin up” look. Not that any of these things are wrong, they are just not what I am. I think it’s very interesting to learn why other people opt to dress they way they do and I love just the diversity I have found among people who I have met under the vintage umbrella. We share an interest, but have different outlooks and are drawn to different things. The plain, the fancy, specific decades or specific styles within a certain time period. And, something that seems to be completely forgotten in media, there are men who dress in a vintage style too. I know quite a few of them. Perhaps they are overlooked because they just can’t be pushed into the pin-up style? All in all I feel that there is far too much diversity to call this a sub-culture. Or am I wrong?

(The pin ups where brought to you from http://freespace.virgin.net/b.mercer/Pinup1.html)

16 comments:

Nadia ♥ said...

This is very ionteresting.

I like vintage clothing, 50s and 40s, I lvoe pin up and rockabilly and I wish someday I can use these fashions.

I dress Lolita Fashion, and we have the same issues, are we a sub cuture? Is it just fashion? If so,does it means is just clothes? What do we share in common?

Temperamental Broad said...

I do think its a sub culture, because it is very different from what is the norm. I work in cosmetics and all the girls are into club music and trendy clothes. They think I dress 'pin up' even though I dress vintage. I have never tried to tell them about the music I like or the fact that I use a 70 year old toaster because I know they wont get it. I try not to ever explain it to anyone because I know it will go over their head. I think anytime you have to explain why you dress a certain way, or the type of music you listen to or the furniture you buy...then you are in a sub culture. I like it though. I like being a little mysterious to everyone!

Emma said...

För vissa människor är det nog en subkultur. En del människor verkar ta till sig vintage med sådan passion att det är svårt att kalla det något annat: det bestämmer över deras garderob, över deras toalettartiklar, över deras hem, över deras musikstil, över deras kökslådor, över deras bil, över deras slanguttryck... och inget får vara lite fel.

De har all rätt att följa sin passion, och jag innebär inte att vara nitisk när jag kallar det de gör för en "subkultur". Men det ligger mycket långt ifrån mitt personliga intresse för vintagestilar, gammaldags hantverk och redskap, o.s.v. Och de skulle förmodligen tycka att jag inte är särskilt vintage heller (och det gör inte mig särskilt mycket).

Emma said...

Innebär? "Avser" menar jag, naturligtvis. Har pratat franska hela dagen och är alldeles slut i huvudet. :)

Rachael said...

I'd too suggest that vintage was a subculture of sorts - its certainly a subversion against the norm. There is a shared "cultural capital" for example the knowledge, the clothing, the movies to say the collecting which bring like minded individuals together.

I think subcultures both within the media and perhaps academically to some extent have always been seen negativitly because of their perception as being a collective against work or class but they don't necessarily have to be so. I think having that collective can be very empowering to both the individual and to the group.

Miss Emmi said...

To me a subculture has to be about more than just a certain style of dress - it has a particular attitude that goes along with it. I definately think the vintage purists who talk about things being better 'in the good old days', who prefer music from the era they dress in, exclusively use vintage items and sneer at repro form their own group. For most of us I think itis just a fashion.

Penny Dreadful Vintage said...

Hmm, I do think it is a kind of sub-culture, however like every sub-culture there are people who are heavily into it and those who just dabble or are on the fringes. Most people who dress in a vintage way are also interested in the history of those times (whether social or design history), so I think that is a common ground. To me, pin-up is an entirely different thing altogether.

Penny Dreadful Vintage

Second Hand Rose said...

I suppose it kind of is a sub culture, but it's very hard to put a label on it because there are such a huge range of vintage styles that people wear.Great article as usual! XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.co.uk

Mim said...

I do think there is a subculture, although not everyone who's into vintage is part of it. However, there are shops many people seem to know about and bands they listen to that people outside the scene aren't aware of, even trends within vintage. It's got enough internal unity to form a culture of sorts. People don't have to conform to every part of it to a part of it.

(Speaking as someone on the edge, not part of anything in particular!)

Laurence said...

I think retro people are kind of a subculture. But I don't like how media speaks of vintage now. They often don't show true vintage lovers, they prefer showing a kind of Betty Boob fake pin-up and they tell that it's the VINTAGE culture... I have wear vintage for many years now and I didn't start because it was fashionnable, it's a life style.
But it's true that "real" vintage lovers are like a small world!

casey said...

I agree with some of the others who have said it is a subculture, but like many it has degrees of how heavily the members of that subculture participate. I am sort of mid-ground. I dress in a vintage inspired manner (rarely do I do a "stepped out of an old snapshot" look these days. But that is more about the region I live in and how it garners a lot of unwanted and not-so-nice attention.), love old music and movies, and dream about the day I can own a 1930s bungalow and decorate it accordingly. (A 1940s/50s car is also on my wishlist...) But I am not so fully into it that I eschew modern things or do not enjoy current culture and fashion to an extent. For me, the overarching appeal and thing I connect most with others involved in the "vintage scene" is the clothes. It's what drew me to vintage in the first place and still inspires me in daily life!

casey said...

Also: I want to say that I really dislike how the media is starting to label all of us who dress vintage as aspiring to the "pin up look". While I enjoy a bit of pin-up flair from time to time, it's not why many of us dress this way (nor do most of us go for that level of theatricality on a daily basis). I have had so many people--mostly on days when I'm wearing my 40s jeans, a button up shirt and a scarf through my hair (so nothing terribly pin-up like!)--assume I'm a pin up or burlesque dancer. The media, like it does in many things, seems to ignore the bigger picture and diversity within the vintage world.

superheidi said...

What Penny D. said... :-)

Isis said...

I just realized that I will have next to no time for online activities until Monday and here I have a lot of things to respond to. So just a short to say that I will get back to you after the weekend!

Sandra Glenn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sandra Glenn said...

Subcultures are hard to define sometimes. It's a lifestyle, an attitude, a music scene, a manner of dress, etc. There's a lot that factor into it.

That being said, however, there are subcultures that take their influence from Vintage styles. I think it's very annoying, because of this, that those who enjoy vintage as a whole (whether or not they have their own era preferences) are often equated with the actual subcultures who do draw their influence from Eras considered "Vintage". More often than not, they're equated with the "Pinup" subculture, even when the designs are very obviously not from the same era.

This is the biggest reason why i don't think that "Vintage" in and of itself can be considered a Subculture because Vintage can be anything from the 1900's to the relatively recent 1980's. Anything before that is "Victorian", and so on. The subcultures themselves that draw their influence from Vintage eras and styles are defined by the very specific eras from which they draw their influence, whereas Vintage itself spans ALL the eras defined as "Vintage", instead of sticking to one or two particular eras.

Take for instance "Pinup". Pinup owes it roots to the 1940’s to early 1960’s “pinup Art” of artists like Elvgren, Vargas, Moran, Bolles, Petty, Armstrong, De Berardinis, and many more, and the “values” this art generally expressed or portrayed within their art.

Though a lot of people won’t agree because Pinup ALSO, to a degree, lacks the “uniformity” usually seen in other subcultures, it is still (in my eyes) a subculture among many, and it’s “lack of uniformity” is only due to the fact that the pinup art from which the Pinup “subculture” draws it’s inspiration spans 3 separate, but similar eras that, even thought they're very similar, still have their own unique styles. But none-the-less, it is still a subculture and still has the uniformity required of subcultures because the influence and inspiration is rigidly defined. It's not all encompassing of all "vintage" eras like Vintage itself is.

Pinup was never about tattoos, the alternative lifestyle, etc. THAT is reserved for the “rockabilly” and “Psychobilly” sub-subcultures of Pinup who, while still taking their inspirations from the same eras as regular pinup and ARE still quite similar and rightfully subcultures in their own sense, put more emphasis on the acceptance of more “alternative” ideals and representations of Pinup. Pinup was meerly a celebration of the feminine, coy and subtlety expressed female sexuality, and the female body. BUT the Pinup we see now is a far cry from the original subculture. Unlike most subcultures that usually remain the same for decades, with very little innovation or change, Pinup has changed drastically from the original movement.

Pinup is ever evolving to encompass the new ideals that compliment it’s already established basis of celebration. The celebration and embracing of coy, subtly expressed female sexuality, and the female body, has expanded to now incorporate things like body possitivity and acceptance, and the Burlesque movement now gaining popularity. It has become a movement focused around female empowerment and positivity…. Both things that compliment the original movement in every way.

It’s even expanded to the point where there is now very little distinction (outside of preferred clothing cuts and patterns and style of music) that separate it from the heavily tattooed, more punk influenced off-shot subcultures of Rockabilly and Psychobilly… And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing… What we’re left with now is a truly amazing subculture open to all people, in which there is no real “right” or “wrong” way to be a “pinup”, whether you draw more influence from the original Pinup movement, or from off shot movements like “Rockabilly” and “Psychobilly”… And it’s truly one of the more unique, and often underrated, subcultures because of this.

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