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The Vintage People

The latest entry in a series on subculture in America.
Jessica Cangiano. (Photo: Tony Cangiano)

Jessica Cangiano. (Photo: Tony Cangiano)

Pencil skirts, Bing Crosby records, Lincoln Cosmopolitans, grandma’s casserole—all things of the past, but for the vintage community, they’re a part of everyday life in 2014. Its members live in the modern world but surround themselves with trappings of a period that roughly spans the Victorian era through the 1980s. Most members—total numbers stretch well into the tens of thousands worldwide—tend toward the handbags and Bogart films of the mid-20th century.

  • We wear fashions, make-up, and hairstyles from the past, listen to old music, cook vintage recipes, make do and mend. We seek out historical events, join re-enactment groups, and hold vintage fairs. A purist may look down at those who don’t sport period-authentic vintage looks, but if you love anything vintage, you’re a part of the community.
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  • On those odd times I wear modern clothes, I feel self-conscious because my vintage wardrobe—I aim for outfits that fit the style of the ’40s and ’50s—has been my daily attire since my early teens. More than wanting to show people my outfits, a desire to learn about and share history led me to launch my blog, Chronically Vintage, in 2009. Much of the vintage community is online, but most bloggers are women.
  • I admire the work ethic, manners, and civic pride of many in the mid-20th century. People pitched in and helped each other out of jams. You knew your butcher, television repairman, baker, and local seamstress by name—and they knew you.
  • We acknowledge our fortunate, even privileged, position in today’s much more egalitarian society. The decades we hold most dear were not perfect, yet they are a part of our heritage and have helped shape us into who we are today.

Jessica Cangiano, 30, blogger (as told to Ryan O’Hanlon)

This post originally appeared in the July/August 2014 print issue ofPacific Standardas “The Vintage People.” Subscribe to our bimonthly magazine for more coverage of the science of society.