The 2000s and even the 90s might be characterized as decades that were undefined by trends. In the 21st century style has become so individualistic that just about anything is acceptable, and it has become increasingly difficult to pinpoint widely spread trends e.g. hipsterdom. With that said, there is one trend that seems to be rather ubiquitous, revealing itself in just about every market whether it be clothing, houseware and even technology. The trend in question, of course, is retro.
For some reason in this modern era people have grown increasingly nostalgic for days long gone. Perhaps it is dramatic advancements in technology that fuel our yearning for the past. After all, gone are the days of simple phone calls and snail mail. Communication today is complicated by text, Facebook and gchat messages, along with emails, Skype, Viber and WhatsApp calls. A person is expected to be online at all times, accessible always and plugged into the constant chatter of social media.
Indeed, it’s rather exhausting to be always in tune with the online world. And even though getting in touch is easier than it has ever been in history, somehow the quality of our interactions has gone down. No wonder a large number of people harbor a nostalgia for the good ol’ days, when communication was straight forward and to the point.
As early as 2010, The University of Strathclyde Glasgow hosted a series of seminars on the study of this kind of nostalgia. The project cited a study of 21st century nostalgia as being “especially timely” since “technological advancements and the digital media environment are producing new dynamics between past and present, and determining relationships between individuals and communities”.
Furthermore, the project summed up our modern sentiments beautifully in a few sentences: “New technology presents a paradox: on the one hand, it has the capacity to stimulate nostalgia by bringing large numbers of globally diverse people together, but technologies can also create fragmentation and alienation from the present; our increasingly mediated relationship to the material world has led to perceptions of social and moral decline and loss of traditional values.”
If we look at consumer patterns, we find that product design is continually growing more retro. Beyond vintage styles for clothes or home decor, this trend has made its way into the tech sphere as well. Now you can buy smartphone covers that make your iPhone look like a clunky 90s cell phone. Or you can purchase a retro handset to attach to your tablet or smartphone, thus utilizing modern technology whilst maintaining an old fashioned aesthetic. The evidence is uncanny, and leads us to wonder how long it will last. We can’t live in the past, but are we ready for the future?