Retro-Cool (Not Retro-Cold)

by Randy Murray on January 28, 2014

Nostalgia is a funny thing. There appears to be a trailing edge of what we find cool and interesting in the past. Some peg this interval to be thirty years, but I think it’s closer to fifty. For example, the fashion and design elements of the TV show Mad Men captivate a wide audience today. Pretty much fifty years. That’s “retro-cool.”

Thirty years puts you in the 1980s. I recently flipped through the channels and landed on one showing Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) and shuddered at what people were wearing. That nightmare remembrance is retro-cold. I can’t imagine how the fashions from that era will ever be seen as cool (I didn’t care for them in the 80s, either).

I sometimes wonder if one could switch this view around, let someone from the past see us today. It’s not exactly the SciFi future shown in movies, is it? I think to someone in the early 1960s we’d mostly look like slobs. Take a trip to your local grocery story and just look at how people are dressed. Don Draper would be aghast.

I’m not recommending that we all dress up to head to Walmart, but it would be nice to see people dressed in more than jeans and sweatshirts when out at a nice restaurant or going to see a play.

Recently, before the Arctic blasts hit, I bought a new parka. I wanted something warm and comfortable and didn’t want to end up looking like the Michelin Man. What I found was something designed in 1942. The Eddie Bauer B-9 parka. The man himself (yes, Eddie Bauer existed, unlike Betty Crocker) invented the quilted down parka and created this masterpiece for WWII flight crews to stay warm in their unheated aircraft at high altitudes (and was designed to keep a downed airman afloat for 24 hours—something I’d love to test, but not with my new coat).

I didn’t buy the coat because of nostalgia, but I’ll admit that knowing a bit of its history was fun. I bought it because it will keep me warm and it looks great. It’s warm, comfortable, and yes, retro-cool. And I think that Mr. Draper would approve (he probably has one in his closet).

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