Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Long Overdue Post about Nostalgia for Times that Never Were

Scattered around my various hard drives, and also various conversations over the last year, is a blog post. It's one of those mythical blogposts; one that would set a trend, be linked to, be sparkling and brilliant, insightful and timely. Alas, because I am nothing if not the queen of prevarication, I fear that the time for it may be past. So this is a summation, a mere shadow of the blog-that-might-have-been, only written because I find myself at home sick.

Last spring, I decided that I scented a new trend in the air. It didn't have a name, or an organising principal, but it did have some common symptoms. At the time, I tagged it as Faux Vintage, but that may not be the best term.

So - what is it? Well, there's a loose theme of nostalgia running through it, for a time before the 1960s. Roughly, it's any 'reworking' of 1890s to 1950s mainstream culture. It's camp, rather posh, about louche fun and frippery, about properly mixed martinis, about surface, about dressing for dinner, about the lost art of being a gentleman, about authenticity, about being most terribly modern.

If it had a manifesto, it would be Oscar Wilde's Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young

Its visual aesthetic is somewhere between Aubrey Beardsley, sideshow art, cheesecake pinups and the Picture Post.

It sounds like The Real Tuesday Weld, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain or perhaps Noel Coward.

For fun, it likes to go to Lost Vagueness, or The Modern Times Club.

If feeling a little more louche, it may go to the Whoopeee Club, or even become involved with the Aristasians.

It might buy outfits from Danger Dames, or a proper gentleman's tailor.

It reads the Chap.

I'm not sure that there's much to say about it, per se, other than that it feels slightly like a response to so much slick, mediated, shiny culture; that it's a radical position in that it rejects the current mainstream in favour of a mainstream long gone. It isn't like punk, it's not a rewriting or a revolution, but it dismisses all the teenage angst of the underground with a raised eyebrow and a 'Well, I suppose it can't be helped; you are young, after all.' It's not a postmodern reappropriation either; it's not cynical enough. It's about genuinely enjoying the nostalgia, and the safe feeling of better times.

Most of all, it's stylish.


flambingo said...

if your an aristasian are you a blonde or brunette?

flambingo said...

if your an aristasian are you a blonde or brunette?

kim said...

Alas, I am not an aristasian.

But if I were, I suspect I would be brunette. No, blonde. No, brunette. Sigh. I don't know, it's much harder than femme / butch.

Adam said...

I've been thinking for a while now, that perhaps I was born in the wrong era.

Have you ever been to the Modern Times Club?

kim said...

Adam: No, but I am aware of it. I've just never had an appropriate outfit (or appropriate waistline, or the appropriate combination of the two) at the right time.