Thursday, November 8, 2012

Too New to be Old, Too Old to be New

In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, a little blurb at the top of a page read:

In: Lucy Punch

5 minutes ago: Lucy Liu

Out: Lucy Lawless

That pretty much sums up the speed at which popular culture operates. Something that is “new” and “now” is only lauded for a short time before it is cast into a black vacuum where it floats aimlessly, either forgotten or remembered with the distaste of being “so last year” or “so last month” or “so 5 minutes ago.” If you don’t wear it now, hear it now, have it now, decorate with it now, say it now or be it now, it’s really too late and too bad for you.

On the flip side, once a trend or a style or a song or a saying or a star or whatever does its time in that inky black space of nothingness, it has an opportunity to resurrect itself in the form of “classic” or “vintage” or “retro” or “antique” or “comeback.” What was forgotten can be remembered with sentiment or regarded with nostalgia or reconstructed and reinvented as “new.”  What once was awesome can be awesome again.

I have some questions about all of this.

What happens in that gap? In the “in between”?

My theory: I imagine all of these trends and songs and styles and people floating around, happy to get a break: songs happy to rest in silence instead of being ruthlessly overplayed on the radio. Celebrities with too much time in front of cameras and in tabloids grateful to rest where no one can see them. Toys and designs and decorations resting under a warm, insulating layer of dust. Fashion trends hung in a closet without gravity, fabric floating as though underwater, free from harsh wash cycles and spilled coffee and the dreaded iron. Free from being handled, used, and worn thin. Left alone to regroup. Our culture is happy to have a break from them and they are happy to have a break from us.

How long does something have to do penance for before it gets a second chance?

Do some of these things floating around in that vacuum of “not new enough, not old enough” wish to come back to life, or are they happy to remain in that blackness forever? Are slap bracelets begging for a comeback or have they given up hope? Will “Pumped Up Kicks” or “Somebody That I Used to Know” eventually be revered as retro classics? Does it have to do with how long it was popular for? Things that were overdone to death take longer to be reconsidered as the newest rebirth than trends that flashed by at the speed of light?

I Googled the definitions of vintage, classic and antique, and found that there are debates about how old something has to be to be considered vintage, classic or antique. Some say 7 years, some say 15 for vintage; some say 20 or 25 years for classic, and some say 50, 75 or 100 years for antique.  So it looks like there isn’t a cut-and-dry formula for how long something has to exist in the vacuum before it’s permitted to come back.

Who decides what the “next big thing” is? Who decides what resurrects and what dies forever?

Do stylists and designers decide all this? Pop culture experts? Does society as a whole shift into new ways of thinking and doing and being that determine new trends and allow us to welcome only certain old styles and ways of doing things back, but not others? Is it based on history?

I remember years ago going bowling and considering bowling shoes. I thought, “People only wear bowling shoes when they go bowling. But what if some people started wearing them as regular shoes? Would others pick up on it? Would it become the next trend? Is it that random and simple?” (I never really went anywhere with it, but you get the picture.)

Do you and I as individuals have the ability to influence culture?

I hope so.

However, it all seems more random than determined, doesn’t it? I mean, certain things come back while others don’t, things can be hailed as vintage or antique at different ages, depending on who you ask, and who even knows the mish-mash of influences that contribute to what is “in” right “now.” Who even knows if there is there any rhyme or reason to what is trendy and hot right now—maybe it’s largely arbitrary. Even more so, if celebrities and stylists and designers are the trendsetters, what about you and me? Do we even have a chance?

I think so.

Even though you could argue that nothing is really “new” anymore, and that every new trend is just a reconstruction or reinvention of something old, I still think we ought to contribute to those reinventions by applying our own creativity and personalities and abilities in our day and age. I think it's part of our responsibility to do so, in whatever way we can, be they reinventions or completely new creations, if that's possible. We don't have to just ride the wave of what others tells us is "new" and "now," desperately trying to keep our heads above water in an attempt to keep up with trends. We don't have to wait for an "acceptable" amount of time to bring something back that we love (well, unless you are talking about permed bangs). In being true to who we are and what we love, we can participate in this mish-mash of new and old, we can make it remarkable, so that it shouldn't even matter what is old and what is new.

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