From LPs to mid-century sideboards, millennial aesthetics are suffused with nostalgia. But it's not just about looking coolby Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett / June 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
Vinyl record players; macramé plant holders; mid-century sideboards; classic Nintendo consoles; Lomography cameras; bar trolleys; glass decanters; Adidas superstars worn with bell-sleeved floral dresses; needlework pictures; Penguin Classics. These are all objects that I own, or that are owned by people I know, where nostalgia has had a central role in their desirability and even their marketing.
Hipster nostalgia is often mocked, sometimes rightly; I once saw a man riding a penny farthing through Shoreditch. An old university friend of mine owned a radiogram—a piece of furniture most of us had previously had no idea existed.
But it isn’t just hipsters engaging in nostalgia. It’s an entire generation, apparently. Much has been written about millennial nostalgia, and the various reasons for my generation’s supposed preoccupation with it, for example, our disappointment with the present, the hyperconnectivity offered by the internet, or the death of the counterculture.
As Baudrillard predicted, nostalgia is all around us, in the form of simulacra which have come to replace true reality. It’s in the spiral-filament bulbs that light your local coffee shop, in high street clothes, typography, food. Fashions have always come back around again, but now we are living through a kind of Dadaist cut-up of eras, in which brands and companies borrow from, adapt and disrupt any and all time periods; it’s all up for grabs, provided it’s old. Coca-cola has brought back glass bottles. Polaroid has relaunched its instant cameras under the brand “Polaroid originals.”
Are we nostalgia addicts? Social media would certainly suggest so. #TBT (throwback Thursday) sees millions of users posting photos from “back in the day”. We raid our childhoods for tangible snaps which we then photograph and upload on our iPhones but I have seen people use #TBT for photos they took last month or even last week. “#TBT to last month in #santorini #chasethelight #blessed.” It is nostalgia for a time that has barely passed.
Images are replacing lived experience, which Guy Debord told us would happen as long ago as 1963, when he wrote The Society of the Spectacle. Relationships between people have indeed become mediated by images, and as a result, many people catalogue compulsively rather than live in the moment. So what if at the time you are not truly…