The stand-out memories of my childhood growing up in the late nineties are peppered with swapping Pokemon cards in the playground, then going home and watching Robot Wars and Top Of The Pops on our boxy, black TV set. Mum meticulously tied my hair in
scrunchies that matched my dresses and I happily trotted about in silver-flecked jellies.
Oddly enough, this playdough-scented nostalgia has come back in a big way this year. Even as a child-of-the-nineties that missed most of said iconic era, the trends that are popping back into circulation scream of the ‘good ol’ days’ – even days that my generation never experienced.
Vinyl has returned. Polaroids are the only way to go. Music is all synth and reverberating vocals (I’m looking at you, Matty Healy) and catwalks are heaving with pin-decked denim and the slogan t-shirts that my teenaged father once wore.
This is not to say that I hate this time-warp culture. In fact, quite the opposite.
Photos are more saturated on glossy printed paper, music apparently sounds better on a records and purple lipstick, tattoo chokers and glitter seem ridiculously fun to wear.
However, there has to be a reason why we’re so eager to wrap ourselves in the things of years-gone-by.
As a generation, think pieces written by our elders tend to paint us as a group of
disillusioned and ungrateful tech-zombies. Even so, we are also trying to navigate a world that is rapidly changing technologically, politically and socially. We are hyper-aware of everything via the news, social media and a hundred channels of television.
Our position in the world is unsure and displaced, and we honestly aren’t sure what’s happening half the time with those who are supposed to be in charge.
Which is why I think we crave comfort. Simplicity. With the surge of 90’s grunge, people are finding a familiarity that can be associated with their childhoods (although most of us were in baby-grows.)
And with the newer fascination with 80’s aesthetic, there’s a sense of fun that has somewhat been lost in the shiny-sleekness of the millennium. It’s there when I listen to tales of my Mum finishing work, then getting the bus into town to meet up with friends and then getting the night bus back again. And in my Dad living above a chip-shop with no heating and smelling perpetually of takeaway throughout his uni years. It’s the tales of routine and life being stripped-down that I think appeals to us.
And companies are latching onto this feeling. Disney is happily rebooting its classics with modern faces, but still packaging that old-school magic that came with rushing home from school and putting a tape in the VHS. The BBC is rehashing its vintage sitcoms such as Yes, Minister and Are You Being Served? for a spell. Today, its even been announced that 90’s cult classic The Crystal Maze will be returning to Channel 4 for a Charity special (that could possibly continue) whilst Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’, set in 1984, has gained a cult following overnight. Star Wars and Robot Wars are back on our screens and Pokemon has been reincarnated as catchable virtual monsters on our smartphones.
But why all of this?
Because it’s somewhat comforting (and slightly frustrating that we can) draw similarities between our experiences in 2016 to those our parents once got through.
As Twitter user @ElinorCoakley put:
” -indie music
-prime minister is a woman but not a feminist really
2016 is 80s af “
It’s perhaps the knowledge that people have once gone through economic crisis and political turmoil and still managed to find the time to enjoy music and art and capture it. I think it’s wonderful that the messages of by-gone days, which was for the youth of the era to shock their parents has remained. It was rebellious, fun and glitter covered – which is not to say our generation doesn’t appreciate the trials and tribulations of the time.
Times were tough, but it didn’t stop progress.
If we are to take anything from new time-warp culture, it’s to enjoy the aesthetics and feelings it gives you, but to also understand the historical implications too. Use them as tools to get through these trying times, find comfort and supplement them with the technology and knowledge we have now.
(A polaroid camera is the icon of Instagram, after all.)