Vintage, the First 40 Years: The Emergence and Persistence of Vintage Style in the United States


  • Nancy L. Fischer Metro-Urban Studies, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA



Vintage, vintage clothing, retro, secondhand clothing, authenticity, fashion trends, garment industry


This paper historicizes when wearing vintage clothing first became fashionable in the United States. I trace when the trend emerges in the U.S. and explore various ways the press framed secondhand/vintage clothes and anachronistic dressing. I contend that the emergence of vintage occurs as a form of alternative consumption alongside changes that occurred in the U.S. garment industry such as outsourcing and product licensing. These changes led many consumers to seek more authentic consumption experiences. Consumers with cultural capital found in vintage an alternative market for sourcing fashionable street style. Consumers attribute characteristics to vintage clothing that are typically part of authenticity discourse such as it being of exceptional quality, original, handcrafted, made from natural fibers, and providing continuity with the past. The authenticity of vintage is symbolically deployed in opposition to contemporary mass-produced clothing and standardized retail shopping experiences.


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How to Cite

Fischer, N. L. (2015) “Vintage, the First 40 Years: The Emergence and Persistence of Vintage Style in the United States”, Culture Unbound, 7(1), pp. 45–66. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.157145.



Theme: Circulating Stuff through Second-hand, Vintage and Retro Markets