Friday, July 29, 2011

They don't make 'em like they used to...

... Or do they? Whether you call it "retro," "vintage," or "old-school," recent fascination with all things old has become a theme in popular culture. History is no longer the domain of historians and collectors. The technologies of today are providing accessibility to past cultures. People are now easily exposed to the images of history through Turner Classic Movies, Youtube, and Wikipedia. In a world of rapidly advancing technologies, where change is the norm, stasis can seem novel. Futuristic idealism gives way to ironic historicism. Young people are seduced by the music, clothes, and cocktails of the past because nothing new seems as exotic.

But novelty is not the only driving force behind the vintage nouveau. Past standards of craftsmanship often exceed current standards. The common prewar building materials of stone, brick, wood, and horse plaster are more luxurious than today's dry-wall, cinder block, and particle board. Similarly, the suits, hats, and coats that were tailored in the garment district of the lower east side of Manhattan were of greater quality than the current designer clothes from the sweat shops of China. An LP played on a Thorens turntable through a Scott tube amp has much greater fidelity than an mp3 played though an iPod. And the quality displayed on the recordings from Capital Studios of songs composed by Richard Rogers, lyricized by Lorenz Hart, arranged by Nelson Riddle, and sung by Frank Sinatra is greater than anything you might find in pop music today.

So as contemporary culture turns back on itself, hopefully the downward trend in craftsmanship will be reversed. And maybe someday soon we can proudly say "we just make 'em like they used to!"

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