Retro culture: Embracing the past or lack of originality?

By Bonnie Stiernberg

Denim miniskirts complete with black leggings to be worn underneath, boyish Bermuda shorts and large beaded necklaces swiped from mom’s jewelry box.

All one needs to do to reaffirm the fact that the “retro” look is back in a big way is take a peek inside the average female’s closet.

The trend seems to have sprung up as an alternative to blending into the sea of North Face sweatshirts and Birkenstocks on campus.

“It’s really caught on,” Lindsey Parker, freshman in LAS, said. “I like having my mom’s jewelry. It’s original. I think that’s the appeal.”

Apart from the fashion world, the fascination with all things vintage has carried over to music, movies and television as well.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

The Beatles and Led Zeppelin were both among the top five bands students at the University listed on Facebook as their favorites the week of Oct. 2-8. Whether this speaks to the staying power of these bands or a dissatisfaction with today’s music scene is debatable, but the fact remains that classic rock and oldies are extremely popular among today’s youth.

Cara Amenta, freshman in LAS, has mixed opinions on the retro fad, even though she admits to listening to oldies.

“I think it’s cool that things are coming back,” she said. “But at the same time I think it shows a lack of originality.”

While other people besides Amenta have lamented this generation’s apparent lack of originality, Angharad Valdivia, research professor in Communications and instructor of the class “Popular Culture,” said this phenomenon is not unique to this generation at all.

“It has nothing to do with generation,” Valdivia said. “Popular culture recycles itself. It’s building on popular enduring tales and narratives.”

Valdivia cited the example of the teen romance “10 Things I Hate About You,” which is based on the Shakespeare play “The Taming of the Shrew.” Recycling ideas in movies is a long-standing tradition.

“Its cheaper to poach on what’s already been done than to produce something new,” Valdivia said.

While it may be more cost-efficient to reuse an old idea, some are growing tired of vintage-inspired popular culture.

“I think that some retro stuff is cute and cool, but some of it is a little over the top and tacky,” Lana Bjornson, freshman in FAA, said.