What’s old is new

There is really nothing new under the sun. What was once just out of style is now “retro” and popular again. The flying saucer shaped, pull down light fixture over the dining room table that my mom thought was so wonderful in the late1960’s and I grew to think was an atrocity by the mid-1970s is now in style and called “mid-century modern.”

Mid-century modern design was popular in the late 1940s, the 1950s and 1960s. It was characterized by sleek, clean lines, homes with flat roofs, lots of windows and simplicity. Decorating was uncluttered and influenced by post war modernism and Scandinavian design. Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses and the Eames brothers designed chairs of plastic, molded plywood and steel.

Just as Victorian homes have been faithfully restored to their original ornate and overstuffed style, mid-century modern homes are being bought by young professionals and restored to their original simplicity. The new owners of 1970s split levels are buying up all the old light fixtures, starburst clocks, sofas, tables and chairs that we couldn’t wait to get rid of. I’m waiting to see the new colors for the year return to avocado green, bright orange and gold. Shag carpet can only be around the corner.

I could be classified as mid-century modern myself. I was born almost exactly in the middle of the last century and like mid-century modern architecture and furnishings, I have a Scandinavian influence in my making. I like to think I’m back in style.

I have been around long enough to have seen some fashions come and go a couple of times. I have to laugh at grandparents discussing the shortness of their granddaughters’ skirts. In the late 60s we wore skirts and short shorts that were every bit as short as what is popular now. Then there were the long skirts and head bands of the 70s. Bell bottom jeans and harem pants have come and gone and come again. Men with long hair were the norm for most of history until the 1950s when crew cuts and buzz cuts became popular. Then there was the rejection of the status quo of the 60s and 70s and long hair became popular again for both men and women. Now little boys and their dads all look like skin heads with their nearly shaved locks. Beards and mustaches have come and gone more than once since the 60s.

I once read that if you were around when a style was in vogue the first time around, you are probably too old to wear it when it comes back. I think that’s right for most things. Cat eye glasses are back in style, but I remember the ones I had when I was in the 5th grade and I just can’t go back there. I know for sure that I won’t be wearing mini skirts or platform heels ever again. I do, however, have a new tie-dyed shirt.

The movie industry remakes old movies. Musicians jazz up old music. Designers and stylists look back to the past for inspiration. Artists study the masters and interpret the old in new ways. There are new versions of many things, but much of our modern culture and style is based on things that are back in style for at least the second time.

I don’t find it all so amusing. I take offense at Ebay describing things as “vintage” when they are younger than I am. I mutter to myself when I find things from my youth in antique shops. I get grumpy when young people think they’ve just invented rebelling against the status quo. I think there is something weird about teenagers thinking music from the 1960s is cool. Aren’t they supposed to think their parents’ and grandparents’ music is boring. Aren’t they supposed to like music their grandparents think is noise, not groups like the Beatles and Pink Floyd?

I did recently find an upside. My hairdresser told me that silver hair is the new blonde. Apparently young people are taking the color out of their hair to make it look just like mine.

Who knew silver hair could be so trendy. And all I had to do was wait for the style to catch up with me. Now I’m regretting having let my kids convince me to throw away my 1970’s arc lamp. It might have been worth more than when it was new.

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