Sunday, June 16, 2013

An English Teacher Rants About Proper Word Usage: Rant #3 "Retro" And "Vintage"

Pinterest, etsy, twitter, online clothing stores, and various blogs are filled with fashionistas -- ignorant fashionistas who cannot tell the difference between the terms "vintage" and "retro."  This makes me want to scream.

Vintage = old.  It's referring to wine, which must be aged in order not to be grape juice.  Vine -- vineyard -- vintage -- get it?
Vintage clothes, vintage jewelry, vintage cars all must be OLD, not just made to look old.

Retro, on the other hand, is a prefix meaning "back" or "backward."  Something retro is looking backwards into the past.  Therefore, new items made in an old style, be they replicas or just something that hints at a former style, are retro.  They are not vintage.

The website that sells this Halloween costume for $26.00 calls it "retro vintage."  It's not vintage.  It's just retro, cheap retro at that.

I found this iPhone 5 case on pinterest labeled "vintage retro."  No, an antique truck is vintage; it's not retro.  And an iPhone case is neither vintage nor retro.

This I also found on pinterest.  It was also labeled "vintage retro."

This is neither vintage nor retro.  Not even during the 70s did people wallpaper their bathtubs.  The correct term for this is "hideous."

This was labeled "vintage."

Uh, well, maybe the chair is vintage, but it's kinda hard to tell when it's covered with neon green paint/icing that is most definitely NOT vintage.

Look, this one's pretty simple.  Vintage = old.  Retro = new but made to LOOK old.
Got it?
Use the terms properly.
This has been another rant from your local English teacher.


  1. Vintage retro - wouldn't that have to be something that was made in the 70's to look like it was from 20's?

    1. Yeah, like Grease and Happy Days. Both were 70s creations that looked back on the 50s, so now they'd be vintage retro.
      Or, in the 80s, there was a brief craze for dresses that were retro 50s. So, if someone sold one of those 80s retro-50s dresses on e-Bay now, it truly would be vintage retro.
      But I'm not sure what "retro-vintage" would be.

    2. Would retro-vintage be something made today to look like it was made in the 70's to look like it was made in the 50's? Nah, that would be retro-retro, right? My mind is reeling trying to grasp the concept of retro-vintage. Brain cramp, gotta go...

    3. Maybe if some craft item were created from partly vintage stuff and partly retro stuff, it might be retro-vintage. So, if someone took a vintage Victorian top hat and sewed retro clock parts (not vintage ones) all over it to make it steampunk, then it MIGHT qualify as retro vintage.....

  2. Good grief, that tub is a nightmare!

  3. I like your definition for "hideous" the best.

  4. At least you won't miss that chair in the dark.

    Vintage does not equal least not yet. The way English meanings change over the centuries it may well do in 100 years time.

    p.s, if you're still interested in hosting me on my blog tour, can you email me at martin (at) starfishpc (dot) co (dot) uk, so we can arrange date and details etc.