Antique, Vintage or Retro

There are several terms that refer to items reflective of a different period in time but together they can become quite confusing to those who don’t dabble in those circles. Antique, vintage and retro are all styles and words used to describe both fashionable clothing and every day items and even art styles, but what do they all mean? Many times, the terms are used interchangeably to describe anything old, often times using the predisposed ideas to the advantage of sellers trying to make a quick buck. For example, some stores label themselves as vintage clothes stores but sell brand new items just out of season, meanwhile antique shops may also have modern items fro sale whereas the label antique signifies something much older and historied. In reality there are no hard and fast rules, about which is which, but there is some ground fo
r discerning one from another.


Often recognised as old pieces of furniture or small trinkets, antiques are widely known to be something particularly old. As far as collectors and experts go, the unwritten rule declares that antiques are items which are at least one hundred years old. This means that generally whatever is claiming to be an antique has outlived its owner and, in many cases, multiple owners. This is why many of the people seen on TV shows (such as the antiques roadshow) who have come to sell them are the surviving relatives of someone who once owned them. Professionals who deal with antiques learn how date pieces from visual queues and certain markings which can help them discern which era they came from, and with an antique older of course is better.


This is quite a tough one because it holds a middle ground between the two more clearly outlined varieties, and yet today vintage is seen more often as it is fashionable with a particular generation and frequently loops back around into mainstream trends. Vintage is generally something around 50 years old or more, items from the 50s and 60s are on the whole seen as vintage before mass production and commercialization as we know it came into being. Vintage items often are made from natural materials like wooden furnishings, leather jackets and metalwork. Yet ‘vintage style’ can always blur the lines between the real thing and products trying to capitalise on the market.


This is a much more modern term which describes items from around the 70s and 80s and even 90s. Basically any time in the past with a specific aesthetic can provide us with artifacts that can be deemed retro. The main difference with retro however is that it is widely understood to be a look or feel (essentially the meaning behind aesthetics) and so products which are made now but are designed to look like they are from another time period can be retro without any foul play. Retro items are often plastic and more vibrant in colour than their vintage counterparts and include recent computerised technology, which of course antiques cannot.


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