Pop Culture Iconography
Nothing says retro than taking a look back at the brands that were omnipresent in the past. Vaporwave is a space for this to occur frequently as old brands (though many are still leading brands today) pop up their heads all the time in music videos and on clothing. From the Pepsi logo being thrown around to Fiji Water and often Simpsons characters – thanks to YouTube videos using effect -laden clips from the cartoon to back their chilled music. Vaporwave pioneers don’t just slap all these in for comic effect however (well in fact many do but regardless) the logos and characters are often given the vaporwave treatment themselves, hued with pink and blue and distorted just a little.
Neon and Lasers
It seems that the 80’s was a time where the cyberpunk metropolises really took off, movies and cartoons imagined huge cities covered in neon lights and blinding branding, everyone’s future city looked like Blade Runner and people loved it. Today we are still yet to see neons that wrap entirely around buildings but that doesn’t mean that this is all forgotten, vaporwave lovers will often see the look restored to its full glory. Laser wire frame mountains, neon palm trees and multiple glowing cityscapes are all back now, this time thought they are just more purple than before.
Expired Microsoft Imagery
Vaporwave began as an internet phenomenon so it makes sense that it pays homage to the systems widely owned by those lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your stance) to be around in its early days. You will find 90s windows logos all over the place in vaporwave designs, not just because it is both pop culture and a delightfully out of date though. The content that is used in vaporwave typically uses backgrounds, clip art and dated effects that were common in the days of Windows 95, all of these have their own dash of nostalgia for anyone old enough to remember them. This is likely one of the most recent eras that can be called retro, as these 90s designs show the world looked very different back in the day and so did its computer graphics capabilities. Everything from screen windows to Encarta sounds are used to take you back to a simpler time without social media and with much slower connection speeds.
It’s not as easy to see why many Greco-Roman sculptures and statuesque creations also make it onto vaporwave images but it occurs often. Many people believe it is something to do with the philosophy of vaporwave in that the aesthetics are temporary, false and broken. This deep and thought-provoking aspect is countered by those who believe it’s just part of the ongoing joke that vaporwave is more thoughtful than it truly is. Though these are the most perplexing elements of the movement they still allow it to be a backwards looking fashion and by paying homage to the art of old, ironically or not, the movement becomes classier by association.