Fashion and Style

Are You Ever Too Old to Wear Vintage?

It is true that when we think about vintage clothing these days, we often think about it as a young person’s game: Gen Z rediscovering the ’90s (or the ’80s or the early 2000s) and finding the joy in low-slung cargo pants, cropped tops and mini backpacks as everyone celebrates them as champions of sustainability; or fresh-faced celebrities looking hip in midcentury haute couture.

Loving resale is a good thing, no question, but it has also led to a situation where the whole meaning of “vintage” has become confused with “used clothes” and “retro” — which are, in fact, not actually synonyms.

There is, as it turns out, no generally accepted definition of “vintage” — The newsletter describes it as “any object representing a previous era or social period, at least 20 years old but not older than 100 years.” Vestiaire says that vintage is “15 years old or older.” Many other sites use the term simply to mean old — and by “old,” I mean last season. Which is itself a development that can be attributed to our bizarrely truncated sense of time, thanks to social media, and the constant stream of new information.

Let me tell you: “Vintage” does not mean last season. It doesn’t even mean last year.

But if we think of the meaning the way the Cambridge Dictionary does, as “of high quality and lasting value, or showing the best and most typical characteristics of a particular type of thing,” then it becomes a signifier of connoisseurship, knowledge and taste. And that, in answer to your question, has absolutely no age limit.

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