Black and white photo of 1940's sports fan in "Y" sweater

Has the term "Vintage" finally hit the wall?

Like all things that become part of the cultural lexicon, be it fashion, food or design, words to describe become overused and almost trite.  Or misused and abused.  We think one such word is the term “vintage.”  Originally intended to define a specific period of time when something was created or in vogue or attributed to a season’s grape yield and wine production, it’s now being used to describe virtually anything that has a heritage feel, is old, well-worn or “used” by a previous owner.  It’s certainly more sexy to describe the purchase of an old Pendleton shirt as “a vintage Pendleton” than something found on the rack at Goodwill.  Vintage shops curate specific pieces and brands designed to sell to fashionistas familiar with that brand’s aura or simply to say “I found this vintage Prada dress” as a badge of hipness and financial astuteness.  As opposed to saying “I got a killer deal on this terrific previously worn Ralph Lauren sweater,” it’s become about collecting, reselling and braggadocio in more than a few instances.

Because of the prolific use of the term and specifically its misuse, I think it’s time to stray from the term and consider another for more noble purposes.  The idea of buying a great old piece of clothing or of keeping a well-worn sweater with moth holes intact, are the stories and experiences attached to the piece.  The idea of the way things were built way back then and made to last.  Great concerts attended in a pair of frayed jeans and the memory of the band, music and venue.  Boots that took you through Europe and back to share the adventure.  Purchasing a bag in the leather market in Florence and the interchange with the maker about her crafting the piece you bought.

Why anyone buys jeans with pre-built holes and patches is completely beyond me when you can wear the shit out of a great piece of denim and have it remind you of where the destruction occurred and with whom. There is absolutely no soul, no authenticity or fun to a pursuit of buying a “new” piece of clothing designed to look used and well-worn.

The word I would like to replace the term “vintage” with is “inspired.”  Inspired by a period of time where items were lovingly crafted, done with intent to last and actually passed down to an admirer or next generation.  Inspired by a wearer of note – a Shackleton sweater worn on an almost fatal Polar expedition.  Inspired by the notion of adding no more unnecessary mass produced junk to a closet.  Inspired and focused on better fabrics, textures and colors, interesting weaves, unusual snaps or buttons found on some long-lost piece of Japanese workwear.

Inspired pieces will probably cost more – should cost more!  “Inspired” can capture the aura of a 1920 NY Giants baseball sweater that has been carefully recreated for contemporary use as well as a completely new design that tells its own story on the basis of that piece or its famous wearer and what their story was.  Inspired fashion is about the stories that serve as the foundation for the item.  About what the wearer will attribute in terms of a collection of life experiences over time when donning the piece.  The rips and stains put in place by the owner, not some cutting machine.

So at Heritage Gear, we will develop inspired products.  Inspired by the heritage and craftsmanship of our makers and partners.  Inspired by the blurry black and white photos of the original wearer.  A 1930 football player.  A 1950’s cheerleader.  Guys really named Bronco Nagurski and Knute Rockne.  Nicknames like “The Gipper,” “Night Train,” “Golden Boy” or “The Say Hey Kid.”  Sepia tones and tinted pictures.  A natural fade that will only occur over decades of time and use.  The celebration of a lost championship living only in the memory of the victors.  The emotion conjured by putting something on passed down to you by someone dear.  Something classic and undamaged by trends that come and go.

We’ll go with “inspired” to tap into that connection between a special piece of clothing or accessory because of the intangibles that cannot always be explained about why you love wearing or using it.  And why it hasn’t hit the dust bin long ago.