The 40s weren’t great; what’s wrong with people?!

It seems like not a week goes by without hearing about another vintage fair or vintage burlesque event. And this week it’s news that Hereford is to host its first vintage summer street fair at the end of August.

Left to right: auntie just died; can't afford the club on Saturday; period pains; boyfriend is ignoring her letters; fallen out with her mum; got a ladder in her tights; has to be home in an hour. Whatever era, life's always mundane

There’s a certain quaintness about old things that is charming. We tend to believe (perhaps with some truth) that old furniture or jewellery is made to a higher quality than would be the case today, or that modern clothes and possessions lack the beauty of previous generations.

Harsh modernist styles do lack warmth and not everyone wants to live in a minimalist white box with only a bonsai tree for company. And the failure of the 1960s modern estates is testament to this.

But just at a point in history where the whole world is in crisis and everything we once took for granted is under attack, the love of the yesteryear comes into fashion.

There’s a bizarre romance for the 40s and 50s ‘blitz spirit’ like this was a great period in history. But to the poor family stuck in a bunker whilst bombs rained down or the pensioner living on rations this was anything but.

History should be there to inspire, as a guide for what not to do again and what to improve upon.

Fashions that are blindly copied by so many people today were, in their time, modern and cutting edge. They were a reaction against the boring styles of the previous generations and their designers were experimental and pioneering.

That flowery wallpaper that your nan had, it was modern at some point, and that’s why people embraced it, because it was new and different. The funny old jazz music you hear down the pub was, in its day, dangerous! The people that originally liked this sort of stuff were modernists of their time.

Yet we’re plagued with boring traditionalists that won’t contribute anything culturally to their own era because they’re too busy replicating what’s gone before, like some sort of living, walking museum. It’s weird.

You’d think that as the global economy collapses and people are losing their jobs left, right and centre today’s rallying cry might be an anti-capitalist slogan demanding a helping hand for workers. But it’s not. It’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ and all its 101 spinoffs.

NO! Do not keep calm and carry on! What is wrong with people and this deranged British mentality of forgetting it all and pretending it’s not happening?! It is happening! And no amount of piss-stained charity shop dresses, fucking cupcakes and that stupid little bunting for your front room is going to change that!

What’s going on here is a weird form of escapism, wrapped in nostalgia and the belief that yesterday was better than today. It wasn’t. It was just as horrible. Take off those secondhand rose-tinted spectacles and change something!

26 thoughts on “The 40s weren’t great; what’s wrong with people?!

  1. so i think this touched on some good issues, but could have gone into much more detail about the biggest issues (in my mind) that this fashion brings. specifically from a feminist point of view, for example, the rise of vintage and burlesque is problematic because it glazes over a huge part of our history, that is the patriarchy, and it’s really important that we remember that so that we carry on fighting.

    basically i agree with everything you’re saying but i’d like more detail and, honestly, more politics. there’s a world of things to look at here, the rise of heteronormative beauty ideals in the 1920s with magazine culture, consumerism and capitalism in the 50s, and attitudes towards women, ethnic minorities, alternatives sexualities and the disabled all the way through.

      • Clothes Are directly related to politics, wars, popular musicians and economic and environmental disasters of the time. Look at the Beayeux tapestry, it’s a good example of how people used textiles to communicate the events of the time and the 60’s were a decade of rebellion which was reflected by the change in clothes.
        People now are celebrating the olympics by wearing union flag T-shirts.
        I fail to see how you think design/ style is ‘opposed to anything genuinely political’ when politics reflects everything we do from the taxes we pay to specific details we learnt in history at school to the trends that are dictated by the populations demands and are closely watched by our Prime ministers wife on London fashion week.

  2. Goodness gracious me! I think people are taking this way to far, I’ve been buying and wearing ‘vintage’ if you like since the early to mid 80’s, going to the local church jumble sale when I was at secondary school! For me, it was about cheap, unique clothes, things I knew no-one else would be wearing, and of course the re-cycling element too, in the early 1980’s my Uncle started the first newspaper re-cycling facility in the city, so re-cycling clothes too was a natural thing for me and my Sister. In my humble opinion most vintage stuff is of far better quality, I can’t imagine anyone wearing anything purchased from Primark or Top Shop etc now in 60 years time!!! But most of all it’s about supporting local independent traders rather than massive high street chains.
    I for one can’t wait to go the Vintage Street Fayre, hope it’s as good as the one held in the Shire Hall back in April, maybe you should go along and do a bit of research with traders and customers.

    • I think thats a good point Sharon! there is clearly a lot more research needed if this article is anything to go by.

  3. Hereford’s got a quality selection of vintage shops: Blue Cross, Red Cross, Oxfam, Martha, RSPCA, St Michael’s Hospice, Full House, Roman Road on a Saturday … bloody hell the list is endless.

  4. Surely the fact that there is a large interest and demand for a certain style would show that this IS Current and yes it is partly to do with a nostalgia for a time that seemed carefree but it is a million miles away from the Hollyoaks culture that we are expected to be a part off from the typical high-street stores.
    I don’t think you understand that it is also a way of recycling clothes that are in perfect condition (a ‘piss stained charity shop dress’ is Not something worn by a Vintage enthusiast!). Textiles makes up an estimated 12% of landfill waste each year, it may seem like a nostalgic notion to wear something well made that has already been worn before and if we can make a better world for future generations by not filling the world with waste and our wardrobe’s with ‘fast fashion’ and badly made ‘wear once’ items then I think its a positive change in the way people think And there is no fuddy duddy traditionalism involved, most people buy vintage for everyday and create spectacular inspired outfits from mixing pieces and wearing them in unusual ways, this blend of creative personal taste is a movement in itself
    and I think this movement is a lot more relevant and inspirational than a bitter, foul mouthed rant on a website.

    • I think this article has uncovered another aspect of this ‘Vintage’ thing,
      the uptight values of the 40’s are clear to see in the above comments.
      Get over it, if your chosen fashion cant handle criticism then maybe you are taking yourselves a little too seriously.

  5. I think what you’ve omitted is the sense of fun,which has been around in all the decades that i have experienced= 6. It appears that you don’t have much of a sense of humour ,sounding very much like an angry person who thinks the world ought to listen to only your views.I can see positive points in comments that have been made by all,however we’re all individuals and how we like to express ourselves enhances our uniqueness.If you choose to go to Ikea and buy yourself a flatpack and paper lampshade then good luck to you.Get your facts right about some of the people that are into vintage and find out what they contribute to modern society in all aspects.How sad that you have to resort to bad language – that wouldn’t have happened in previous decades when people had respect for their fellow humans

  6. Marvellous that so many people, perhaps not interested in “vintage”, have read this and had a say! In my mind “vintage” encompasses all sorts of things for all sorts of people – fabulous old vehicles restored by “amateur” engineers, truly unique pieces of clothing, accessories or jewellery – right down to “vintage-style” fashion fads and “f*****g cupcakes”.

    For me, searching, finding, repairing, re-using, re-loving and enjoying quality British-made clothing and accessories from previous decades keeps textiles out of landfill, helps all our local retailers and charities and saves me money. What’s not to like? That several innovative independant small businesses have started up around “vintage” is inspirational in these financially difficult times.

    I for one will be at (and enjoy) Hereford’s Vintage Street Fayre and any other vintage events that these motivated young people want to plan for our City. I am supporting local enterprise, local businesses and local people.

    I’ve never heard of Hereford Heckler before this – know, down to vintage, I have another local enterprise to support so thank you!

  7. Some righteous middle class idiots start wearing secondhand clothes and want the rest of us to think they should be commended because they’re saving the planet and recycling all these things that would’ve gone to landfill? Get over yourselves. Working class people have been quietly shopping in charity shops and wearing hand-me-downs for decades and decades.

    To be honest anyone with any common sense has a root around charity shops and carboot sales and gets things for a cheap price. It’s only the gullible twats that go to vintage fairs and shops and pay hugely inflated prices for the same old junk.

    • Someones got to try to save planet, whats wrong with recycling, if old clothes are out why do people buy retro kits, whats yesterday can be tommorrow, you really need to get an education

  8. “And no amount of piss-stained charity shop dresses, fucking cupcakes and that stupid little bunting for your front room is going to change that!”

    Not my words but yours! However in defence of the Vintage trend you are very inaccurate because Vintage is not just 1940’s 50’s etc. It can be the 1970’s and soon the 80’s. “Piss stained charity shop dresses” very offensive , people take clothing to charity shops to try and help others, my Father passed away in 2006 in London, he served Queen and country for 22 years in the Royal Airforce and was involved in conflicts such as Borneo, Aden and Malaya. He was awarded the BEM by President De Gaulle in Paris. We took his clothes to a charity shop and right up until the day he died he kept himself immaculate, his clothes were not piss stained so I take very much offence to your comments as will lots of other people who have done the same. What is wrong with cup cakes, do not eat them if you dont like them. Isnt Xmas pud, Xmas cake, Victoria sandwhich, Real Ale, Whisky etc vintage as well. Bunting havent seen that every this year with Queens diamond Jubilee and Olympics, do you put up Xmas decorations , pop parties bangers or simply a sign Happy Birthday. Now looking at the Vintage trend I am very much impressed with one business in Hereford called Lizzie May Vintage, based on top floor of Hereford Antiques centre, (have you actually been in a proper vintage shop, no not Charity shop but the real thing). All there clothing is laundered and repaired before it goes on sale, it is my wife and Sister in Laws business and I know first hand what goes on. Everyting they have is genuine Vintage no reproductions, it is if required repaired and made ready for sale with care , precision to detail and with a passion. These are 2 Hereford (Yes from our city) who have started this from scratch and built it up with a decication to only sell genuine vintage , no reproductions etc. They have shown a business acumen and this City should be very proud of there achievments as so many people dream the dream over a few beers but actually achieve nothing and then look back with regret. The upcoming Hereford Vintage event is down to lots of hard work and planning to add value to our city , our culture , inspire others. I know I have a personal connection however I anyone who strives to do something, it happens and is a success needs a pat on the back rather than your statement “And no amount of piss-stained charity shop dresses, fucking cupcakes and that stupid little bunting for your front room is going to change that!, Please take time to visit there shop, do you buy vintage or aet and drink it, think about that one?,

    Clothes made today by the massive chains are probaly made by someone in a far away sweat shop , fighting to feed there families , little pay , unsafe working conditions, no human rights, despair. And why the beef what does it matter to you, making judgements without really looking into the Vintage trend is very narrow minded and even in the news today Collen Rooney is promting Vintage. What Lizzie May Vintage are doing is not in the past but the future , Herefordordians making the dream happen not some forum on facebook probaly run by jobless, went to uni and gained worthless degree of no use to beast and man and probaly did dream once of being a Journalist but did not see it through, agian probaly does like vintage as thery drink real ale and buy there footie teams retro kit rather than modern version as it looks cooler.

    PS improve your language as it dosent make you look clever

  9. Wow certainly got some vintage knickers twisted on this ! Yep let’s all go back to the past it was great kids went to work down pits an in mills .no nhs , no vaccinations , no education , rationing must have been a blast ? Ha why not really get vintage and live in roundhouses made of mud n sticks . The past is where it belongs move with the times people. Live now !

  10. so to pitch in my 2 pennies…

    I can see a middle ground here. Certainly i can understand the view that perhaps holding onto a past time with such vigour (as we appear to be doing recently) is a bit disturbing. It’s plain to see that it is yet another media spin on a fashion / social trend that has snowballed out of control. What with the jubilee for that miserable old shitcunt on the throne, and financial issues aplenty surrounding life today, it’s easy to see how and why media agencies would cling to this idea that the past times were the good times. There is most certainly more to this than just a fashion trend, but the media circus and mass marketers will attempt to play it down as just a fashion trend.

    On the other hand i can also understand the point of OP.
    The 40’s / 50’s were GRIM historically. things we celebrate as kitsch these days were often does out of real financial and social hardship. you see young ladies “dressing up” with a kerchief in their hair, without knowing that it was done originally out of necessity; because the lady in question COULDN’T AFFORD TO WASH HER HAIR THAT DAY!!!

    I don’t deny that there are all kind of social and political movements that gained massive momentum throughout that period… i regrettably do not know nearly enough about history to comment with any real intellect. I do know that as we stand at the moment, we are approaching a precipice, the likes of which we haven’t seen for decades… and if we continue to satisfy our own vanity with notions of individuality expressed through the medium of old clothes; rather than reach out to our peers, re-educate each other and learn to co-exist in a way that makes us accepting / acceptable without NEEDING to sustain bourgeois ideas like fashion and art; then we are doomed to an existence in which we are ever reaching for the un-obtainable.

    Art and fashion are essentially our way of trying to make our ideas acceptable to the public… fuck that, live how you want to and need to, as long as you don’t harm me or mine, you can do what you want to. unfortunately, the world of fashion, and the ideas that ultimately fuel it are currently the tools of our oppressors, and that can’t be a good thing.

    this is turning into a pseudo-anarcho rant…

  11. I haven’t read all the comments here properly, so apologise if I reiterate any points that have already been made, or omit anything that desperately needed addressing.
    I don’t get the supposed link between vintage fashion and burlesque?? One’s reinterpretation of and possibly reuse of styles from the past, the other’s continuing objectification repackaged in a ‘post-feminist, ironic’ way. Is it cos the strippers wear big knickers instead of thongs?

  12. Well – i found that article scathing and hilarious. Pissed myself laffin.

    But thats fashion and apathy for ya.

    The only criticism i have is vintage fashion is no worse than the many other commercial distractions that cause political apathy.

    You Fashion Fascists ! 😉

  13. The people who’ve posted about recycling are at best deluded and at worst utterly disingenuous. Be honest, you don’t go to ludicrously over priced second hand shops to buy clothes because they’re recycled, you didn’t pioneer this, you haven’t created a movement you’re not pushing any boundaries. You’re a consumer no more and no less than someone who clothes themselves out of Primark or a liberal yoghurt weaver with a shopping basket full of “ethical” coffee and bananas. Social change isn’t for sale, you can’t buy it at the shops or down the vintage fare. If you think that buying second hand clothes benefits sweat shop labour, you’re thick.

    You’re buying into identity and it’s a shit identity. You’re not interesting or exciting or unique. You blend into the background of everyday life just like everyone else. Your choice of vintage clothes at best says nothing and at worst identifies you with nostalgia for a time when people “got on with it” and “made the best”. The fact that this is largely a myth, that people then were just as , if not more recalcitrant than now is lost on the vintage scene. If it was just clothes I’d think you were odd but it isn’t, it’s a re-imagining of the past and a value set based almost entirely on propaganda with a social scene to go with it.

    Vintage, it will rot your brain, empty your wallet and make you look like my nan.

    • THis perfectly illustrates the problem I have with anarchists, lefties and otehr so called activists. THey have a need to impose their orthodoxy on things that are not political and if you question it , you are , deluded/class traitor/ fashionor marketing victim. Yes there was injustice in the 30 and 40s . My family were also Communists but they realised that they also liekd to go to dances, dress up and have a bit of a ncie time amid the struggle of everyday life.
      He’s a concept to think about, people ENJOY dressing in vintage and going to re-enactments too. Nothing wrong with ENJOYMENT.
      Andy if you want t0 be an anarchist , dress up and talk to the public about it, why not join my group http://www.lacolumna.org.uk Its based on the Spanish Civil War.

  14. I think an unfair amount of scorn and criticisms being dished out.

    I think someone needs to point out that buying vintage clothing is not all one group – it’s not all about this current love for yesteryear. (Which was probably buzzed up by the Jubilee, Royal Wedding, Old War Poster and Recession).

    People from many different fashion cultures buy vintage. Punks, Goths, Scooter types, Indie scene.

    They ain’t all middle class, they ain’t all buying into some identity that “Vintage Marketeers” are pushing and cashing in on.
    To some its just fashion. People wear things for different many different reasons.
    Some for identitiy yeah – but some people just wanna wear something nice when they go out.
    Maybe They don’t want that force fed high street fashion.
    It’s not the most rebellious of positions but it’s certainly a rejection of something. Not all of them have claimed to be changing the world.

    The working classes love dressing up.
    Bashing people who wear vintage clothes whilst making out like its entirely middle class is offensive.

    Yeah – fashions dumb. But Virtually everybody does it.

    What fashion and Identity does the Author Keith and Andy from Sabcat buy into?
    Does it stand up to much scrutiny?

    I bet not – its probably shit too.

  15. Oh Mr/Ms Angry or what. This sounds liek its critiqued by someone with alot of emotional problems. Peopel liek 40s fashion, its not political , people just like it. My grandparents said that they were hardtimes but peope were optimistic and helped each other becuase there was a feeling of everyone taking the same crap in life so you helped your naighbours. Contrast this to the predominantly selfish , must have gadget, trainers, car etc of today. We have had everything as a scoiety and have reached a state that the latter days of teh Roman empire has.

  16. What a lot of fire and brimstone – we all have to wear clothes, no matter what class, political/ecological/ethical viewpoint – what’s it to anyone else where they come from?!?

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