Is nostalgia what it used to be?

July 31, 2020

Collage idea by Nicole Colucci with images by Ulrike Mai and Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Nicole Colucci explores the pros and cons of looking back through rose tinted specs

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m sitting on the sofa in my Hello Kitty pyjama top listening to Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ which is drowned out by ‘Friends’ on the TV.

I pause to think about my surroundings and wonder to myself: what makes my throwback playlist more enticing than the weekly top 40 on Spotify? Why would I prefer to watch ‘Dirty Dancing’ or ‘Friends’ for the 100th time over the new season of ‘Brooklyn 99’? What encouraged me to choose the Hello Kitty pyjamas over the more standard designs on the clothing rack?

The answer is nostalgia: ‘the sentimental memory or longing for things from the past’.

‘Poker Face’ was the song I moved to when I joined my first dance class. ‘Dirty Dancing’ and ‘Friends’ were constantly playing in the background while I was growing up and the majority of my toys, clothes and furniture as a child were Hello Kitty themed. All these comforting elements contributed to my relaxing Sunday afternoon.

TV and film, and the advertising industries often use powerful music from the past to set a particular scene or evoke emotions necessary to sell their goods

Nostalgia changes for each individual because different age groups have different memories, often tailored to the decades of their childhood and youth. However, reminiscent feelings impact on us all through their influence on our taste in fashion and beauty, our music and film choices, the interior design in our homes and the products we buy.

MUSIC: Either through connecting older generations to their youthful days or associating us to particular memories or people, music is seen as the strongest source of nostalgia, with 38% of people finding that 60s music evokes their fondest feelings, according to a recent YouGov study. This emotion is often explored through TV and film, and the advertising industries which often use powerful music from the past to set a particular scene or conjure emotions necessary to sell their goods.

FASHION AND BEAUTY: Another prominent form of nostalgia is manifested in fashion and beauty trends, particularly amongst young people. Low rise jeans, hair clips, layered tops and plaid skirts are all things I am very familiar with as my style is heavily influenced by the 90s and 00s.

While the popularity of these fashion trends may be driven by a range of factors – i.e. social media, fashion branding and general trends in society – I believe my inspiration stems mainly from my passion for old movies and TV series (where I greatly focus on the characters’ styles) or even from flicking through old photos of my parents and looking at the clothes they used to wear.

Fashion and beauty trends often repeat themselves every 20 to 30 years, for example the appeal of crimped hair in the 2000s, a hairstyle that re-emerged 20 years after it first appeared in the 80s.

Buzzfeed often uses nostalgic keywords or phrases (‘You know you’re an 80s child if…’) in the titles of their listicles

NOSTALGIA MARKETING AND PRODUCT DESIGN: The increased demand for retro fashion and beauty has caused (once niche) vintage stores and online selling platforms such as Depop to soar in popularity over recent years, while popular brands have leant into this culture and adapted their products and advertising campaigns accordingly.

Brands commonly use nostalgia as a selling point in promoting their products to connect with their target market on a much deeper level. For example, online magazine Buzzfeed often uses nostalgic keywords or phrases (‘You know you’re an 80s child if…’) in the titles of their listicles (articles in a list form) as clickbait for their website.

Companies often present their products in nostalgic packaging and branding. For example, beauty brand ‘Revolution’ has recently collaborated with the ‘NOW’ albums to produce a range of sentimental beauty products which they promise will give their consumer ‘all sorts of nostalgic feels’.

NOSTALGIA VERSUS FAUXSTALGIA: However, how can we explain the warm connection we feel towards decades before we were even born? This is called ‘Fauxstalgia’, a term used to express people’s inaccurate recollections of the past or the strong connections they feel to times they never lived through.

This may be due to decades such has the 90s being held in such high regard that we feel inclined to try and experience the same culture over two decades later.

Although nostalgia and sentimentality may evoke memories of better times and shape trends in society, we must not use it as an unhealthy distraction from the uncertain period we’re living in now. We must still remember to engage with the present and embrace it for the sake of our mental health and wellbeing, learning to adopt lessons and elements from previous decades to enjoy, in a fond and lighthearted manner, as we evolve as people and as a society.

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