Vintage, Retro and Antique: What’s the Difference?

The terms ‘vintage’, ‘retro’ and ‘antique’ are thrown around a lot these days, with the revival of hipster tech like cassette tapes and vinyl, not to mention an appreciation of ’70s and ’80s fashion on the catwalks of New York and Milan. But what do these different terms actually mean, and are you using them right?

Vintage Furniture

Strictly speaking, vintage is defined as something from the past that’s of high quality, say a leather-bound edition of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. In common terms though, it’s generally understood to mean something produced between 1930 and 1999, especially a piece of clothing or technology. So, a shirtwaist dress manufactured in 1945 or a 1979 Commodore PET computer would be considered vintage. It was around 20 years or more ago, but isn’t quite old enough to be considered an antique. True vintage tends to be highly sought after and is sometimes expensive, as the pieces are usually no longer produced and so are inherently rare and valuable to collectors.

Retro Furniture

Retro is basically an imitation of vintage, a recreation of the style and aesthetic of fashion or tech from a bygone era, but not actually from that time. Walk into any department store and it’s not difficult to find pieces blatantly imitating the fashions of 20 years ago or more, whether it’s a simple ‘Frankie Says Relax’ T-shirt or a mish-mash of generic retro elements to create that old-school feel. Retro technology is also quite popular, like new boom boxes that capture the 1990s hip hop look, but are perhaps decked out with the latest Bluetooth technology or include an iPhone jack just in case you can’t quite do without.

Antique Furniture

This term is less commonly confused than vintage and retro, but does occasionally cause mix-ups. Simply put, something created in the 1920s or earlier could be considered antique. This tends to be associated more with furniture, paintings and other valuable homeware items rather than technology and fashion. Mass consumer culture wasn’t really such a thing until society approached the mid-20th century, and electronic technology was still in its infancy in the 1920s. You may still see certain vintage tech, like an old gramophone, but generally the term is more closely associated with chairs, lamps and the like. There’s no real time limit on how old an antique can be, so a medieval pot would be an antique, just far older and rarer than one from the 1910s!

Language is ever changing and evolving, and as people continue to use these terms interchangeably they may begin to lose their definitions. But, if you want to know how to use them as they’re commonly agreed to mean, follow the advice above and you’ll soon be an expert on all the coolest hipster gadgets and garments.

Cozy Interiors for furniture, mattresses, and home décor at Cozy Interiors at 17035 N Eagle River Loop Rd Eagle River, AK 99577-7803 Phone: 907-694-2699. If you are looking for furniture in Anchorage Alaska a short drive to our amazing showroom will be worth the drive.


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