Saturday, May 7, 2016

What Rockabilly & Vintage Life Means To Me

Since I started helping with putting together a local Pin-up Pageant, I've had to constantly give people a synopsis of what pin-up is.  It has made me think that I should go over what this all means to me because I feel that while pin-up, rockabilly, and vintage life are all intertwined, they're also different.

I'd love to read other people's perspectives on this.  If you have a blog, feel free to take on the questions posted below.  There are no perfect answers since it's all opinion-based (subjective).

How do you define the cultures for: Pin-Up, Rockabilly, and Vintage Life?
Pin-Up culture falls between Rockabilly and Vintage Life.  For me, I see pin-up culture as a very showy, more high end version of a retro lifestyle.  I also see the pin-up culture as those who have limited skills.  That sounds terrible, but it's not meant to be.  I guess it's just, they're still learning skills, or they purposefully don't want to learn various skills, that make the lifestyle easier and cheaper - like cooking, sewing, etc.

Rockabilly culture is between Pin-Up and Vintage Life.  Rockabilly has always been a little more rough and dirty.  You might not find pin-ups with tattoos, but you will definitely find rockabillies with tattoos.  Rockabilly people aren't afraid to get their threads dirty and they're more apt to throw a little punk into their style (wild hair color, day-glo clothing, studs, etc).  They stick with a retro look (typically 40s and 50s) but they might merge it with various themes like tiki, tattoos, punk (psychobilly), goth (gothabilly/hellbilly), or car kulture.
The epitome of function and form!

Vintage Lifers are the ones who try to live their lives in a vintage-inspired way.  Furniture, home design, kitchenware, decor, etc - all vintage or vintage-inspired.  The same goes for clothing.  A lot of these people are very saavy with sewing.  I believe there are two types of Vintage Lifers: Hardcore and Regular.  The difference between these two is that the hardcore people want everything to be vintage, where the regular folks are okay with reproduction stuff.

It's very common to find people in the areas in between the major categories which is why defining these three parts of the culture can be difficult.

Is it just music and clothing?
Of course not.  This is a full subculture or counterculture (depending on the term you prefer).  I think a lot of people find the culture through music and clothing, but they fall in love with it because of the ideals and people.

What is the big draw for these retro cultures?
I think the retro cultures are a platform that allow people to do a few important things that make their lives better: 1. Unplug from technology, 2. Explore function and form in all aspects of life, 3. Living to older ideals, 4. General etiquette, and 5. Exploring connections with older generations.

My usual self in new glasses
I think these are very important to a lot of people in these cultures.  Of course, not to everyone, but for many they hide their newer technology and they appreciate having distance from their tech.  With that being said, most everyone still uses technology, but we don't HAVE to use it to get through a day (unless it's job related).  Form and function is a big part of the culture.  We want our vehicles to look good and to be able to take a tumble.  Women want to look and feel good in their clothes, Men want to look handsome, but we also want to be able to fix a leaky pipe or build something with our hands or rebuild an old car or garden.  Form and function also goes into play with architectural design, art, music, etc.  Older ideals and general etiquette are big winners in the subculture.  It's a matter of being respectful, having manners, saying "please" and "thank you", etc.  If you're American, our big ideal is "The American Dream" which I believe is living comfortably in the middle-class.  I also think that the retro culture allows us to connect with older generations either in person or through research and history.

Where do you stand within these cultures and how have you made your way there?
Isn't that a great ad?
I'm writing this while I'm slumming it today - wearing modern clothes that includes Adidas shoes and a hoodie.  I was just lazy this morning.  I generally think of myself as being a mix of Vintage Life and Rockabilly.  Most of my clothes are homemade and a portion of my patterns are vintage patterns.  I live in a MCM (mid-century modern) apartment that my grandfather had built.  My bathroom is Kohler peachblow (an off-pink) and my kitchen has an out-of-print laminate on the counters in a lovely white/gold marble print.  I don't mind having reproduction stuff in the least.  My kitchen is tiki themed and I love chintzy horror movie stuff.

It took me a great while to figure out my personal retro style.  I've found that I have some strong interests in WWII and I love exotica jazz.  I think I have a fairly eclectic taste in style.  As the YLiving ad states: "Clutter Causes Anxiety."  I try not to have a ton of clutter and I try harder to keep things clean.

I really had a strange time getting to where I am.  I looked at films and television...and wanted to live there, not here, not in reality.  I had circle skirts in elementary school and I as a big fan of The Wizard of Oz, Grease, and Little Shop of Horrors.  In middle school I had a best friend who had a love for old stuff, especially Elvis.  We always made it to 50s-themed dances and stuff - I even made her an Elvis birthday cake in....6th or 7th grade.  I ended up as a darkwave/goth type of kid - not super gothy, but more like a ton of black clothes with darkwave and goth music.
Me (blonde) looking dumpy during my time at art school in 2005
 That turned into me just dressing to be wearing clothes (typical t-shirt and jeans).  I never had an easy time fitting into modern clothing, so I was always down on myself.  I had a few retro things in my closet, but I wore them just every so often.  It really wasn't until I got my second bachelor's degree in history that I really started to get into the rockabilly subculture in a big way.  I started implementing stuff into my everyday wear, bit by bit, but it wasn't until I went to Viva Las Vegas in 2013 that I decided to make a big life change.  I was living in Portland, OR at the time and started living the lifestyle that made me feel like a million bucks.

I feel like I had a hard start with it since I am a bit of a loner.  Now I have a few local friends that I can meet up with for lunch or coffee or something, but for a long time it was just me versus the world.

Retro in Hawaii
Retro in Alaska with Jimbo! (from Rev. Horton Heat)
What are three things that you have found a new appreciation for through the subculture?
  1. Keeping a clean abode.  I tend to keep a pretty clean house.  It was cleaner before getting a dog, but that's just how it goes.  I can't say that I love washing dishes, but I don't mind washing dishes.  It gives me time to think about things...and there are never many dishes to be done, so I never spend gobs of time at the sink.  I also don't own enough dishes to warrant the use of the apartment's dishwasher.
  2. Personal time.  I've always been into personal time, but now I feel more creative with my personal time and I think I have MORE personal time.  As an author, this is very important and very useful.  I've also found that I'm more apt to take baths as a way to spend time thinking over projects.
  3. Unplugging.  I am definitely in love with my computer and television, always have been.  I do a lot of stuff on the computer on a daily basis - aside from running this blog which is more cathartic to me than anything.  I write, I take care of MUFON cases, etc.  Actually, I probably spend too much time on the computer.  I am not afraid of stepping away and simply unplugging.  I've been considering doing away with my cellphone and just getting a vintage refurbished phone (yes, a landline).  I mainly just use the cellphone as a watch.  Isn't that dumb?  Why am I paying monthly for it?!  The answer is that I don't have a vintage refurbished phone yet.
Is there anything you wish you could do in regards to the subculture?
I would like to be in a band.  I have this idea for a kitchy-horror band that has a lot of rockabilly music, but isn't entirely rockabilly.  I play bass guitar and a little keyboard.

I would also like to finish up some patterns for a line of vintage-inspired workout clothes.  To the right is a picture of me doing a deadlift with 195lbs (8 rep max).  As you can see...not very rockabilly-looking.  I'd like to jazz it up.

I have some big dreams like starting a rockabilly commune or something.  Wouldn't that be cool to take over some small town and turning it into a vintage wonderland?  Big dreams.  I bet some people think I'm crazy, but I don't care.

I would love to write a novel or screenplay that really defines the rockabilly/vintage/pin-up community.  I'm working through ideas, but am not there yet.

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