With Nokia announcing the relaunch of its 3310 phone, a fin de siecle phone from when size mattered and people liked telephones, and desserts, large, it’s clearly the time to be retro. That explains the sudden onrush of articles dating back to the 1990s reappearing now. Nokia is relaunching the weighty 3310 but veteran phone-maker BlackBerry also recently announced that it intends to smarten up the original smartphone. While you wait for your BBM to flicker back into life, play a vinyl record on your retro-chic gramophone. Or slip on your retro wedges with those vintage sun-glasses Amal Clooney dons. You won’t be sporting retro chic alone. Think of Priyanka Chopra re-enacting the 1990s hit Baywatch, delighting those who want just simple sun and sand again.
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Some cultural trends are taking retro even further back. J.K. Rowling’s latest book transports readers through time again, to a 1920s New York, when the streets (and not the senates) were full of fantastic beasts. The most heavily-nominated movie for the Oscars this year is La La Land, which evokes a 1950s Hollywood of songs, dances and mellow drama. And the drama doesn’t stop; even as her husband battles charges of remixing that retro US-Russia Cold War, America’s First Lady Melania Trump sports a retro wardrobe. Her Jackie Kennedy-style Inauguration dress, replete with gloves, harked back to a time many Americans feel was so much better than now.
That brings us to the heart of why retro has gone from going out to being back in: The style touches upon nostalgia, a longing for a time gone, which many think was way nicer than today. As we find ourselves hemmed in by more crudity, more stress, by thickening traffic, spiralling expenses (and often, vanishing money), by violence in speech and acts, by banalities that underwhelm and technology that does the opposite, the heart longs for a simpler time. We wish for days when you could say it with a song, eat a parantha, not an “amuse-bouche”, have a phone which isn’t your office desk, enjoy a few ethics in public life. That time is gone. Hang on to your retro phone.