Old School Is Cool

Jun 28, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Whether it’s teenagers wearing a replica Brooklyn Dodger cap, a throwback jersey from the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs of the old Negro Baseball League or debating whether Who’s
Next or Quadrophenia is the best “CD” ever made by The Who, it has become clear that, for many of today’s kids, “old school” is cool.

As Sarah Lammon, a 19-year old student who attends Ohio State University told the Associated Press, “Everything retro seems to be coming back.”

One of the main beneficiaries of the demand for blast from the past products has been department stores and specialty apparel shops.

Chains including Lord and Taylor, Hot Topic Urban Outfitters and Filene’s, for example, have been doing well selling White Castle brand t-shirts.

“This is part of that vintage-inspired retro look that is so hot right now,” said Regina Norfolk, a spokesperson for the Filene’s and Kaufmann’s department stores. “The shirts
are very successful.”

White Castle, which opened its first store in Wichita, Kan., back in 1921 has a remarkable following, even in markets where it doesn’t operate any stores, said Lois Huff, senior
vice president for Retail Forward.

“There is a cult phenomenon around White Castle. It’s one of those retail brands that has a story to it,” she said. “Most restaurants are not like that.”

Another consumer interviewed by the Associated Press, Adam Canell, 23, said cult phenomena or no, he wouldn’t buy the White Castle shirts.

“When it comes right down to it, in a month or two, they’re going to be out of style,” he said.

Mr. Cannell said he prefers wearing t-shirts with humorous or offensive sayings to help him stand out in a crowd.

Moderator’s Comment: To what do you attribute the on-going demand for items that symbolize popular culture from years
gone by? What does this mean for retailers?

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Star Trek (pick your series) where the characters discuss ancient Earth history, you invariably get a chuckle from
the incorrect assumptions made about the time.

We were fortunate to witness a modern day version of that scene played out this weekend when a group of 13 to 15 year old boys and girls discussed what
was the most important Who “CD” and whether it was a bigger deal that Black Sabbath or Judas Priest reuniting for this summer’s version of Ozzfest.

While there was little agreement among the kids on the “important” issues raised, there was absolute certainty that they’d rather watch Ozzy and Sabbath
than Slipknot or any of the other modern head bangers on the bill.

George Anderson – Moderator

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