The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus sold more 10 million units in the first few weeks, but you can’t appear original and cool using devices parents or even grandparents own. The same applies to either vintage clothes or “normcore” (a trend described as “dressing like a tourist” as long as the outfits are worn “ironically”). Dressing in vintage clothes may show some remnant of indie spirit, and wearing such “normcore” items as Gap cargo shorts and untucked dress shirts may not actually hurt your hipster credentials yet, but when Walmart sells books on vintage fashion, etc., well, you might consider the VintageTech alternative.
By embracing your inner geek with a VintageTech lifestyle, you can save thousands while making an emphatic statement. For newbies, here are tips to rock the VintageTech look.
* Know where to source VintageTech. Unlike vintage clothes, VintageTech isn’t usually available in thrift shops. The good news: zillions of perfectly useful tech items are gathering dust, many of them conveniently in your parents’ attics and junk drawers. Your dad not only won’t be upset that you’re “borrowing” his ‘70s Pulsar LED watch, he’ll probably be proud.
* Don’t overdo the look. Listening to a Sony Walkman while staring at a Sony Watchman portable TV (with a screen the size of an iPad Nano) is trying too hard. (Multitasking wasn’t even invented until about 10 years ago.) Instead, find one item – like a boom box with a cassette deck – to provide a single dramatic touch. And don’t forget that sometimes even a single item can be overkill, like thermal-paper fax machines. That’s a VintageTech Don’t!
* Mix old with the new. Don’t limit yourself to tech from one specific decade; you’ll risk looking like a time traveler (and if you don’t have a DeLorean, you won’t pull off that look). Don’t favor only one brand, even if it’s Apple – you’ll look obsessive. Instead, take a photo with a Polaroid Land Camera (more points if you know Land was its developer), and amaze your friends as they wait to see it develop. Then borrow a friend’s iPhone to upload the photo to Instagram. That will give you a more authentic ‘70s filter than anything merely from Instagram.
* Find new uses for old tech. Laserdiscs can be used as shimmery mirrors. Floppy disks can serve as coasters. Laptop power adapters with the plug thingies cut off can make sleek doorstops. Tape from 8-track, reel-to-reel and cassettes can be used as ribbon to wrap presents. Old cellphones can serve as paperweights. Dial-up modems — well, you can’t expect to update everything.
* For a more sophisticated vibe, curate your VintageTech. Know your brands, and remember: Just because the tech is old doesn’t mean it is Vintage. A mid-80s no-name PC clone doesn’t hold the same cachet (we’re talking about prestige and clout, not storage cache or Klout) as a Radio Shack TRS-80 (an early PC that used a program on a tape recorder to boot up) or an Apple II. A Sony Betamax is way cooler than a Sony VHS. Pick Atari over Coleco, and Pong over almost anything else.
* Know when to shop. Avoid back-to-school and Christmas, when prices are high. The best time to buy is around the time just before and immediately following the launch of a new version of the device: At that point, all previous versions drop in price like a new car leaving the dealer’s lot.
Keep in mind: Classics are always safe – HP calculators haven’t changed in more than a generation. (Try to think of another tech product that has withstood time the way those calculators have!) That way, when someone compliments you on rocking the VintageTech look, you can say, “What – this old thing?”
Norman Birnbach contributes humor articles to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and other publications. He does not own the VintageTech items mentioned here, but remembers them fondly.