Learn English – Is your style retro?

When my hairdresser mentioned a ‘new’ drive-in movie theater, the word ‘retro’ came to mind.

Today, a lot of clothing, furniture and art are made to look as though they are old, but they are actually new.  We call this style retro or vintage.


Do you own anything retro? Do you decorate your bedroom or your house with vintage items? Retro, vintage, today we’re talking about things from the past.

(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories.)

What does the word retro actually mean? It comes from Latin and it means backwards. So, today people seem to have a desire, a longing for life that looks like, that feels that they imagined was simpler, before they were born, or even when they were growing up, depending on their age. And the retro style is to create new items, new furniture, new art, new clothing that look old.

Well, what kind of items? Let’s start with fashion. Fashion that is retro is copying clothing or accessories from earlier decades. In this photo, we have one gal and you can see her dressed in a style that goes way back. But in this other photo, this other image, we have a group of women modeling new retro, new vintage clothing that this shop sells. So, you can get an idea. 

There.. there’s a lot of choice in fashion, in retro or vintage fashion, both words retro, vintage. Accessories, like watches, things like that, can be retro.

What else, besides fashion? Besides fashion, a lot of new items that are retro, that have that style, remember these are new items, they’re not what we call antiques. Some people, I have a friend named Suzanne, some people, like Suzanne, fill their house with antiques,  real old items, furniture, art, décor from the past. Retro items, vintage items are created to look old.

For example, my husband bought a new turntable. What is a turntable? When Mike and I were teenagers, years and years and years ago, our music was on vinyl albums, a record album. And you played it on a turntable. Well, Mike has lots of these albums from when he was in high school and college. So, a few years ago, maybe five, he bought a new turntable, looks like an alternate table, but it’s new. And he can play his records, his albums. That’s an example. 

Many companies today, online and actual physical places, now advertise their products as retro or vintage. Their advertising looks retro. For example, this store, this company sells furniture like these…. diner booths, these red booths and a table that look like they came right out of an American diner from the thirties, 1930s, forties or fifties. But they’re brand new. It’s fascinating.

A lot of wall art is vintage, is retro. And people find comfort in the furniture, the styles, things from the past, but they’re new. And of course, I imagine they’re pretty expensive, very pricey because it’s the latest fashion to buy something, wear something, have something in your house, that’s retro.  

Other items besides furniture and accessories might be typewriters that look like old typewriters, the kind that I first learned on. Or telephones, look at this telephone. It’s…it’s a rotary dial telephone that actually functions. And even old sewing machines. This one is brand new, functions well, works well, but it’s made to look like the kind my grandmother grew up with.

Why did I choose to talk about retro for this week’s video? I was at the hairdresser and Robert, who cuts my hair, was telling me about going to a new drive-in movie theater. What is a drive-in movie theater? It’s a place outside, this is very American, a place outside. You drive in your car to this theater outside, where they have big screens, and you watch a movie from your car. You can either bring your own snacks or some places you can buy and they’ll bring them to your car. You either sit in your car or you sit outside your car on the grass and you watch a movie outside. Drive-in theaters were very popular back in the 1940s and fifties. And then they died out. They were no longer popular, but they have come back and there is a new one that Robert, my hairdresser, wants to go to. It’s made to look like an old one, but it uses modern technology. 

Well, what’s at the bottom, what is underneath the desire to buy new things that look old? I think it’s something called nostalgia. Nostalgia is a desire for things from the past, when life was simpler, as I said in the beginning……comforts. This modern world can feel too modern and people want their clothing and their space where they live to be gentler, more peace filled. And this is called having nostalgia for the past. Being nostalgic about the past, your own past, if you’re older or even before you were born back in the 19th century, even.

What about you is, is this something that’s going on in your country or where your parents came from or is this just an American trend, an American thing? I have no idea. I’d be curious. Well, this is Maria from English without Fear. If you want the transcript, the written words, just go to my website, www.englishwithoutfear.com. Talk to you next time.

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