Phil Borreson, owner of SolSta Records, had a booth at the Totally Rad Vintage Fest in February. He also DJed the popular event, which featured 154 vintage vendors selling clothes from the 1980s, '90s and Y2K as well as records, toys, video games and home goods.
A buddy visited him at the fest, held at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and came away with one question: "Why the hell are people so interested in stuff we wore in high school?"
Sarah Emerson, co-owner of Green Threads Vintage in Minneapolis, might have the answer. GenZers (those born between 1997 and 2012) are behind the drive to make vintage mainstream. And because the Twin Cities is home to a youthful community and many affordable thrift shops, it is easy for the trend to ride here, said Emerson, the mastermind behind Totally Rad.
What's in again
Younger buyers are going for '90s and Y2K styles, like silky slip dresses, bomber jackets and flannels. Older thrifters tend to appreciate looks from the '70s and '80s, such as wide-leg jeans, platform shoes and crochet tops, according to Jalyn Anderson, fashion stylist and vintage reseller for Time Bomb Vintage and Rose and Bull.
Ruby Stinson, co-founder of Legacy, said the thrifters that come to her store are looking for styles that are cool, bold and sexy rather than mass-produced.
"I think people are just hungry to express themselves again and wear something fun and mix-and-match and really just show who they are," she said.
Shopping vintage also is a way to reunite with the past and tap into looks that feel nostalgic.
Thrifting goes beyond looks, though. It's also a way to be sustainable. Thrifting provides an opportunity for shoppers to embrace what is already here.
Steele Stedham, owner of Scooter Gang Vintage, tries to find clothing items that will be affordable and long-lasting. "That way, we aren't curating just to fulfill a trend or to benefit as a business," she said.
Stedham sorts through clothes from a variety of places: rag houses, wholesalers, thrift stores, garage sales and customers. She brings damaged items back to life, and the process looks different each time.
"I might cut out a graphic from a ripped T-shirt and incorporate it with another damaged item by sewing them and piercing them together to make an article of clothing functional and unique," she said. "I also paint on clothing that once would have been looked at as stained and turn it into an article of wearable art."
The old-is-new-again mantra holds true in a surprising category: electronics.
Despite the fact that most adults have cellphones with high-quality cameras in their back pockets, young adults are rediscovering old-fashioned film cameras. That's because filtered perfection is out. Film, Polaroids, disposable cameras, and 35mm flash photography is in, especially for weddings.
Ryan A. Stadler, a Twin Cities based wedding and portrait photographer, said that nearly half of his potential clients asked about film photography this year.
"In 2023, it is very clear there is a huge demand for it," he said.
In January, photographer Anna Jones posted film wedding photos of Isabella LaBlanc, a Minnesota actress starring in HBO's "True Detective: Night Country." A popular wedding TikToker and founder of Candid & Kate, Kate Anderson, recently had candid wedding photos shot by Minnesota-based film photographer Amanda Nippoldt.
People are shifting away from staged photos, Nippoldt said. Instead, her clients want natural work that captures them as they are. Flash and film photography are grittier, she said, something that can't be captured digitally.
And then there's the vintage photo booth, which has moved beyond wedding receptions to become part of engagement events and holiday parties.
While AirPods and earbuds are convenient, over-the-ear headphones are making a comeback. TikTokers seem to be propelling their rise, categorizing them as "cool" and even sharing styling tips on "how to look cool when wearing headphones."
Anderson accidentally happened on the vintage headphone trend when she lost her earbuds. She found an old pair of over-the-ear headphones and hopped on the bandwagon popularized by social media influencers. Anderson said headphones are more comfortable and less harsh on her eardrums, while making audio sound better.
And Borreson of SolSta Records certainly sees a continued demand for vinyl records in his shop, including older shoppers who find that vintage audio sounds better and younger adults who crave a fresh listening experience.
Borreson said the allure for many is nostalgia.
"Especially people that are younger that are buying older records," he said. "Their grandparents had it, or their parents had it, and they're kind of nostalgic for something that they want to have themselves, so finding these older records gives some attachment to a different generation."
Mary Ellen Ritter is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for Star Tribune.