Why Gen Z Is Returning To Vintage Technology

You may have heard the adage that fashion always comes back around, but Gen Z seems dedicated to proving this sentiment. Through their use of 2000s digital cameras and flip phones, celebrities from Bella Hadid to Lily-Rose Depp are taking cues from what many consider nostalgic. While you might walk by an old wired pair of headphones at a thrift shop, a Gen Z trendsetter would likely snatch them up immediately.

The adoption of vintage technology isn't just about desperately trying to grasp memories from happier times (namely pre-pandemic). While that's certainly part of it, the trend is also driven by the generation's desire for something more tangible. "Today, many of our day-to-day lives involve the handling of the intangible," clinical psychologist Dr. Jaime Zuckerman tells Harper's BAZAAR. "Money, pictures, emails, and books can all be experienced in the absence of the actual item itself. This desire to hold something in our hands, to feel textures and weights, is something that is visibly absent in our current society."

Dr. Zuckerman went on to explain that nostalgia also typically plays on our senses such as touch and small. In turn, it helps keep us present and "in the moment" while reflecting on more joyful times. Now, vintage tech is popping up on the fashion scene, too. Who says you can't wear your iPod as an accessory?

Understanding Gen Z's passion for all things vintage

Part of why Gen Z is looking to the past for inspiration is the connected state of our culture. For instance, the pandemic resulted in lockdowns that forced people to use all sorts of communication to stay in touch. Many Gen Zers who are adopting vintage technology like flip phones yearn for the days when life was simpler and not all showcased online. Even when photos do make it onto the internet, they seem to have been captured during a candid moment — and that's what much of vintage technology does. For example, disposable cameras don't give users a chance to review their images after photographing a moment. As clinical psychologist Dr. Jaime Zuckerman told Harper's BAZAAR, vintage technology "pushes people to be their authentic selves."

However, as this form of tech seeps into the world of fashion, it's emerging in unique ways. Some of Gen Z's most iconic influencers, including Jenna Ortega and Emma Chamberlain, are adopting wired, chunky headphones and saying goodbye to minimalist AirPods. While flip phones are being welcomed back onto the scene, more people are adding kitschy bling to their cases and covers. Pulling from nostalgic brands for inspiration, such as Lisa Frank, is overwhelmingly acceptable. If you didn't think gemstones and rainbows could ever make a comeback, your expectations are about to be shattered.

The power of staying wired-in

Even if you aren't a part of trend-setting Generation Z, there's no rule that says you can't try out the styles they're flaunting on the runway and beyond. A Klarna report based on consumer behavior and shopping trends suggests wired headphones are the top-trending item. While it's always better to lean toward second-hand items when trying a "vintage" trend, it's easy enough to find a pair of wired over-the-ear headphones to give this one a shot. But remember, headphones should be treated as a fashion accessory, meaning they should be visible and not tucked away in your bag.

Generally speaking, wired vintage technology can be an instant ticket to fitting in with the "in-crowd." Wireless devices, such as AirPods, have suddenly become synonymous with "uncool tech bros" and extravagance in a distasteful way. "I love the signal [wired headphones] send," Shelby Hull, the creator behind the Instagram account @wireditgirls, tells Mashable. "It's like, 'Please don't speak to me, I'm too busy.' AirPods don't really say that. I'll still talk to someone if I see their AirPods in, but when you have just a wire in, it's clear: 'Don't approach me.' I think that's the perfect accessory."

Whether you already have vintage tech in your attic or can't wait to visit your local thrift shop, it's never a bad idea to look to Gen Z for new fashion inspiration.