Retro style becomes comforting trend at pandemic times

By Park Yuna
  • Published : Dec 29, 2020 - 15:53
  • Updated : Dec 29, 2020 - 16:01

Lee Ok-young bought an old-fashioned dining table and dishes that remind her of her childhood years. (Courtesy of Lee)

Reminiscing on the good times is natural when we face tough times in life. Some get comfort by reminiscing and talking about the good old days, wishing they could turn back time. As such, the retro trend has been rising fast this year, as more people look back as a distraction from the unprecedented challenges in these pandemic times.

Lee Ok-young, a 32-year-old housewife, recently purchased some old-fashioned items that remind her of her childhood years, including a table that could be seen at one’s grandparents’ home and green dishes widely used for street foods in Korea.

“We rarely eat out these days due to the pandemic so I began to buy the old-fashioned items for fun to enjoy with my family. They make me feel as though I was in the old times, and the food looks more delicious when they are served with the old-fashioned dishes,” Lee said.

An LP store in Daejeon, Turn Turn Turn, which holds more than 50,000 LP records, has seen an increase in business as more people tend to stay home during the pandemic. The old-fashioned music, huge popular in Korea in the 1970s and ’80s, is enjoying a new renaissance as people are revisiting that culture, the owner of the store said.

“What LP music differentiates from other music devices is that it sounds ‘warm,’ which is hard to describe. It has something you cannot expect from the current music devices including smartphones, CDs or cutting-edge speakers,” the owner of the store, who declined to be named, told The Korea Herald. “More middle-aged customers are visiting our store with their kids to share the culture together.”

According to G9, an online shopping platform run by eBay Korea, sales of retro culture-related products increased sharply this year, including turntables for LP music, which jumped 138 percent on-year. The retro culture is led by those in their 30s and 40s, who account for 37 and 35 percent of the customers, respectively, according to the company.

Some brands have launched products in old-fashioned packaging designs this year. Seoul Milk has launched four flavors of ice cream with old-styled packaging that are building buzz via social media, with many people asking where they can buy the products. Shinsegae Food recently showcased “old-fashioned fried chicken” that comes in a brown bag evoking nostalgia to older times. 

Seoul Milk has launched four varieties of ice cream featuring retro packaging designs. (Seoul Milk)

"The popularity of retro culture is partially credited to the pandemic. The difficult times seem to have provoked many people to purchase items that remind them of their happy old days,” said Lee Hyang-eun, a professor at the department of service and design engineering at Sungshin Women’s University. “Many retro-related products are not expensive and are cost-effective, which is why many people easily enjoy them in the economically difficult times in general.”

Lee also attributed the trend to the media consumption culture where people rely on social media such as YouTube and Instagram, where many people share their ordinary lives, a trend that has been reinforced during the pandemic as more people stay at home. 

Old-fashioned glasses have become must-have collectables. (Courtesy of Baek)

Baek Min-seo helps her father who sells secondhand retro goods at a market by promoting the goods online. Among the retro products, cups from the 1990s are particularly popular, as they have become collectables among some younger people.

“More people are showing interest in retro products this year, as many brands are launching old-fashioned designs and celebrities appear with old-fashioned styles. it definitely has become hip regardless of age,” Baek said. 

By Park Yuna (