Trend Watch: Fauxstalgia


Recently, we reported on the disturbing development of adults dressing like kids, and the more comical retail move towards nostalgia tech. It seems we just can’t get enough of time-related trends, and who doesn’t enjoy longing for a bygone era, even if that era was in fact more like thirty days ago than thirty years ago? Yes, we’ve been noticing a distinct penchant for the past in pop culture, a past that feels like it was yesterday because it very probably was yesterday. Please get all teary-eyed and wistful for the latest fad: fauxstalgia.

Fauxstalgia, the practice of reminiscing for events or a time period that is far too recent to be nostalgic about, can take many guises and is generally undertaken, unsurprisingly, by the young. (We blame the rise of the digital camera.) When you’re young, five years ago is a pretty long time, especially relative to how long you’ve actually been able to remember things. A fauxstalgic remark is almost always be prefaced with “OMG! Do you remember…” followed by a TV show, fashion trend, food, etc.. that anyone not suffering from amnesia or dementia would certainly remember. Here, we run down the worst fauxstalgia offenders that repeatedly crop up in conversation.

TV Shows By far the most popular fauxstalgic category, discussion of late ’80s to mid ’90s shows like Sharky & George/Inspector Gadget/ Alex Mack will inevitably be followed by a group singsong of the theme tune. Fauxstalgia about a show that still airs, such as the Fresh Prince, won’t do — to really prove your fauxstalgic credentials, you may even profess to having recently bought the series on DVD, so that you can re-live your wide-eyed wonder at poorly-scripted, very-dated material that is aimed at an age group well below yours. Being fauxstalgic about fairly recent TV shows indicates nothing other than the fact that in the recent past, you had a TV and used to watch it. Chances are, you still do. Start prepping for future fauxstalgia with the likes of TV treasures Pimp My Ride and newly-axed Best Week Ever.

Music Music fauxstalgia is normally precipitated by hearing Nelly/Christina Aguilera/Destiny’s Child on the radio, followed by cries of “OMG, I love this song! This song totally takes me back to the summer of 2003!” Unfortunately, music fauxstalgia has slightly less impact than TV fauxstalgia, if only because most artists of that era tend to still be around, or have staged recent highly publicized comebacks (we’re looking at you, NKOTB) that makes remembering them less of an impressive feat. Bonus points therefore, for mentioning a one-hit wonder like 3LW.

Fashion Fashion fauxstalgia is a slippery customer — the seemingly unstoppable rise of “vintage” and “retro” as terms used to validate delving into the past for your wardrobe (old doesn’t really cut it) mean that it’s hard to separate fauxstalgia from the current fashions. If that’s all too meta for you, just remind yourself that fauxstalgia for fashion is not about what you wear, but rather what you like to remember wearing a few years ago. Cue embarassed-yet-proud outpourings of “Can you believe what I wore to that school dance? Camouflage pants, a belly top, and a pair of Buffalo boots — ew!” Most likely you’ve still got the offending items lurking in your closet, so why not step up your game and give them a second outing? You’ll fit right in with the onesie-wearing hipsters of Williamsburg.

Food Far worse than you might otherwise assume, food fauxstalgia is actually one of the most easy to miss. Normally reserved for when you’re in a supermarket or any old-style convenience store, food fauxstalgia leaves us gazing at the shelves exclaiming “Sherbet Dips! I haven’t had those in years!” The truth of it is, you haven’t, but many others have: They’ve been on the shelves for years, it’s simply your tastes that have changed. Next up will be Vitamin Water fauxstalgia — a triple whammy as you can combine it with TV and music fauxstalgia for 50 Cent.

Advertising People love talking about commercials and adverts and the witty, ironic ones have become paradigmatic of our postmodern age. Unlike other forms of fauxstalgia, advertising fauxstalgia is bearable for the fact that people only tend to be fauxstalgic about the good ones… the bad ones are long forgotten, even if they were big in 2006. Cult classics such as thegalloping horses Guinness advert and the long-running Renault campaign in Britain featuring Papa and Nicole are favorites.

So why do we love reminiscing about the recent past, when everything was much the same as opposed to much better? Is there something comforting about marking the incremental passage of time with friends, or are we really so astounded by the fact that things change that we have to constantly remind ourselves of it? Will we eventually get to a point where we are fauxstalgic for fauxstalgia: “Hey remember when we used to reminisce about the recent past? That was CRAZY.”

When you look at it that way, our fauxstalgia faux-pas means we’re just a few steps away from altering the space/time continuum, which reminds me… do you remember when Pluto was a planet?