Saturday, May 23, 2009

RetroWow - My Review

RetroWow is an interesting site, with some terrific insights. But, in my opinion, it falls down by occasionally relying on secondhand research and voicing highly subjective opinions.

We all know that the recent '70s revival was based on a heap of inaccuracies. '70s rewriting appears to have begun in the mid-1990s, and then to have blossomed ridiculously with the BBC's I Love The 1970s. Sadly, RetroWow appears to echo these errors at times. Not always though. There are times when RetroWow bucks the trend and gets something right, despite mass inaccurate reporting of the subject elsewhere. Take the space hopper - 1971 according to the BBC (later echoed by the Toy Retailers). 1968 and 1969 according to toy shop ads in UK newspaper archives. Refreshingly, RetroWow gets this fact right - placing the hopper, quite rightly, in 1968!

But then...

Flared trousers - 1970s, according to the BBC, Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. 1970s according to RetroWow. At least as early as 1969 according to fashion shop ads in UK newspaper archives.

Cambridge Evening News, 1969.

Cambridge Evening News, 1969.

And then there's the 1980s. Of course, the 1980s get a bad press - the scapegoat decade for all known ills. RetroWow does quite well in avoiding the instinctive priggish stance of '80s haters, but falls down when it comes to 1980s decor and fashion. There is absolutely no doubt that the 1980s plundered the past for fashion inspiration, just as the 1970s did and, to some degree, the 1960s. Even the original 1950s Teddy Boys were thus named for wearing Edwardian style suits.

But RetroWow mistakenly negates all 1980s fashion as past plundering (following the lead of the notoriously inaccurate Wikipedia?). But what about the shell suits? The bulldog hair grips? The strange lycra outfits? The distinctive colour schemes and patterns? The horrendously large shoulder pads? The jelly shoes? The leggings, pixie boots and ra ra skirts combinations? The deelyboppers? The bizarre hairstyles? Doorknocker earrings? The leg warmers fad? I could go on.

I really cannot believe that the 1980s were any more "retro" than the 1970s.

RetroWow slips up on shoulder pads. Originating in the 1940s, the massive beasts of the 1980s did not appear until midway through that decade. Study any '80s era American soap (Dallas in 1978/1979 had no evident pads and exhibited a curiously late 1960s flavour in fashion and decor - Lucy's orange flares being a case in point) and watch the pads appear and grow, reaching hideous proportions circa 1985. These are the fondly remembered (or otherwise) shoulder pads of the 1980s.

As far as we can see, the RetroWow shoulder pad misinformation originated with the good folk at Dallas, eager to claim credit for all things 1980s. But really it was Dynasty which led the '80s "pump up the shoulder pads" movement - as anybody studying early Dallas/Dynasty seasons would quickly discover.

RetroWow also claims that all '80s interior decorating was retro - but for those of us that remember the black ash/futuristic schemes, this seems absurd. Retro was highly prevalent. This trend first appeared around the late 1960s, as a desire to return to something that was not plastic and formica kicked in, and flourished in the Laura Ashley '70s.

But in the 1980s, retro interiors were not the whole story, far from it.

RetroWow also illogically states that the 1982 PhoenixPhone "screams 1970s"! What?! Its design echoed the 1960s trimphone which still seemed very modern and cutting edge even by the early 1980s. RetroWow is guilty of '70s hype. It is not good enough to say that Life On Mars used a 1982 Phoenix Phone so it must "Scream 1970s" - we all know the modern agenda to colour up the 1970s. Those of us there in the 1980s remember the new phone models released when BT was formed and began to sell phones for the very first time, and the explosion in colourful and interesting models then available. This is well reflected in TV series like Howards' Way.

UPDATE: One of the things which first interested me in RetroWow was the statement:

"Flares were derived from the hippy fashion for loon pants of the late 60s. ....."

Not accurate, of course. Flares were derived from the hippy fashion for flares in the late 60s.

But RetroWow has now updated its information.

Excellent. I'm looking forward to further developments.

The site is definitely worth a visit.

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