Article: 27 Vintage Items You Haven't Seen in 40 Years: HowStuffWorks
27 Vintage Items You Haven't Seen in 40 Years
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About This Article
Remember when your dad "dressed up" by putting on a baby blue leisure suit? And you had to save your English papers on a floppy disk? Back in the days when your mom unironically served Sloppy Joes for dinner, libraries had card catalogs and mascara came in cakes instead of tubes?
Whether you were alive back then or not, it's fascinating to look back and reflect on how much our kitchens, fashions and personal technology has changed. From the way we listen to music to the way we get ready in the morning, a lot of small, seemingly innocent innovations have combined to make daily life today very different than daily life in the '60s, '70s or '80s. We eat different foods, enjoy different styles and have access to technologies that are extremely advanced compared to those of our grandparents and great-grandparents. But has all this change been 100% for the better?
If you're nostalgic for some of these long-gone items (or just curious about our cultural past), this gallery should quench your thirst. We've put together a list of 27 once-common items along with explanations of what they were used for and why they went out of fashion. Ready for some misty, water-colored memories of the way we were? Click through for a trip down memory lane!
Cold Hands? Stick 'Em in a Literal Tube of Fur!
A type of handwarmer invented in the 16th century, a muff is precisely what it looks like: a tube of fur meant to warm the hands. Although muffs are obviously practical, by the late Victorian era, men were no longer wearing them. By the end of the 1940s, muffs had gone completely out of fashion. Maybe they're due for a comeback!
Furniture That Helps You Gossip
After the telephone was invented in 1876, people naturally needed a comfortable place in their homes to use it. Thus, the telephone table (sometimes called the "gossip bench") was born. At first, people stored their rotary phones on benches in their hallways, usually putting a chair next to it to create a cozy place for chats. Then, furniture manufacturers decided to make chairs that had phone shelves built into them. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, telephone tables were seen in many homes.
So Pretty, You Almost Don't Want to Eat It
In the past, when housewives made their own butter, they needed vessels to pour it into. Hence, butter molds were invented, which often offered more creative designs than the rectangular blocks we're used to. Generally made of wood and sometimes hand-carved, butter molds were shaped like animals, fish, flowers, fruit, leaves and more.
Not as "Trippy" as They Seem
Forever associated with the psychedelic '60s, lava lamps still look futuristic to 21st-century eyes. Oddly enough, however, they're not very high-tech at all. Their "lava" consists of a blob of wax, which moves and changes shape thanks to the warmth of every lava lamp's incandescent light bulb. The surrounding liquid is often colored, which enhances the lava lamp's "trippy" appearance.
Need a Tiny Half-Shirt? Try One of These
Remember dickeys? A detachable shirt front, dickeys make it appear as if their wearers have on a full shirt beneath their jacket, sweater or vest. However, in actuality, a dickey is much smaller than a traditional dress shirt. Invented for a time when people were expected to dress formally, dickeys are now almost extinct, thanks to the invention of the home washing machine and the more casual nature of late 20th and early 21st century fashions.
Grandma Used to Crank This
The meat grinder, a Victorian invention, used to be a common sight in the kitchens of many people. Generally hand-cranked, meat grinders allowed cooks to more efficiently process the coarse cuts of meat they bought from the butcher. After packaged ground meats started being sold in stores, meat grinders disappeared from the kitchens of all but the most dedicated 1960s cooks.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
In the era of rolltop desks, it was easier to achieve a work-life balance! A desk with a retractable folding lid, this 19th-century design allowed workers to forget their to-do lists by taking the entire top surface of the desk out of their sight. With the advent of desktop computers, this desk style has naturally become less practical, since most monitors won't fit under a rolltop.
A Ticking Time-Friend
You might see someone carrying a pocket watch ironically, but in general, these formerly ubiquitous pieces of jewelry have disappeared. Functional for all ages and genders, pocket watches were invented in the 16th century. They became the most common type of clock and were often handed down through families as heirloms. However, like many once-popular forms of personal technology, pocket watches have been rendered obsolete by smart phones.
A Not-So-Healthy Smoking Alternative
Candy cigarettes are exactly what they sound like: cigarettes made in the shape of candy. Common through the '80s, candy cigarettes have a controversial history. In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General claimed that candy cigarettes encourage children to smoke. As awareness of the dangers of smoking grew, some countries even went so far as to ban them. Today, although they're widely frowned upon, candy cigarettes are still manufactured in New Jersey.
Time-Consuming AND Ineffective!
Before vacuums, people had to make do with carpet sweepers! Quiet and lightweight, carpet sweepers were like manual vacuums — their brushes sweep up dirt as you push them across the carpet. Like push mowers, they've been largely replaced by their electric counterparts. However, they may still be seen in movie theatres, since they can clean up popcorn spills in near-silence.
A Damp, Thousand-Pound Problem
A staple of the '70s and '80s, waterbeds are no longer fashionable. According to the Sioux City Journal, less than 5% of mattresses sold today are waterbeds. Perhaps this is due to their unwieldy nature — some waterbeds weigh over a thousand pounds when filled. They can also be difficult to clean.
Relics of Faded Glamour
Alas for the bygone era of hat pins! These little helpers do exactly what they say they do: they pin your hat to your head. According to Collectors Weekly, the height of the "Hatpin Age" was from 1890 to 1925, after bonnets went out of style but while hats (and upswept hair) were still in fashion. Often beautifully decorated, hat pins came in plain, functional styles as well as in more elaborate enameled, jeweled or gold makes.
Wow, They Really Do It All!
Before stereos were invented, radio/phonograph combination cabinets gave people the ability to listen to the radio AND records. One of the earliest multi-functional media devices, radio/phonograph combination cabinets were usually handsomely outfitted, since they acted as furniture for the living room or parlor. Today, Bluetooth speakers serve the same function while taking up a fraction of the space, but they also lack the aesthetic appeal of radio/phonograph cabinets.
Pass Us the Marmalade, Please
Dressings, sauces and relishes weren't always sold at the store. Before we had bottled ranch or canned cranberry sauce, cooks made their own condiments by hand. And to serve them, they needed special serving dishes. Hence, the condiment tray. If you were hosting a dinner or a cocktail party, it was a convenient place to display relish, oil and vinegar cruets, pickles, mustards, etc. Once common, condiment trays became a rare sight after the 1970s.
Once a Luxury, Now Taken for Granted
Believe it or not, refrigeration wasn't always something you could take for granted. To keep their food from spoiling, people in the past had to use iceboxes. A special cabinet cooled by a block of ice kept in a separate compartment, iceboxes worked well but required constant maintenance. As the ice melted, the icebox's drip pan had to be continually emptied. New blocks of ice had to be purchased from an iceman, or you cut them yourself from an ice pit. Makes your refrigerator look luxurious, doesn't it?
A Piece of Furniture That's Gone Extinct
If you were born before 1990, you might recognize this image, but if you're a millennial or Gen Zer, you're probably wondering what this little drawer is! Here's the scoop: before we had online databases, libraries used physical card catalogs. When you wanted to read a book, you had to check whether the library had it by looking it up on a card. Card catalogs also allowed you to find books by subject, keyword, author and other criteria. According to Smithsonian Magazine, they're now extinct.
You Don't Have to Like Chicken to Love This Accessory
Now seen most often on KFC brand ambassador Colonel Sanders, Western bow ties (or crossover ties) were once worn by many men, especially in the Southwest. Originally a Victorian style, this tie came back into fashion in the late '50s before fading away at the end of the '60s. Some wearers tucked away the ends of the tie instead of tying it in a bow, a style that was called a "Bulldogger tie."
Just Say Yes to Runny Yolks
Poached eggs have never entirely disappeared from the American breakfast plate, but indeed, they were more common in the 1950s and 1960s, when a mania for French cooking made French-inspired dishes like Eggs Benedict extremely en vogue. To help busy cooks poach many eggs at once, an egg-poacher pan was used. Essentially a double-boiler with separate compartments for each egg, egg-poacher pans used to be a fixture in many American kitchens.
They Should Have Been Called "Sloppy Disks"
A relic of the early days of computing, floppy disks have been replaced by USB drives, which are far more compact and efficient. Sold in various, ever-shrinking sizes throughout the '70s and '80s, floppy disks allowed users to back up data and install programs. At some point, however, computer manufacturers stopped making computers with floppy disk drives. Now, they're little more than colorful curiosities.
Have Gun, Will Travel
Accused by critics of being far too realistic, cap guns were invented in the 1860s. They shoot "caps," small discs that produce both smoke and gunshot-like sounds. They became highly popular during a time in American culture when Western movies and TV shows were beloved by children, an era stretching from the '40s through the '60s. By the '70s, however, cap guns were no longer an "It" toy on the playground.
Being Beautiful Is Hard Work
Mascara didn't always come in tubes! Before tubed mascara, women darkened their lashes using cake mascara. Essentially a block of black or brown wax, cake mascara had to be mixed with water and then applied using a brush. While this process was messier and more complicated than using tubed mascara, it did have the advantage of being hygienic, as mascara tube applicators are often not cleaned frequently enough.
Let's Hit the Disco, Stud!
Although they're emblematic of the '70s, leisure suits were actually invented in the 1930s. Known then as "Hollywood suits," they were originally intended to be comfortable summer menswear. In the '50s, they became trendy with country musicians before being adopted by British mods in the '60s. After manufacturers started making them from polyester, leisure suits skyrocketed in popularity, because they were finally affordable. Associated with disco culture, they faded from fashion when disco did.
Your grandmother probably owns a meat tenderizer, but we're guessing that you do not. Why? Well, people who learned how to cook during the '40s were taught how to make the most out of cheap cuts of meat. When they were kids, wartime rationing made meat scarce, and the affordable types of meat were not very high-quality. However, with the aid of a meat tenderizer, tough cuts of beef like chuck steak could be transformed into delicious chicken-fried steak. Maybe you need one after all?
Patrick Bateman Probably Had One
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) first came onto the market in 1984. While the '90s PalmPilot is the most well-known PDA, earlier versions of this device were used by many '80s business people. The '80s versions of the PDA didn't even have phone call functionality — they were merely used to take notes and keep track of appointments. Today, PDAs have been replaced entirely by smartphones.
So Gross, Yet So Tasty
Forever associated with cafeteria food, Sloppy Joes were initially known as "loose meat sandwiches." According to Chowhound, their origin is up for debate — it's been claimed that they were invented in Havana, Sioux City and Key West. Versions of Sloppy Joes began appearing in cookbooks in the late '40s. Sometime after the '60s, they fell from the public's grace, thanks to their odd name and odder appearance. However, according to Chowhound, they're due for a comeback.
We Bet Your Great-Aunt Wears These
An old-fashioned piece of jewelry, decorative brooches actually date back as far as the Bronze Age! Worn by people from many cultures, brooches were initially used as mere clothing fasteners before taking on more fashionable functions. As jewelry, they were common through the 1960s before coming to be perceived as "dowdy." Few young women in the 21st century wear brooches.
"Summer Loving, Had Me a Blast ... "
Invented by Juli Lynne Charlot, the poodle skirt is a wide felt skirt. They're usually adorned with felt poodles, although felt birds, flowers and butterflies may also be used to decorate them. Because they're easy to sew and flare nicely when in motion, poodle skirts were frequently seen at school dances in the '50s. Today, they're virtually synonymous with '50s style.
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