What is Vintage? What is Retro? The Difference Between Vintage and Retro style

Styles have an odd way of returning in an eternal loop that is constantly repeating history. Every five or ten years, our parents laugh at the fact that the clothes they wore as teenagers are back in style by the time their children are teenagers. The cycle continues until we reach an age where we notice those patterns for ourselves. Well, fashion language is frequently bandied around, and the true definitions might become lost over time. Let’s take a look at two words that are frequently used interchangeably but are technically distinct from one another: retro and vintage. So, if you have any doubts, trust Teeanime!

What Is Retro?

Clothing, accessories, or things that look to be from a given era—specifically, the 1950s through the 1990s—are referred to as retro style. Anything before 1950 is rarely considered “retro,” as that decade was a fashion watershed. It is most popular to perceive specific 1950s styles to be “retro,” however this is not necessarily limited to that decade.

Aside from apparel, the term can also apply to aesthetics. Hairstyles, home décor, and even automobiles can look retro. It alludes to belonging to a specific time period—the latter half of the twentieth century—rather than being exclusively tied to clothing.

What Is Vintage?

Meanwhile, vintage style is its own category entirely. This particular term refers to the clothing or item’s age, regardless of its style. That age is usually between 20 years old and 100 years old.

The term most commonly refers to clothing or belongings on the older end of the spectrum, but that is not necessarily a must. Even a knick-knack from a mere two decades ago can still be vintage.

Identifying vintage items can be challenging but doable. For one, what’s the style? Is it one that you could recognize at your favorite clothing store? Does it have a tag?

Many brands go through several logos throughout the years and may date themselves using the tag. If the item doesn’t have a tag, there is a good chance its manufacture was before 1971.

The Differences Between Retro and Vintage

You may have noticed that there is still some overlap between what is considered “retro” and what is considered “vintage.” The 1990s denim jacket can be both retro and vintage. The poodle skirt your grandmother wore in 1953 and the fringe vest she wore in 1979 can also be both.

So, what’s the difference?

Style of the Piece vs. Age of the Piece Itself

The most important difference is that items that are retro don’t have to be old. It’s fine, and even expected, for retro style to be new and only remind us of a time before ours, not be from that time.

But vintage items must be from a certain time in history. The word implies that the object is between 20 and 100 years old, not just that it looks old.

A big part of the appeal of vintage items is that they look like they did when they were made.


The term “vintage” has been around slightly longer than “retro.” Most retro pieces were created around 1950, although vintage ones might be over a century old. In truth, vintage items are from “an earlier time,” whereas retro items are from the second part of the twentieth century.

The Second World War revolutionized many aspects of society for the better, and fashion was one of them. The first mass-produced garments enabled the fashions of the 1950s and 1960s, which we now refer to as the “retro” era.

Tangible Item vs. Concept

Anything that is vintage can be kept, put on display, or worn. It is a physical thing. Ideals aren’t always considered “vintage.” Retro, however, can refer to both a physical object and an idea.

This distinction may be made since “vintage” refers to the novelty of well-loved, used objects, whilst “retro” refers to the era of the late twentieth century.

Since Victory curls are a hairstyle, they are frequently considered “retro” rather than “vintage.” Another fantastic example of a retro item that isn’t clothes is old autos.

There are events and vehicle exhibitions where people display stunning, well-kept cars from the 1950s and 1960s as examples of how the period’s aesthetics continue to captivate modern drivers. The styling of the cars reflects the era, however the maintenance supplies may or may not be from that time.

Indeed, entire establishments, like vintage diners and drive-in movie theaters, can be a terrific example of what qualifies as “retro.”


Vintage and retro style are two distinct notions that have become muddled in recent history, which can be perplexing when looking for something specific.

Many fashion fans enjoy thrifting, but it’s important to understand the distinction between the terms “retro” and “vintage”—especially if you’re shopping online, as these two terms might provide completely different results.

For example, if you’re seeking for newly created apparel in a style that appears to be 20 years old, you’re shopping for retro. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a 1930s slip, you’re seeking for something vintage.

There are several similarities and distinctions between these two categories, and both vintage and retro things can offer fresh, new trends while honoring the ideals of the past. Styles from many years ago will never be out of fashion as long as new generations wear them.