Vintage isn’t always practical

vintage westclox

vintage adj. denoting something from the past of high quality, representing the best of its kind, of lasting interest and importance; venerable; classic ie. vintage Shakespeare

Somehow my attitude towards “vintage” has shifted over the years. When in the past I glorified all things nostalgic and retro, today the pragmatism seems to have taken over. I no longer want to wear other people’s clothes, am no longer excitedly waiting for hand-me-downs, and most of all, I’m no longer willing to pick up other people’s rubbish.

My first encounter with vintage was in Beijing’s Panjiayuan Antique Market. Before going, I had been forewarned that not all antiques are authentic – some are replicas produced to mimic the value of the original. I had bargained for a 4-feet long Chinese sword and had paid the equivalent of about RM70 for it. In my naïveté I had brought it back to Malaysia with me, only to have it taken away by customs. In hindsight, I’m glad it did.

Spring cleaning, giving and throwing things out has since become a sort of therapeutic activity for me. This is partly due to the increasingly mobile lifestyle I’ve lived since leaving home at 18, with not much permanence in every lodging or country I’ve been in. Excluding my family home in Penang, my current accommodation is already my ninth in under 10 years. Currently living in space-scarce Singapore doesn’t help either with collecting vintage.

This shift in attitude is also contributed by my rise in disposable income. When before I was a cash-strapped student living on my parents’ allowance and extra money from part-time jobs, today I am earning a comfortable wage as a young working adult. This means I’m more willing to buy instead of inherit, coupled with the rise of mass-produced goods. The challenge now is to not contract ‘affluenza’ or develop binge buying.

Previously I wrote about a Christmas present complex that I used to experience every time the holiday season came round. I talked about how difficult it was to buy me presents, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realised the type of gifts I like – practical gifts or ones that I specifically ask for. Vintage may be a pretty face, but usually, they are far from practical and cannot help you with everyday life.

Take this Westclox alarm clock (above) for example. When I saw it at Willow Court Antique Centre in Tasmania, I was immediately drawn to it like Smeagol was to the golden ring. I have always been on the lookout for vintage clocks, and when I saw this one, I knew I had to get it! However when I came back, I realised how much attention it needed  it needed to be wound every single day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my vintage Westclox. It looks fab on my writing desk and I feel as though fate had led me to find it in such an obscure corner of the earth. But I will not be able to depend on it fully should I forget to wind it some day. And when that day comes, IKEA’s $2 kitchen clock will trump.

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