Hands on. The Pleasures of Vintage, Touch and Using the Hands

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My friend, Adrian Swinscoe, wrote a fine post, “The Warmth of Analogue,” about how and why vinyl records are making a return. The Guardian article, Vinyl’s Difficult Comeback, describes the 40-50% growth rates in vinyl sales in the US (9.2 million units in 2014) and UK (1.2MM). But, the absolute numbers are dwarfed compared with 79 billion audio streams and 85.3 billion video views (Rolling Stone), or the 257 million albums all formats combined. My distinct impression is that the vinyl rebirth is linked to a far deeper trend than just the nostalgia for a warmer sound. I want to characterize this trend as “Hands On.” Each of the below trends feel linked together.

hands on, vinyl records trend


Plastic versus Digital

First, as I mention above, the number of vinyl records being sold is still a small part of music consumption. The distribution channels of vinyl have been squashed and vinyl record players are still largely in the attic. However, the very fact that the vinyl is making its comeback with a small group of aficionados speaks as much to a need for that more ‘authentic’ – analogue — sound as much as the fact that it is an eclectic thing to want to do. Sure, the sound is better and more full than the over compressed digital music we are piping through the white earbuds. However, there are a score of initiatives that are looking to make digital music of a higher grade (typically regrouped under the term High Resolution Audio or HRA). It would be my strong conviction that the efficiencies and advantages of a higher quality digital sound will inevitably win over versus the vinyl version. Not that the retro appreciation of vinyl will necessarily disappear. But, the choice to go plastic (i.e. vinyl) may become more a rejection of the “digital” movement than a battle for better sound.

Exotic holidays

hands on kakslauttanen-finland

With over 1 billion people traveling across borders last year, it is clear that tourism is a big and growing business. But, as the traditional locations become saturated, people are trying to find alternative destinations. The subplot is that people want to experience something different, to bring back stories that are ‘unique,’ rare or exotic. Holiday trends include such concepts as protest travel, eco-tourism or underwater tourism. Just like vinyls, it’s about finding authentic experiences that are off the beaten track. {Igloo Village Image Credit}

Hands On Crafts

I do not profess to have definitive data about this, but I keep seeing how different ‘old fashioned’ activities are getting a revival. I hear of people learning to do woodworking, to make jewelry or sow quilts. I have also read about how knitting and crochet are having a revival. According to Craft Yarn Council, there are 38 million consumers enjoying this activity. Numerous big name stars (Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz…) are also getting into it.

Local versus Global

There has been for some years now, a trend toward buying local produce. Sometimes described as localvore or locavore, people are keen to have food that has been locally produced. The reasons for this are quite broad and include notions of supporting a greener planet, healthier food and the local community.

Recycling the World


Trashion Show – NOMAS 2013

My wife has, over the past few years, managed to repurpose a whole slew of my dress shirts and ties for which I no longer have a need. As a result, we have ‘new’ aprons, towels and patches that feature my old gear. This kind of repurposing has been labelled as trashion, whereby art, jewelry, fashion and more are being made out of recycled or used materials. In this trend, there is a sense of sustainable development (ethics) and economics; but there is also this underlying quest for individuality, as these objects tend to be, by definition, unique. The Vintage stores are another extension of this trend. [Image Credit]

Maker Movement

maker movement

If a little more geeky, the “maker movement” has seen a big uptake thanks to the improvements in 3D printing. An extension of the DIY culture, the maker movement is as much a philosophy as it is a capitalization on the technology. The maker movement crowd includes tinkerers, scientists and hackers. An interesting part of the maker movement is the desire to learn by doing. [Image from Mark Hatch’s Maker Movement Manifesto, on Amazon]

vinyl record dress hands on

Vinyl records recycled for a handmade dress… Classic mashup that reflects this Hands On trend?

Hands On Turns Me On

What all these trends speak to is the wish to find unique and/or authentic activities. There is no more perfect unicity than a handmade object. For these practitioners, who are exploring and leveraging the above activities, they are making their own objects, using their own hands. That’s why I call it “Hands On.” Presumably, along the way, they are finding another sense of purpose and meaning.

What are your thoughts?

3 Comments, RSS

  1. Hi Minter,
    Thanks for the hat tip 🙂 and for the great post too. After reading it I started to wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye and if it something that is not particularly new i.e. we are a social species and we have the desire to be the same but also different at the same time and perhaps what we are seeing is a development of a new set of ‘tribes’. Just a thought. I’m off to ruminate a bit more on this.


  2. As if on queue, it seems, the French daily, EN DIRECT, had a major spread today (Sept 11) on how Paris is the Capital of Vintage. The main article talking about the vintage opportunities, featured a store (called Allt, 17th arrondissement) selling 1950’s gear. There is Nationale7 (10th) that sells classic vinyl disks. An old-fashioned Barber (Alain Maitre Barbier). A 1970’s styled restaurant (Unico). Later on in the paper, there was also news about the new deluxe Technics vinyl record player (due out in 2016) as well as the opportunity to sign up for sowing classes organized by Singer. All these articles combined in the same small paper! Coincidence?

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