According to Google and its handy search trends graph, we are indeed in the toughest times vintage tees have seen in the last decade. While the numbers are quite telling, I don’t think it’s as scary as it initially looks. The internet and how people search it has changed dramatically over the last decade. In 2004, Google dominated the web. There was no Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Instagram. Facebook launched in 2004 – but unless you were in college or university at the time, you’d probably never heard of it. When people fired-up their browsers, most times a Google property was their first stop. Then, as we became more savvy searchers, we started cutting out the middle-man by going directly to eBay to search for vintage t-shirts. And now, in more modern times – Defunkd (wink!). These days people get their fix on various platforms.
This strategy becomes evident when we chart vintage t-shirts alongside another collectable: comic books.
The two niches have seen a very similar downward trend over the last ten years. But, comics – largely due to the hype by movies in recent years – have had several significant upswings. Not surprisingly they appear to be undergoing another one right now. Sadly, our vintage t-shirt niche appears to have flat-lined around the end of 2013. And despite the U.S. economy’s slow rebound from the 2008 recession, there’s been no rebound in our charts. Premium vintage tees are definitely a luxury item that took a hit when the recession did. I definitely felt it for a few years.
The good news is fashion trends are cyclical and we’re long overdue to make a comeback. More good news: even during our lowest lows, the market remains alive and well – supported by collectors, nostalgia nuts, those who are good to the environment and those who don’t follow fickle fashion trends.
One thing’s for certain: vintage t-shirts peaked in popularity in 2004. We’ve always cited “That ’70s Show” as a catalyst. The series did for 1970s and ’80s vintage fashion what Mad Men has done for men’s 1960s fashion in recent years.
Will The Goldbergs get us out of our rut?