Retro Revival: Why Gen Z wants to detox from invasive technology

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Jared Stover, who goes by the username @thevinylcowboy on TikTok, has gone viral on Gen Z’s favorite social media platform by making only one type of video: presenting new popular music in an old format, vinyl.

This unique TikTok video by vinyl collector Jared Stover (@thevinylcowboy) has gathered 4.9 million views.

But this interest goes beyond this music format.

Vinyl and cassettes. Polaroid and 35 mm cameras. DVDs and retro video games. Flip phones and vintage clothing. These are only some of the old technology and retro accessories Gen Z is going back to.

According to Axios Media Trends, Gen Z’s interest for the past has created a “throwback economy” which is reflected in the resurgence of 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s fashion, brands, vintage stores and retro technology.

Some stores targeting young audiences are taking this “throwback economy” into consideration to effectively promote or rebrand.


Have you picked up any of these UO exclusive vinyl yet? #urbanoutfitters #vinyl #vinyltok

♬ Players DKJ remix – Danny Johnson

The lifestyle store Urban Outfitters is popular among Gen Z for its retro brand. This advertisement video is one of many in which the store participates in the new “throwback economy” by promoting not only their vintage clothing, but also retro items, such as vinyl records and record players.

The lifestyle store Urban Outfitters is popular among Gen Z for its retro brand. This advertisement video is one of many in which the store participates in the new “throwback economy” by promoting not only their vintage clothing, but also retro items, such as vinyl records and record players.

Urban Outfitters is one of the multiple retail stores which participates in the “throwback economy” targeted at young adults. As part of the recent interest by young people in retro technology, the store has incorporated retro items to their vintage clothing catalog, such as vinyl records, cassettes and record players. This retro style is present in most of their advertisements.

But it’s not only retail corporations.

Lucky Records Miami is one of many popular destinations that found success by incorporating a retro style to their stores. The record store, located in Wynwood, is adjacent to the Asian restaurant 1-800-Lucky. Their retro aesthetic, colorful Japanese drinks and wide collection of old and new vinyl records, attract many generations to the store.
1-800-Lucky is an Asian restaurant that plays “old-school” music and sells vinyl records and CDs in their record store Lucky Records Miami.

Manuel Sembrano has been working at Lucky Records Miami for two years. As part of Gen Z, he credits his interest in vinyl records to the physical involvement retro technology can give someone in a time when technology is invasive and addictive.

“You get to touch the music, the album art, the lyric sheet,” Sembrano said. “The intimate feeling of putting a needle on a record, it’s a very immersive experience.”

And this immersive experience is something young people are looking to incorporate in many kinds of modern activities.

Some are leaving their smartphones at home to experience life outside with a simple flip phone. This has even become a trend on TikTok.


Replying to @saraahhhyo literally everyone needs a flip phone in their life #BRINGBACKFLIPPHONES #college #goingout #collegelifehack #flipphone #y2kaesthetic

♬ original sound – sammy k

This video by the TikTok user @Skzzolno explaining why she goes out with a flip phone instead of a smartphone, has gathered more than 3.5 million likes.

“Everything that leads to us having a bad time stems from our phones when we are out,”  user @Skzzolno said on a video explaining why she and her friends leave their smartphones at home and take out a flip phone instead. “It’s so much better of an experience.”

Others prefer the immersive time of waiting for their pictures to be developed by taking their 35 mm point-and-shoot cameras to their trips and everyday activities. This way they can create more interesting pictures and long-lasting memories.

Preston Winkfield (@prestonwinkfield) is a 23-year-old who dedicates his TikTok account to his love for photography and retro film. This video shows some of the pictures he took by bringing his 35 mm film camera everywhere he goes.

And others, like Manuel Sembrano, want to discover and listen to modern music in an older, more intimate format.

“In the age of streaming, it’s so easy to find music and you get all kinds of reclinations,” Sembrano said about listening to both old and new music in an old format. “We listen to a little bit of everything, the taste is very diverse.”

And others who do enjoy modern technology, still choose to detox from the excessiveness of it by going back to old technology.

Daira Bismarck is a 20-year-old student who doesn’t share Gen Z’s enthusiasm for a retro revival, but admits that she does get tired of the way current technology can sometimes ruin one of her favorite hobbies, video games.

Just like Bismarck, many gamers are going back to their old video game consoles, while others are now looking to buy these old models in retro video game stores.

This video by the account @didsomebodysayretro shows how to set up an old Sony PlayStation console and it has gathered 3.2 million views.

So, while many see this retro revival as part of a nostalgia wave, some teenagers and young adults attribute their interest to retro technology to the search for simpler, more intimate ways of experiencing life.

“I remember I got it at a time when everyone wanted it, it was the newest thing,” Bismarck said about re-discovering her old Nintendo DS. “It’s not anymore, but it reminds me of a time when games were more about fun than any other complicated technology.”

Sidney Peralta is a digital journalism major. She is interested in social and political news. She would like to pursue a career in the world of political media after she graduates.