Dress to Express - Page 4

Folks who go retro say it’s all about steppin’ out in style, self-assertion and hunting for clothes
Dress to Express
Renee and Karl Underwood, who tend to dress vintage all of the time, stand alongside one of Karl's classic hot rods outside their Concord Eichler.
Dress to Express
Dress to Express
Inside the Underwoods' living room.

"I get to know people who have exactly the same interests and hobbies as me," says Karl Underwood, who with his wife runs a part-time business selling vintage clothes, including to buyers overseas. Karl's hobbies include cars, a hobby shared by many men in the retro scene. He's been collecting hot rods and classic cars since his boyhood near Brighton, England.

"It's a cool, international scene," he says of retro fashion. "We know people in Australia, France, Spain. Anywhere in the world we know people there."

Wearing the wear is also a way to tell fellow travelers that you are one of them. "Even when I'm in a different country," Nicholson says, "I can spot someone walking down the street and know they're into the 1960s."

The range of styles available to mid-century fans is broad. "Viva [Las Vegas] started out as rockabilly," Vanessa says, "but it's changed over the years. It encompasses a lot of looks—the greaser look, a cowboy look, a '40s look, a World War II look. You'll see the Hawaiians from the '50s, the tiki look, which is really big right now."

"There are people who like the punk era, [and] the romantic style people," Karl Underwood says. "The rocker-style guys, '50s Brit rocker-style leather jackets and motorcycles. The Ace Café kind of look," he says, referring to a British truck stop that was a haven for teen bikers.

Vanessa Kunkel recalls starting out, as a girl, "a big World War II geek, all the women's styles from then. Then I got into the '50s thing."

"Now the majority of what I wear is the '60s, early- to mid-'60s, even some late-'60s stuff. I like the swanky look—sort of Palm Springs in the summer and you're laying out by the pool, long caftans, and really fabulous gold jewelry and gold lame purses—that whole glamorous look. If you get dressed up at night, an ostrich feather hat."