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The Resurgence of Vintage-Inspired Merchandise

Posted by Liz Schulte on 4/1/19 5:36 AM
Topics: college stores, gen z trends, gen z characteristics

Everything comes back in style. You have probably heard or even said this adage at some point in your life. From clothes to music to hairstyles, certain trends make their way back into the limelight time and time again. Right now, vintage fashions are experiencing a rebirth at the hands of Generation Z.

The Resurgence of Vintage-inspired MerchandiseThese digitally native students love throwback styles — especially those of the 1980s and 1990s. Though they aren’t old enough to have experienced the fashions firsthand, they embrace the styles of their parents’ generation while still making them their own.

According to a study published in Psychological Science, the music that is popular while a person is in their early 20s creates a lasting emotional impact that later produces the strongest feelings of nostalgia. However, the study also revealed a more surprising result. The participants also had an affinity for the music that was popular when their parents were young and to a lesser degree when their grandparents were young. These emotional connections created feelings of nostalgia for a time that was before participants were born.  

Perhaps a similar sense of nostalgia also influences fashion. Gen Z supermodel Gigi Hadid recently partnered with Reebok to create a streetwear collection that was inspired by her father’s collection of 90s sportswear. There has also been a renewed interest in IMG College Licensing’s vintage-inspired collection in the last two years.

Whether true vintage or new fashion lines created to look vintage, Gen Z students gravitate toward these designs that celebrate past generations.

The appeal of vintage fashion

Legacy — Vintage-inspired merchandise can celebrate a school’s legacy and give students a historical perspective while still providing the fresh styles students want. A great example is the Levi’s® Manhattan mega store. The store is decorated with photographs of people donning their jeans throughout the company’s history. From the 1890 miners to Berlin Wall, the photos displayed show Levi’s cultural history. Customers can purchase new lines based on these original historic designs, letting them become a part of that history.

College stores can do the same thing. By displaying photographs of past and current students donning their school branded merchandise, you create that sense of community and history in your store. You also celebrate your school’s legacy in a positive way that reminds students that they are part of something larger that will live on for generations to come.


Environmentally friendly — Recycling or upcycling vintage fashion appeals to environmentally-conscious Gen Z students. According to Barnes & Noble College research, Gen Z students believe now is the time to act on environmental issues, and they are ready to help bring about change. Because of this attitude students have embraced more sustainable fashion choices that cut back on waste.

True vintage fashions let students put a new twist on something old while creating a unique personal style. Also, these second-hand styles are more likely to be one-of-a-kind on campus which appeals to Gen Z students’ desire to set themselves apart. 


Quality — In today’s world so many things are disposable. As a result, Gen Z craves simple, quality products that will withstand the test of time. Vintage fashions and products represent an era when things were made to last that appeals to Gen Z’s environmental and financial concerns.

These students are willing to invest in quality merchandise that will last because they see it as helping their money go further in the long run. In fact, 66 percent choose to buy from brands that sell high-quality products over mid- to low-quality products.


By including some vintage-inspired options in your store, you could attract more student interest and strengthen your school’s brand. Embracing the past helps your store create a story that will resonate with current students and demonstrate how each one of them are a new part of your school’s legacy.  

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