We live in an age of authenticity, where being authentic to who we are is one of our highest goals. In banal terms, I think of our buying decisions: companies know their products must be extensions of ourselves. They must make us more of who we are and aspire to be. Apple does this. So does Subaru. The worst ads are mere spectacle, and they fail to connect with us on any deeper level.
Even more our politics, as successive generations have promoted and idolized authenticity, and we’ve elect a president who, at least appears, authentic. Of course, this seems an aped authenticity, but we must admit that it seems more authentic than the marketed and polished personas of most politicians. Be angry and cruel, but don’t be inauthentic.
This obsession with authenticity comes at a time when technology obscures our true selves more than ever before. We’re told to build personal brands and curate the best parts of ourselves. We want the trappings of this modern world, where we can project an ideal version of ourselves, while we also long for something simpler and truer.
This is, at least partially, why anything vintage is vogue: it signifies a simpler time, whether that comes in the form of distilled whiskies or shiplap on the walls. Vintage is a signifier for simple and true, for authentic, and we are hungry for authenticity because, in truth, the world lacks it. The internet has ushered in a this contraction, this oxymoron of connection in a digital space.
In this way, our society most values and is most obsessed over that which it most lacks.