Retro vs. Vintage: What's the Diff?

Posted by Bob Namar on

Retro vs. Vintage Designs

Dear Yestercool: Your site specializes in vintage and retro designs, which I like. It's cool and all, but what the difference is between retro and vintage? Aren't they just both old-time?   --  JD, Round Rock, Tx


Thanks for your question, JD. There is often some confusion between the two terms, so let's try to set the record straight.

What is vintage design?
Originally, the word vintage described the year and location of a wine. Now, it refers to items from the 20th century; the early 1900s up to the end of the 1960s. ‘Vintage’ encompasses a wide range of styles that appeared over decades and through multiple design genres. These days, vintage design is not a singular, defined art form, but is more of a way of paying tribute to a shared design heritage. Some of these designs are on display in our 70s collection.

In the 1970s, the decade that was marked with huge cultural and social revolutions, some especially memorable design elements begin to emerge: flowy and freeform, it features disco and neon. The intricate psychedelic style was born and the flowery Art Nouveau style reappeared.
Austin. Texas mad dog and beans retro design fashion tee by Yestercool
What is retro design?
The word retro stems from the French word rétro (short for rétrograde), which means 'backward' or 'behind'. Its origin dates back to the Latin prefix retro, also meaning backward, or in past times. Retro graphic design is often signified by certain periods, such as 1950s graphic design, 60s style, and 70s graphic design.

Retro generally describes something new that imitates something from the past. Retro is not original but is inspired to appear like the original. Retro became a term in the 1960s and was used primarily to describe things that reference the past.

Vintage and retro begin to collide in the 1960s, though it is clear that vintage generally features more muted colors. Rooted in the color and design ethos of the '60s and '70s, retro faded away in the '80s through early 2000s as more contemporary design styles came into favor. Many of the designs we feature in our Austin Is Cool collection represent this period.
Austin, Texas Raul's punk club retro vintage fashion tee | Yestercool

Then there is Throwback
The even more modern term throwback, which closely resembles the meaning and use of the word retro, is now also used to describe a characteristic or something from the past. Notably, it is used to reminisce; recreate a moment or event from the past, and to share that experience. Baseball fans will find some cool throwbacks among the designs here.
Baseball cubist art retro vintage fashion tee | Yestercool
Retro, vintage or throwback, reaches back to design aesthetics of the past and creates cool fashion and fun for today. Wherever your preferences run to, you'll find fashion and style to wear and to share at

Have a cool question? Send it to us at We'll answer as many as we can.