History repeats itself through pop culture trends

Illustration by Dominic Davies

New pop culture trends are constantly occurring, but not all of these trends are technically new. A lot of modern trends in music and fashion appear to be based around vintage motifs that are just now resurfacing.

To avid percussionist Rob Wallace, a lecturer for the NAU Honors College, music is a universal language that connects people all across the world. Wallace said he decided to share his passion for music with others by teaching his art at the university.

“I learned to play music from my friends, family and teachers here in Flagstaff,” Wallace said. “Then, I learned all subsequent practical and scholarly musical ideas in college, graduate school and beyond. Through all of this, the music of the 1960s was always most influential to me, particularly the genres of rock and jazz.”

Wallace said he co-curates a local improvisational and experimental music series called the “Interference Series.”

“As a drummer, I’m strongly influenced by the music of the 1940s to ’70s,” Wallace said. “The ’60s were particularly important to the global development of music and to the development of my own musical concepts. From jazz, to rock, to Indian classical music — the ’60s saw an increasing interconnection between the music of America to that of other countries.”

Wallace said technology has had a huge part to play in the resurfacing of musical trends. Apps like Spotify and Pandora have made older music far more accessible to a younger audience.

“[Digital] media is one way the people of today are still aware of music from the ’60s,” Wallace said. “All of these developments make the music of the ’60s distinctive and highly influential to this day.”

Wallace said the music trends of the ’60s also had a role to play in the civil rights movement, which has parallels with many of the socio-political struggles occurring in America today.

“The more explicitly Afro-centric ideas of ’60s music were undoubtedly influenced by the political consciousness of the Civil Rights, Black Power and Pan-African movements, all of which came to a head during that era,” Wallace said.

The percussionist said music from decades ago still sells in today’s market. Wallace cited John Coltrane’s album “A Love Supreme” as one example of an album that maintains its influence in the early 21st century.

“In my ’60s class, I teach a two-week unit on African-American saxophonist John Coltrane and his collaborator and wife Alice Coltrane,” Wallace said. “We focus heavily on Coltrane’s 1965 album, “A Love Supreme,” and its lasting legacy. That album has influenced generations of musicians because of its aesthetic, spiritual and political qualities.”

Music is just one form of art in which past trends have left an imprint on those of today. Fashion is an artistic realm that is constantly changing, however, new styles of clothing are often reinventions of tried-and-true themes.

Sarah Gerlis, a Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising graduate, is also an independent contractor and personal stylist for several Los Angeles celebrities. Gerlis said fashion trends from decades ago are still being tweaked and reused to fit the needs of modern people.

“I mostly see bell-bottom jeans from the ’60s,” Gerlis said. “Those are really coming back. I also see block heels and Patten boots. Back in the ’60s, they did go-go boots. But still, the idea was taken straight from the ’60s.”

As a stylist, Gerlis helps people dress themselves according to the trending styles of the day. Gerlis said, in her experience, many of the styles from decades past are just now making their way back.

“I think what I see being utilized the most are ’70s fashions, because right now, it’s all about pops of color and retro, vintage styles,” Gerlis said. “What was cool then is considered cool again. For example: in my styling kit, I’ve included many bright, colorful scrunchies and little hair accessories that are very retro.”

Gerlis said social media is one outlet of expression that has allowed for the recurrence of fashion trends. The stylist also said that many people have become incredibly successful just by posting about their fashion choices online.

“I think trends were good back [in the ’60s and ’70s], then they fell off,” Gerlis said. “But with social media and all its influencers, we now have trends that are finding their way back. I think when people post about it, vintage styles blow up, because everyone wants to be like the social media influencers they follow.”

Flagstaff is home to Incahoots Vintage Clothing and Costumes, a store that specializes in retro styles. Sarah Corkill works as a sales representative for Incahoots. She said the store sells secondhand clothes primarily from the ’60s and ’70s as well as seasonal costumes.

“I kind of feel like some trends never went away,” Corkill said. “Like, we have a lot of disco stuff. What’s popular really just depends on what parties are going on.”

Corkill said she’s feels trends resurface either because they simply look good or because they generate sentimental feelings within the wearer.

“I think trends stay around for two different reasons: one is that when something works, you usually just stick with. Secondly, it’s about nostalgia."

Pop culture experts around town seem to agree that, whether because of technology or simply because of the resilience of certain trends, it’s clear some styles are here to stay.