You know that phrase, ‘in my day… ‘? I have forever tried to not fall into the trap of harking back to something. And I can honestly say I don’t say ‘in my day’. That would make me feel sincerely old. Which I am not. Yet.
However, I have reached the age of ‘bring back’.
As a lover of vintage and antiques, I come across so many amazing things, gizmos, contraptions, gadgets that I wish hadn’t gone out of style. The 1930s to the 50s seemed to be a mecca in particular for inventions. I have had a number of patented items in our shop and I think all, or at least the majority, of them are from that time frame.
I find myself researching daily something neat. (Now there is a word we should bring back. ‘Neat’. It just says it on so many levels.) Some items conveniently say what they are, some I have to take time and delve into the historic archives.
Case in point. Have you ever heard of a Kitchamajig? Nope, me neither. Until I found (and sold) one for the shop. What about a Cache Torchon? Or a writers scalpel? (Used to correct letters and such before the days of erasers.) Would you recognise an upholstery tack remover? Nope? I sure didn’t.
A Rose by Any Other Name
Trying to research something by description only, particularly when you aren’t sure what it does, is truly… interesting. It really tests ones search word techniques, and vocabulary.
I found a great Show and Tell website for we gadget geeks ~ Collectors Weekly. It is my go to when I truly can’t figure out what something is or does. I post a picture and others can respond with what they think or know it is. It always sets me on the right path for further research.
In researching all these unique items from bygone days I realised that some never quite made it into fashionable. Or, they went out of fashion. Which is a real shame. There are a few that I really would like to bring back into today’s world as every day items.
Most of my reasons are practical, but a few are just because the invention deserves more attention, more time, and more use.
Here are just a few of my suggestions on what to bring back …
Hide Dirty Linen
I’ll start with the Cache Torchon mentioned above. It is French and literally translates as hidden tea towel or tea towel cover. This is the item that really started me thinking… Why don’t we use these today? This is something we should bring back. The item that sparked this article in fact (though it was the Kitchamjig that cemented its writing.)
A Cache Torchon was used, particularly in Alsace France, as a way to hide dirty kitchen towels, aprons and gloves that hooked on to a wooden shelf. This shelf had a bar that rotated out and the cache torchon draped or slotted over it and consequently in front of the dirty items behind. Instantly hiding your mess, whilst also making a pretty picture in your kitchen.
They are generally beautifully hand embroidered, with a variety of motifs. Made from linen, with colourful designs and lace edgings. Truly works of art, and practical too.
Today it seems to be all about how many blades they can fit into a disposable razor. And yet, with all these blades it also seems to become blunt all the faster. I say bring back the safety razor. You know the sort. They have a double sided blade that slots in, so you can shave from either side.
Not only do these razors look cool, but they are also more eco friendly. They have tiny amount of packaging as the blades are wrapped in waxed paper. And the blades are metal – which is recyclable, unlike disposable razors. Pumpjack is a great fan and uses his grandfathers 1940s razor. We buy blades for it in our local supermarket, but have also found them in pharmacies (New Zealand and USA).
Or if you wish to be totally eco friendly, then go the route of the straight razor, otherwise known as the switch blade razor. Eco friendly because you can sharpen it and thus use it over and over and over again. This type of razor will require a strop for that sharpening. You know all those times you see a barber shop in an old movie? The barber is always sharpening the razor on a leather strap? That’s a strop. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Staying on the subject of shaving, I recently discovered there used to be special ceramic covered dishes made for razors. It seemed to be in fashion in the early part of the 1900s. They were predominantly for the straight razor. You know those ones you flick open.
The gentleman would put his wet razor on what looks like a long soap dish, complete with raised ridges. This allowed the razor to drip dry until next time. The lid hid away the toiletry, instantly tidying up the bathroom wash area. Truly something for a proper gentleman.
Adult Lunch Boxes
Bento boxes and containers with dividers have become all the rage these days for lunches. But did you know this sort of thing has been around for almost 100 years? From WW1 ‘Le Quart’, as it was known, was the lunch box of the French. Originally oval, it changed to rectangular in the 30s when it was used by labourers and miners.
It generally has 2 sections. A main part and a smaller bowl that fits within the larger. Then a lid fastens on top. Because they were metal the food inside could be heated simply by putting on a stove top or over a flame. I think they vintage ones have more style than the nouveau plastic ones.
Aprons & House Coats
These days the apron is all about the BBQ. It’s a status symbol more than protector of clothing. But I would like to see not just the half apron, but all aprons, as well as the fully covering housecoat make a come back.
They just make sense, when you think about it. Why wouldn’t you wish to protect your clothes from oil or dirt? I can’t understand why these went out of fashion given their practicality. Add on that some are really cute, unique and wonderfully made and there is no reason not to own one, or two. We have multiple styles of aprons in our home that we use every meal time and when cleaning up.
Ever heard of a napkin pocket? They were the precursor to napkin rings. A (handmade) linen envelope that you tucked your napkin into when done, ready for the next meal.
Each would be embroidered with different sayings or pretty imagery, so you always knew which one was yours. It also had the added convenience of tidying away messy napkins until it was time to wash them, unlike napkin rings.
You may have seen ‘knife rests‘ if you have been to a Chinese restaurant. Except they were to rest you chopsticks on. In France they use them as knife rests. A place to rest your dirty knife so the table or tablecloth does not get dirty.
These rests come in all sorts of designs and materials. They can be simple or truly intricate. My personal favourites are the animals ones. Duck ones especially (surprise, surprise). But the dog ones are pretty cool too.
What? You are saying. Cheese Boards? But (some) people still use cheese boards. Or at least something they might put their cheese course on. Or charcuterie. Which today is a little more popular, probably because of the diversity.
But, did you know that there used to be cheese boards or trays especially dedicated to cheese? Very definitely a French thing as the cheese course is very typical, even today. In fact a cheese course is often chosen over a dessert. So you can see why a dedicated cheese board might be a thing.
What I love is the variety of them. From sleek and sophisticated to truly kitsch. My favourite though is the cheese map cheese board. The map indicates where certain cheeses are from. So you can learn something as well as taste something yummy.
And something else that is special about French vintage cheese boards, is that they usually have a (detachable) central handle. Easy to carry to the table, pass around, take on a picnic, use at a BBQ. It could even be used for a charcuterie if you have a notion to offer more than cheese.
(And then there is the cheese knife…)
I could go on…
There is the French Debelloire (single coffee cup filter), Clip-on sunglasses, handkerchiefs (instead of paper tissues), dress gloves (eg not just for winter), shopping bag handles (to stop heavy shopping bags cutting into your hand), the powder compact… and, well, you get the idea. This is by no means a complete, or even exhaustive list.
So many wonderful items that have true purpose, are more eco friendly, and all in all have much more style. I can’t find a reason not to want to bring them back. Are you with me?
Here’s a taste of some of my Bring Back items:
(Simply click on the the image of any gizmo, gadget or bring back item you like to connect to the item in our shop.)