Whenever I hear the term dated, I release the safety on my Browning.

James Kraus

Essayist and art critic Clement Greenberg. Arnold Newman photo, 1972.

… Datedness is not a valid aesthetic judgment. It doesn’t say whether art is good or bad. Dated art can be as good as up-to-date art. – Clement Greenberg

Over the last several years, the term “dated” has been tossed around ad nauseam by hacks, buffoons, and others who wish to appear hip and knowledgeable, but in reality have trouble discerning their backsides from deep depressions in the earth.

When hackneyed automotive scribes breathlessly report that the new Brand A makes its rival Brand B appear “dated,” what they are really saying is that Brand A has the latest style splitter, LED headlight array pattern and more linear feet of extraneous stitching on the seats.

The implication is that the very latest styling flourishes must somehow be better simply because they are…  new!

Ferrari 250 California Spider.

The Ferrari 250 California Spider soon looked “dated” next to the later 275 and 330 Spiders. True to its 1950s origin, the 250 even sported fins. Fins! Dated!

Despite its extremely dated” appearance, the 250 California remains one of the most coveted automobiles of all time.

1957 Chevrolet Nomad.

In the fall of 1956, nothing looked more dated than the newly-introduced 1957 Chevrolet. The competing ’57 Ford and Plymouth both sported the newly popular longer, lower and wider proportions, leaving the Chevrolet looking comparatively short and stubby. The rakish new Ford was five inches longer and a full four inches lower.

Not unsurprisingly, Ford outsold Chevrolet for the first time since 1936. Yet the “dated” ’57 Chevrolet went on to become one of Americas favorite classics.

1965 Ford Mustang GT350.

How about the original Mustang? The first iteration was an instant classic with an exquisitely-scaled grill; trim, crisply-sculpted flanks and a clean unadorned rear end.

But wait; didn’t the restyled 1967 model with the gaping grill, bulbous flanks and concave rear with needlessly dropped centre-section tarted up with glistening chrome MUSTANG lettering make the coveted original look dated? Of course it did, because it was new, new, new! But aesthetically improved? No.

The original ’65-’66 remains by far the most popular vintage Mustang among collectors, despite the later ’67-’68 body style’s starring role in Bullitt.

Jaguar E-Type Series I.

What about the E-Type Jaguar? The bloated, partially vinyl-clad XJS certainly made the lean, lithely-sculpted 15-year-old E-Type look laughably dated. But who’s laughing now? An E-Type sits in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The closest an XJS will ever get to the museum is the left lane of West 53rd Street!

The world has become obsessed with Kardashian-style latest-fad consumerism on a level not seen since the 1950s. Timeless and style has been displaced by fast fashion. Everyone wants the latest thing. Designs can be out of fashion, but fashion comes and goes. Stylish design is forever.

Once more with feeling: Datedness is not a valid aesthetic judgment.

3 thoughts on “Whenever I hear the term dated, I release the safety on my Browning.

  1. Agreed but in the end the selling of new things is what drives the market….

    Automakers care little for us whom drive and maintain their previous products.

    My ‘new’ car is a 1984 Mercedes Coupe with 477,000 + miles on it and they’re beginning to discontinue a lots of parts…..

    Very few ‘enthusiasts’ grasp what a slow seller the 1957 Chevies were. All these decades later I still prefer the ’55s.

    -Nate

  2. I completely agree. So true of automobiles, clothing styles, literature, movies, music, architecture. The list is endless. New is not always worse, but it is not always better either.

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