The funny thing about Michael Galinsky’s photographs of malls, taken during a road trip across the U.S. in the winter of 1989, is not the feathered and hair-sprayed hair, the pleated and pegged jeans, the high-tops and acid wash, the puffy chests in too-small or over-sized tank tops. It’s not the whiff of Mrs. Field’s cookies, Orange Julius, and Chick-fil-A waffle fries. It’s not the fluorescent lights and pained efforts to bring the outdoors in: rubber plants, umbrellas hovering in food courts, faux snow fluffed, not falling, over Christmas scenes. That dusty, dim glow.
The funny thing is, looking at Galinsky’s photos, is that we can’t tell one mall from the other. We have no way of knowing if he was in South Dakota or Indiana, Arkansas or Kansas. Without marking his slides, Galinsky, too, realized then, he’d have no way of knowing where in America, exactly, he’d been. But it turns out, looking back some 30 years later, it’s not so much where that matters, but when.
SOURCE: Flashback to the Timeless Malls of the 1980s – LightBox.
I am old so I remember when malls were not around. Kids cruised the local drive-in restaurant in their cars instead of going to the mall. The first mall I encountered did not have a roof over the stores so in many ways it was not as much of a social climate as the enclosed kind became. It was simply more convenient than having to drive from one store to another. Of course during those days there is also no such thing as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. I don’t think the kids today can even imagine such a world!
When the picture above was taken I was already in my 40’s so malls were not part of my social life as they became for the kids in that picture. Another noticeable thing about the picture is that everyone is not wearing tennis shoes. I know they are not called tennis shoes any longer but that is the name for them laser cut into my memory so just give me a break.
If I were to have to pick one of the most influential things of the previous century it would have to be marketing. We, I am told especially us in the U.S., tend to jump on board with every fad that comes and goes. It is somehow now emblazoned on our brains that we must have the latest thing. If we buck the trends we are called all types of name; in my day is was doofus, today it is nerd or something else. Marketing has taken most of us as its slave to toss us from one fad to another.
I have always been that strange guy who just doesn’t do what everyone else does. When I was a teenager I was just too shy and too poor to be trendy. As I matured into an adult I had learned to mistrust on one level or another everything I was told. I had to check it out myself before coming on-board. Maybe my hearing impairments and later deafness had something to do with it. I don’t know. I do know it separated me from others….
But I’m kind of proud how I turned out. Maybe too proud…