MY VINTAGE LIFESTYLE: Robert Oestmann
Updated: May 11
Mr. Oestmann has long been a vintage enthusiast, and has quite the active Instagram page. His spectacular flair for vintage style is immediately evident upon visiting his feed, but his passion for vintage also extends beyond clothes. In this blog post we hear from him on why & how he lives a vintage lifestyle.
Hello there, my name is Robert Oestmann and I’m a vintage obsessive.
What can I say about myself? Well, since a fairly young age I’ve had some desire for an affiliation with old stuff. This was probably brought about from watching period dramas and movies; although I quite like science fiction films as well, and you don’t see me running about the place dressed like Obi Wan Kenobi!
So what was it then? Well, my father used to watch Jeremy Brett’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’, my grandmother enjoyed David Suchet’s ‘Poirot’, and I’ll always remember when I saw ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ for the first time...that opening scene with the Paramount monolith fading into the Peruvian mountain was one of the most iconic things I’d ever seen. I’d say that those three things heavily influenced my childhood: the intelligent, pipe smoking sophistication of Holmes, the sartorial elegance of Poirot, and the rugged, dusty, problem solving adventurer, Jones. Add to that the Tintin comics, and any old black and white noir film that would come on the TV and you get the picture.
I’d always been the “weird kid” to the other children. I wasn’t much into sports, and would prefer to act out dramatic adventures with action figures; sometimes with hilarious results. Or, I would sit in the town library, nose firmly in ‘Railroad Model Craftsman’ or practically anything from the reference section. My first authentically vintage hat was a Stratoliner that cost me $5 from a second hand store.
Here’s a question: how do we beat boredom? My answer: adventure.
Vintage styled adventure is what I’ve always wanted in my life. When I was 16 years old, my mother and I moved to England to basically start a new life. I’d grown up in suburban British Columbia, several thousand miles from the Old Country, and to imagine such a thing even a year before would have never crossed my mind. The move was interesting, with many ups and downs along the way. Slowly, however, I’ve collected clothes, hats, books, coins, pens, cameras, and all the imaginable bits and bobs that an ordinary person would have on their person or in their home anywhere from between the late 1800s to about 1957.
Why do I do it? Well, as Adam Savage (of MythBusters fame) has put it, I love the stories that objects tell. Everything has a function, and a purpose. That’s certainly still true today, but something about things made 70+ years ago has a different feeling to it. If you’re reading this you’ve probably noticed that the quality of items seems to be diminishing of late, and it’s getting harder to find even expensive items that are made really well, or last longer than even their owner. It’s a real shame, but that’s how it is.
With that in mind, I find that when you hold, say, a Vest Pocket Kodak from circa 1923, you'll find that pure history is right there. A connection with a different age, and the lives of those long passed. Not only that; but the sheer quality of the object in question is almost always noteworthy. So that’s what I do, I try and use the things that I find; be they cameras, typewriters, or bicycles. If it’s in working order, but a bit rusty, dusty, or seized up, all the better! In that, lies the adventure. Researching the object, applying machine oil, consulting the old instruction manuals, and going out into the world and using the object as it was intended.
Even the very action of going out into the countryside and seeing new sights, smelling the air, and hearing that ancient call of “what’s over that ridge” that inspired so many hundreds of explorers: therein lies adventure. There are other ways of experiencing this, and that is of course, through literature, film, and games. But nothing really takes the place of actually doing it yourself. It doesn’t have to be through some grand gesture, like climbing Everest, or finding a lost Incan temple, or even solving the crossword puzzle; it can be as simple as watching a squirrel dart along a tree limb, a swallow swoop in the sky at insects, or listening to the babble of a cool stream where trout lie.
But now I've gone off topic, and I’m meant to be discussing vintage things. What I mean by all of this, is that I find I enjoy being more when it’s using old, or old style, items in the everyday.
One day, I’d like to work for a company providing props for period dramas. I could most certainly outfit a small production with the things I currently possess! Perhaps I will make a short film soon.
I’ve had many encouraging things said about my lifestyle, and at the same time some not so encouraging things said. Happily, these days, with a slightly thicker skin I’m not letting negativity get to me as much as I used to. You’ve just got to have the courage to stand up for what you believe in!
There are thousands of other like-minded people out there in the world, and it’s just a matter of finding them. I now have a wonderful girlfriend who is nearly as obsessed with collecting vintage things as I, and who has been absolutely amazing in all things.
Thank you for finding the time to read this, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
A big thank you to Mr. Oestmann for contributing this article to the MVL blog. You can find him on Instagram at @vintage.robb. Please check out his excellent page and give him a follow! Here at My Vintage Lifestyle, we love highlighting people who are living their best vintage lifestyle with the goal of inspiring others and hope to continue doing so. If you or someone you know would like to contribute, click on Tell Your Story at the top of this page and send us a message!