‘I love to twirl the cord’: the young people pushing for a landline renaissance

‘I love to twirl the cord’: the young people pushing for a landline renaissance

Landlines are nearing obsolescence. For many young people, they’ve gone the way of CD-Roms, cassette tapes, and the humble printer. On TikTok, parents film their children holding wall phones like archival pieces, unsure of how to place a call. Payphones are long gone, too. But not everyone’s ready to hang up the curly-corded receiver.

Nicole Randone, a 24-year-old from Westchester, New York, takes calls from her bedroom using a purple Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen-branded landline first sold in 2003, when she was three years old. “One of my first memories is the tan landline that my parents had mounted to the kitchen wall,” Randone said. “I always fantasized about the day I’d have one in my own room.”

All of Randone’s style takes influence from what she calls “2000s nostalgia” – on Instagram, she posts to her audience of 118,000 followers showing off a bedroom decorated with a bright pink boombox, Von Dutch accessories and Chad Michael Murray wall posters. “Having a landline really bridges that gap between reality and my childhood fantasy,” Randone said. “I feel like the main character in my favorite TV shows – One Tree Hill, The OC, Gilmore Girls – when I use it.”

 

The overwhelming majority of American adults do not own landlines. According to the Washington Post, barely a quarter of Americans lived in homes that had one in 2022. The number has basically death-dropped since 2010, when around 63% of Americans had both wireless and landline options.

Service providers are closer than ever to phasing landlines out: in California, AT&T proposed doing away with landline phones altogether, appealing to the state’s public utilities commission for permission to cut service. The telecommunications giant called landlines a “historical curiosity that’s no longer necessary”.

 

Maybe so, but that’s exactly why some gen Z customers are so charmed by the analog tech. They don’t need the service; they still use cellphones for most daily tasks. Instead, they appreciate the aesthetic of the landline. It reminds them of a simpler, pre-digital era. Landlines are how you talk to your friends for hours, where conversations go deeper than the standard “wyd” text.

“When people see my landline, they treat it like a toy,” Randone added. “Since I’m an influencer, I’m constantly online, so it’s really nice to disconnect and it almost feels like an escape.”

Sunny bought her Hello Kitty landline after seeing someone on TikTok show off their frog-shaped phone. (Sunny asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons.) She later learned that she could buy an adapter to connect her iPhone to the landline, which makes it more convenient; the adapter connects to Bluetooth and pairs with her cell, which means that the landline shares a number with her iPhone, and calls go to both devices.

“I love the novelty of talking to my friends and sitting in one place,” Sunny said. “When I’m having a long text conversation with a friend, I’ll just ask if we can speak over the phone and catch up.”

Sam Casper, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter who lives in West Hollywood, owns a light pink Crosley landline. “It was my mom’s husband’s grandma’s phone,” she said. “But it’s hilarious, because saying that makes you think it would be old, but she bought it from Urban Outfitters a few years ago.”

Casper uses the phone to speak with friends, some of whom have their own landlines, too. “It’s so cute and romantic,” she said. “It’s very Sex and the City, which is why we started doing it. I really loathe cellphones, because everyone cancels at the last minute these days through text, which I find so absurd.”

Casper keeps her friends’ phone numbers listed on a napkin from the Chateau Marmont that sits next to her phone. Another part of her setup: “I have a tape – what’s it called? – a voice box thing … a voicemail machine,” she added. Her phone service combined with wifi used to cost around $130 a month, but she called her provider and talked it down to $82.

“There’s no caller ID, so I can’t screen who’s calling,” she said. “If I meet a new friend and they’re the type of person I’d invite back to my house, they get the landline. Whenever I hear my phone ringing, I get so giddy. I love to just sit there and talk and twirl the little cord.”