ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
BIG on samples and happy hour buffets, periodically declares he's giving up on cheese (might as well call him "anti-American" i know), LOVES his wife (remember, "wife" spelled backwards is "efiw"), is certain his son is destined to be known as "Enzo the Great," appreciates his "parents" more each day (in-laws included), still dislikes cats, greatest fear is mediocrity, has resigned himself to blatant self-promotion (hey! i amuse me), defies popularity by defining himself, and wants (would like) you to pay him lots (market-value) of money for his work.
The Essential Guide to American Adult Pop-Culture
"Every generation of New Yorkers is regaled with stories about the downfall of a great city, but certain indisputable advantages of the 1940's and '50s are lost forever. as dirty and gray as much of the town looked, there were fewer skyscrapers to block out the sun, making the streets much brighter by day. 'Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue were pristine,' recalls Pat Carrol, 'and some of the most beautiful people walked there. The men dressed in suits and overcoats and homburgs, the women in furs and hats and gloves. I used to walk along Fifth Avenue to go to Brentano's and other bookshops, and I loved to just look at people." (p.15 Gavin)
"The 1950s saw tremendous advances in science, with the harnessing of atomic power to produce electricity, the use of radioisotopes in medicine and industry, and the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. These breakthroughs were echoed in design with molecular patterns appearing on items as diverse as fabrics, lampshades and magazine covers."
Bastions of Fashion
Esquire magazine has been around since October 1933. "In the 50's the Esquire man strafed for classic elegance..." Pogrebin:
Cleanliness was paramount to Dean and Frank. Whenever they took me with them for a little side trip to some gambling joints near Cincinnati, I'd sit in their hotel suite, fascinated by the spectacle of them primping for a night out. They didn't mind my watching them. They thought of me as a loyal pet. They splashed their cologne, each dousing himself with his favorite brand...Their white shirts were crisp and new, the ties well chosen, the suits expensive and impeccably tailored. But what got me were their hats. They wore wide brimmed hats right out of Guys and Dolls. They'd descend the stairs of our hotel and usher me grandly to the limo. They moved with self-assured pride, tossing away jokes and hundred-dollar bills to bellboys. They adjusted their jackets and smoothed down their ties. Underneath it all, I sensed, their underwear was as white and fresh as newly fallen snow....Why was it that they who consorted with gangster types and worked hard at entertaining people insisted on being perceived as so clean? It was a fundamental obsession with them and one that endlessly fascinated me.
"Lots of men, when they were kids with crew-cuts and flannel shirts and jeans with cuffs and souvenir Indian bead belts, played with chemistry sets in their basements. Then, when they grew up, and had basements of their own, they set up a different kind of chemistry set. Now togged in garbadine shirts, pleaded pants, and socks with no shortage of clocking, they played with their cocktail sets at their very own bar."
The infamous "Crew-cut." Long a symbol of conformity, it was quite a scene to see the King of Rock and Roll shaved clean after being drafted in 1954. And the Beatles also made their mark by showcasing their bowl haircuts on their debut album, Meet the Beatles in 1964, accomplishing little short of putting a nail in the coffin of our beloved age of innocence. The perfect rendition of this drastic transformation in hair style is entertainingly documented in the Hollywood and Broadway productions of Hair. But long before the icons of popular culture stepped away from the conformist crew-cut, the Beatnik generation began letting their hair grow long and facial hair grow. Goatees were particularly popular, with jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie making it widely popular sporting his while playing trumpet at local cafe.
The precursor to gel, mouse and even hairspray, was the hair care product of the day. The handheld hair dryer came into existence in...., which was predated by the giant hair saloon models popular in the 1960's. Hairspray, also a symbol of the aforementioned era first came onto the market in...
Although some still exist, the end of the Age of Innocence also brought the demise of the barber shop. There is something exquisite about the attention of your local barber which loses its luster in a hair/beauty saloon. No noise of the hair dryers, just the chatter of regulars in for a trim, with the old GE radio playing old favorites in the corner. The leather barber's chair, with the stool for the little one, being wrapped in a fresh white starched cotton apron, with the final touch of indulgence coming from the shave comforting warm shaving cream and a splash of tingling aftershave.Back to Top
Two button sportcoats
"Maybe it was JFK's bare-headed appearance at his own inaugural that signaled the demise of men's hats in America. Before that, men wore hats. It was as simple as that. Not just policeman and fireman and cowboys, but the milkman, the guy in the ice cream truck, the cabby, the bus driver. Hats topped off your mufti. You didn't feel dressed without one. And even the common fedora, standard attire for the working man, had a myriad of variations that allowed a man to make it his own. Whether he wanted his crown with a center crease, or a teardrop, or a porkpie. Whether there was a feather in his band. Whether he had a wide brim or narrow, what angle he turned it down, and if he went with the grosgrain ribbing or left it plain. Like a baseball player's glove, a man's hat was very much his own."
"Time was a man didn't leave the house without his hat....From Robin Hood, with his green felt with feather, through Dean Martin with his narrow-brimmed Dorset, men have worn hats. Home was where you hung it. It was what you tipped to acknowledge a pair of silk-hosed gams walking past; what your mistress tossed on the divan before letting you know how long it seemed since your last visit; what was passed for collection after the spiel at the local Mission; what you held over your heart as the Anthem played before the ball game...
Dad's hat hanging on the hook in the front hall meant he was home. And who could resist the urge to try it on, the brim down to your nose where you took the heady smell of sweat, leather, and Vitalis. Your dad's smell. Unmistakable.
Fingerprints could give you his name, but the way a man wore his hat could tell you his whole story. Was it pulled down low, sullenly locking out the world; or tilted back, to give a wink to any passing fancy. Did it still have the haberdasher's creases, or was the crown now distinctly marked with your personality. Was it starting to fray at the edges, the felt showing signs of too many unexpected rainstorms; or was it fresh, crisp, newly blocked..."Back to Top
Hawaiian prints with palm trees, Blue Hawaii, Don Ho. Sharkskin suits.
White Dinner jackets
As far back as 1933, black tie was requisite wear for the nightlife. It was a strict policy at the Beach Club in Palm Beach, Florida, "the most celebrated and classiest establishment of its kind" that admittance was denied to those under the influence and men not dressed in formal evening wear.
The greatest evidence that formal wear was a requisite for the Chic was American Cinema between the late 1930's and early 1960's. In Bogart's 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep, Bogart finds the main suspect at his gambling venue where most of the people are dressed in black tie. Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelley showed us how to dance in black tie in their 1953 production "High Society" and Sean Connery as James Bond in the 1963 cinematic revival of the adventures of the ultimate playboy in "Diamonds are Forever", demonstrated their appeal at the gaming tables of Vegas. The most recent demonstration of this apparel standard occurred with the second revival of Bond with Pierce Brosnan at the tables of Monte Carlo in the 1995 production of "Golden Eye,"
The 1990's have experienced a revival of the wonderful years finding Capitol Records reissuing collections of vocalist hits and easy listening compilations for the Bachelor, the throwback to indulgence with the revival of cigar smoking and martini drinking and renaissance of fifty's fashion including Hawaiian shirts to art deco furniture.Back to Top
Tie Bars and links
Handkerchiefs: there were two general ways of placing the handekerchief in the breast pocket of your coat, either square which cut straight across and was parallel to the pocket or a jig-jag mountain fold which allowed for individual idiosycracies. The standard material was white cotton, but as an exprienced friend pointed out, the colors and silk scheme was usually reserved for the "fancy-dans" and was regarded as quite gauche for the time.
Typical accesories which men carried in their pockets may have included: a key case, usu. black leather, a flask, a pocket knife with at most two blades, a good-luck charm of sorts like a rabbit's foot, a pocket lighter, and/or a wallet.
It is possible to date a snapshot by examining the hairstyles worn by its subjects. by the same token, the study of hair can help us understand changes affecting whole nations. Society is in constant flux, and so is hair.
Consider the startling change in women's hairstyles between 1945 and the mid-60's. when American soldiers came home after World War II, their wives and girlfriends jettisoned defense-industry jobs and practical 'dos to return to more stereotypically "feminine" domestic lives- and they adopted structured hairdos that had to be obsessively tended. The rigidity of women's hair during this period (and the compact, hard-edged cuts favored by most men) reflected the repressed state of the nation - particularly in matters of sex and gender.
Good Housekeeping, for example, sang the praises of hairspray in a 1955 article title "Spray To Make Your Hair Behave." But "it wasn't just hair that was supposed to 'behave,' to be smooth, mannerly and disciplined' and to stay 'meekly in place.'" McCracken write. "Forty years of feminist theory later, its' pretty clear what Good Housekeeping was really saying: Spray to Make the Self Behave."
Enter British hair magnate Vidal Sassoon, purveying a geometric, boblike cut that created a sensation when it debuted in 1963 on the head of obscure actress Nancy Kwan. Soon women from Jane Fonda to Liza Minneli to Mia Farrow were going to Sassoon.
Sassoon believed that when a woman's head moved, her hair should move with her. In the context of the time, this was a radical idea. the 50's philosophy that hair(read: femininity) was a fearsome, unruly beast that should be forced to "behave" was rendered absurd by Sassoon's elegant yet simple styles. the hairdresser's cuts celebrated spontaneous, bold, sexy women who did what they wished and became whomever they chose.
"What Vidal Sassoon did was the equivalent of taking women out of girdles," says Annemarie Iverson, beauty and health director for Harper's Bazaar. "He let them be free."
Sassoon helped women- and men- see their hair in a new light, McCracken writes. It wasn't an irrelevant crop of follicles to be whipped into obedience, but "an opportunity for metamorphosis. Hair provided the opportunity for an entire society to swing."
Jackie and Audrey, Shirley MacClaine, Barbra Streisand 1960's. Marilyn Monroe in the 1950's.
A special word must be said about hair color, only one in 20 North American women are naturally blond. Bleached blondes include Marilyn Monroe...
There are blondes and blondes and it is almost a jokeword these nowadays. All blondes have their points, except perhaps the metallic ones who are as blond as a Zulu under the bleach and as to disposition as soft as a sidewalk. There is the small cute blonde who cheeps and twitters, and the big statuesque blonde who straight arms you with an ice-blue glare. There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very very tired when you take her home. She makes that helpless gesture and has that goddamned headache and you would like to slug her except that you are glad you found out about the headache before you invested too much time and money and hope in her. Because the headache will always be there, a weapon that never wears out and is as deadly as the bravo's rapier or Lucrezia's poison vial.
There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Roof and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading the Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat too late. I hear Toscanini can also. That make two of them.
And lastly there is the gorgeous show piece who will outlast three kingpin racketeers and then marry a couple of millionaires at a million a head and end up with a pale rose villa at Cap Antibes, an Alfa-Romeo town car complete with pilot and co-pilot, and a stable of shopworn aristocrats, all of whom she will treat with the affectionate absent-mindedness of an elderly duke saying goodnight to his butler.
The first time millions of women say Mrs. Kennedy in a pillbox hat or Miss Hepburn in that slinky black day dress in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or Princess Grace in a strapless evening gown with satin stole, they thought, gee, maybe I could be like that some day....
In the world of the 1950's, in which they first flowered, everyone was dressed up, mothers washed dishes in high heels and fathers never went downtown without hats. It was a world in which the way you looked "reflected" on your family, on your school, on your town, on your Government. Style was handcuffed to class in a way that it is hard to believe today. Clothes that identified you as poor made you the object of scorn. That rigid prescription - what you wear is who you are an how you should be treated - ruled life and was so ridiculous that it led to almost an entire generation to view formality as an instrument of oppression and to embrace casual clothing as a political statement.
In the late 50's and early 60's, that high style, as epitomized by French and American couture, was reserved for an almost godlike class. That sort of elegance was so far out reach for most women that it almost represented fantasy. One did not see in department store windows or on the racks the Givenchys that Audrey Hepburn wore in the movies. They were locked away in velvet salons that no middle-class woman would ever think of entering. Reading Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in that period was, for most women, an exercise in esthetics, like wandering through a fashion museum.
But Miss Hepburn, Princess Grace and Mrs. Kennedy made elegance appear accessible. On them, couture look real - comfortable, wearable, right. They each possessed an essential all-American-girl quality that somehow softened the elite nature of their style and made it seem familiar and even imitable. You could say that as patrician as they were, they helped break down stringent class barriers by appearing to be, despite what they had on, rather friendly and normal, by being, as the Beatles put it later, not what they appeared to be.
And yet, of course, they were exactly what they appeared to be - well bred, wealthy and highly positioned. But they were catalysts of the 60's revolutions they preceded in that their style was invitational and not exclusive.
To millions of American women, Miss Hepburn, Mrs. Kennedy and Princess Grace opened doors to a world previously restricted - they gave tours. They modernized the term ladylike, and gave it youth and life. They were a free finishing school.
White gloves, once the sure-tell sign of a debutante or socialite were made popular to the masses by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Jacqueline Kennedy.
1948-The bikini arrives on American beaches.