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1950S in Popular Culture: Beatniks, Elvis and Polka Dot Skirts
The 1950s were an interesting decade, sandwiched between another world war and a new, threatening age of nuclear power and nuclear energy. This period cut the roots for the carefree generation of the 60s, because the “beat generation” saw no hope and thus began to rebel against social conventions.
The classic musical Fat sums up many of the stereotypical fashions, lifestyles and attitudes of the 50s. Young men dressed in leather jackets, pulled back their hair with a comb they kept in their top pocket, and called the girls “dolls” and “babies.” Rock ‘n’ roll was born, with Elvis Presley one of the main protagonists. His characteristic dance is still parodied to this day.
Other big names on the rock’n’roll music scene include Buddy Holly, known for his thick-rimmed ‘nerd glasses’, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash.
In film, the European cinema experienced a renaissance, because the resources were available again. Due to the threat of television, producers sought new and innovative ways to drive audiences back to the cinema. Large production and spectacle films gained popularity, with titles such as ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’, ‘The Ten Commandments’ and ‘The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’. The 50s have been referred to as the golden era for 3D cinema – will the latest reincarnation of this technology survive today?
Japanese cinema also reached its peak during this period, with notable directors including Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.
Beatniks & polka dot skirts
In the fifties is also the “return of fashion”, after the lifting of the strict measures that were carried out during the Second World War. Many Paris fashion houses reopened and there was a flood of synthetic fabrics and easy-care processes; Drip-dry nylon, Orlon and Dacron became hugely popular, while acrylic, polyester and spandex were also all introduced in the 50s.
‘Teddy Boys’ wore an exaggerated version of Edwardian fashion, sporting skinny ties and narrow trousers showing narrow socks. In the States, the ‘Greasers’ were the closest equivalent, rebelling in a similar way against their parents’ styles.
In fact, the US was as usual very influential in popular culture, with the idea of the ‘Beat Generation’ introduced by the author Jack Kerouac. The Beatniks were an underground, non-conformist youth group that originated in New York. A typical look includes a beret, sunglasses and black turtleneck sweater. Jeans and leather jackets were also popular.
For women specifically, hair was often worn short and curly in a “New York look”. Hats were essential for all but the most casual occasions. Later in the decade came the curly ‘poodle cut’, the ‘bouffant’ and the ‘beehive’, made famous today by Marge Simpson and Amy Winehouse. Beat girls obviously wore their hair long and straight; the direct opposite of these styles.
Increasing factory production made the 50s an era of mass-produced clothing and standardized sizes. The “ready to wear” industry was born. The ladies have very feminine styles, with bows, flounces and frills. Halterneck and strapless dresses were a big trend, and skirts were very full, often accompanied by petticoats to give extra body.
Still nothing says 1950s more than a circle skirt. These were worn by the younger generation (as ‘teenagers’ were now established as a kind of mainstream subculture), always on top of petticoat underskirts. They were often homemade, and while they have a range of designs, poodle skirts and polka dot skirts are the most iconic.
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#1950S #Popular #Culture #Beatniks #Elvis #Polka #Dot #Skirts