It’s at least oscillating, but to me it feels as if it’d be a rather fair comment to make, that everything – all around us – is changing all the time. Society and its language, ‘manners’, identities, practices are endlessly on the move. No standstill, no rest. Today, a couple of newspaper articles from 1953 got me thinking again. They hardly present a scientific survey, and that’s not really the point here. Glancing at the writing, the words used, pictures and illustrations, the “survey results” – all this tells us, the time-travelling reader, so inescapably that “then was then” and that our times now are very different to “then”.
We see it clearly in the contrast – we live in a changing world. It seem that it is good to look back – it can bring out and perhaps even conquer our humanly fear of change. And then we can look forward (in)to the future – yes, in more sense than one – enjoy it and dream up good things about it. (Of course, and opportunistically, I am thinking about the implementation of people-focussed urban design solutions.)
I give you a couple of excerpted transcripts below – the full articles can be seen here, in the WorldsBrighestNewspaper_1953 [pdf]. Be warned. Angles, approaches and outlooks may just have been a little bit (erm) different then.
How to get a husband in 1953
A 23-year old Chelsea author, Alan Mason, is writing a book for women – on “How to get a husband”. He has done 11 months’ research studying the habits of women. Now he says: “I’ve found out that women do the wrong things. They irritate men instead of pleasing them”. Alan lists these faults
- Women natter and chatter instead of talking intelligently
- They dress to please themselves instead of to please men
- They see too many Hollywood films and base their idea of marriage on wat they see on the screen
He expects the book to be a best seller. What does Alan’s girl friend think of the book? “Girl friend?”, says Alan, “I haven’t got one. Why on earth do you think I [would write] this book?”
The ideal man in 1953
[Based on a readers survey with 12,000 responses.] Here is the answer to every maiden’s prayer – Britain’s ideal man.
Shock No.1 is for the temperance societies. Twice as many women prefer beer-drinking men to teetotallers. It’s the men who object – if anybody – to their pint-loving pals. They were almost equally divided on the subject.
Shock No.2 is that, for once, men and women have found something to agree on. Male and female voters reached the same results in every section of the voting.
Shock No.3. “Crew-cut” hairstyles are out in Britain. A mere trickle of a few hundred men and women (out of a total of 12,000 respondents) voted for them, compared with the vast majority who plumped for wavy hair.
Shock No.4. A grin is more popular than all the rich full ruby lips in the world. Give us men with humorous mouths, pleaded more than half the women voters – and the men agreed.
Shock No.5. Moustaches have had it. A few still like the thin, Ronald Coleman type. But mostly the voters agree, men look better clean shaven.
Shock No.6. The strapping 6ft heroes have come crashing. Today’s popular height is 5ft 10in.
These are the big shocks – but there are plenty more. Only by a handful of votes did “other abilities” scrape home to first place ahead of “mechanical” in the abilities section.
Whatsmore, the chap with average conversation gets on far better than his wittier or more serious chums.
A tip for the bullying gentlemen who model themselves on the screen James Mason is that a “Helpful” manner easily beat “Dominating”.
There were surprises, too, about dress. Formal dark suits are much more popular than light or casual clothing. Hats are out. The present-day ideal man goes bare-headed.