A vintage house isn’t complete without the vintage man! Darling, this post is for you.
For my husband’s birthday this year I decided to surprise him with a straight razor. Something that is so iconic yet so necessary can bring you to a place of yesteryear by its mere use. I think it is another useful tool to keep the man-mind in the mood of the 1950’s. I have referenced this article for some time in learning about shaving with a straight razor and it is one I sent my husband to as well when I first started researching straight razor with him.
The straight exudes masculinity as a right of passage for all our grandfathers before us. It is a tool long replaced by modern trimmers that both delights and terrifies with it’s sheer power of having an open blade that requires patience and elegance to master. The straight razor is a tool to respect, just as any man who wields it every morning.
Now, since I cut my husband’s hair this is something I do concern myself with. Ignoring styling, note the cut is really quite simple. The crown is sectioned and rather long. The base is short, clean, and blended into the crown. After that it’s all styling. There is a deep side part, the top is blown forward and then slicked back, giving it volume and a wave. Many modern barbers will even shave the part into the hair for a dramatic effect. The customization comes in the length of the haircut such as a high and tight, crew cut, and the pompadour. The more modern retro cut will have the crown detached from the shaven sides and only fade in the back to blend out the disconnection. It can be then styled to the side for a classic business chic look or straight up for the pompadour.
To achieve this you simply use pomade or gel on wet hair, dry the hair forward over the face, brush it back and to the side and spray it down with hairspray.
In the 50’s many of the styles for men are the same as today. Obviously there were no silk screen t-shirts, men did not even think about wearing shirts without a collar outside, and they did not wear jeans. Jeans were considered poor-man’s pants, laborer trousers, and so on. A gentlemen wore khakis for everyday and a suit (wool most likely) for work or events. Usually vintage men will wear a t-shirt as an undershirt (not a “wife-beater”) and a polo shirt or blouse accompanied with a sweater, vest, sweater-vest, or alone. Some men wore belts and some suspenders, the attire would usually dictate what was more appropriate, but one or the other was worn. Men did not allow their pants to sag and were kept snug at the waist. A nice touch is also a handkerchief. It is a personal choice, just like a lady carrying one, but kept in a pocket could come in handy when his wife’s mascara runs during a romantic drama.
You may be asking “but what about Greasers like Fonzie?” I adore my Fonzarelli as much as anyone but his manner of dress was not considered respectable. He was the rebel, the one everyone expect to fail outside of stunts and dangerous behaviors. The fact that Fonzie was a nice guy is what kept him a lovable and acceptable character. The casual vintage man dressed in a way many today would consider “preppy”, with sweater vests and linen tops. Again, a middle class man would never be caught in jeans and cargo pants certainly were not the fashion of the day.
Men in the 50’s were subtle in their language and could be as charming or crude as any man today. Men of the 50’s were in general more outwardly sexist toward women and other minorities. As modern retro men it is important to remember the good graces of modern society as well as a bygone era. Men were expected to open the door for ladies and their elders. They were to know table manners such as standing for a lady and push in her chair. A man would go out of his way to help someone who appeared to be struggling, be it carrying groceries to the car or picking up a fallen item. These were common manners and can still be referenced in many books such as the current and past volumes of Emily Post and other published books on etiquette. Being a gentlemen was important and the lasting impression you gave someone spoke a lot about your character, starting with appearance and ending with your actions and words towards others.
Men were also expected to be more dominant than their female partners in many areas in life. While the man brought home the bacon the woman decided how it was cooked and when it would be eaten. The man expected the home to be clean and it was commonly accepted for him to physically punish a disobedient wife. A man also “knew his place” on the home: simply allowing the women to take care of everything he’s worked for, including himself. Many men expected to be waited on but was equally expected to labor about the house with such chores as cutting the grass, fixing broken things, cleaning gutters, and shoveling snow. The man was also expected to go to work everyday and would only take time off in the event of a death or his own sever illness.
There was a great deal of emphasis on social acceptance and appearing well off with great abundance. The way a woman kept the home reflected on how well a man could provide for her and was directly connected to his acceptance as a man and leader in society. The woman should keep a good home and cook good food but it would be a huge embarrassment if she was not dressed or kept her hands manicured and moisturized (despite the destructive work she had to do on a daily basis). Even if a family was not wealthy enough to afford help, it was very expected that the women who “have it all” do so effortlessly. Men were expected to provide her things to help keep up appearances–things they may have resented as unnecessary but things they provided nonetheless to show their ability to keep a women well-cared for.
Just like in every facet of the 1950’s there are some very attractive and admiral qualities and many others that should be taken with a grain of salt. Not all men fit into a perfect mold in the 50’s also, much like today. Some men were very progressive and even feminists. A good man is hard to find, after all. And hopefully any lady reading will find a vintage man that is perfect for her.