We all like to look back on our own good old days. Whether those days were the swinging 60s or the neon 90s, there’s great temptation to look back with rose-coloured specs. But were the eighties really as sunny, stylish and well-dressed as my childhood memories would like me to believe? A stack of photo album evidence would argue otherwise.
The 1980s gave us shoulder pads and big hair, the 50s left us with Soviet-style office blocks and the 70s just gave us brown. As far as decade stereotypes go, the 1920s, on the other hand, has aged pretty well.
London and Paris have long been cultural capitals and after the Great War busied themselves rethinking ideas about modernity. Hardship was out, hedonism back in and outrage, of course, was everywhere. Nowhere though was the 20s roar louder than New York.
‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘The Manhattan Transfer’ obviously contain important social morals, some of them timeless. They also give us a glimpse into a time and place where ‘fellas’ and ‘flappers’ knew how to do glamour.
1920s New York was an oasis of peace and prosperity. Technology was accelerating, industry was booming, the stock market and city skylines were both soaring to unprecedented heights…all of it done with a certain flair. You couldn’t turn a corner without seeing that corner turning art deco in time to a big band beat. Swing dancing and the Charleston were in; twerking and the sprinkler were some way off.
It was the age of the skyscraper, the birth of celebrity culture as we know it and they did both of them perfectly. Lloyds’ new construction may have its charms, but does it really have a patch on The Chrysler building? Could any of the contestants on ‘Big Brother’ hold a candle to Douglas Fairbanks or Rudolph Valentino?
And people sure knew how to dress. People dressed for success and success returned the favour.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr
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