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Boomers Wore Nehru Jackets … Temporarily

The style that came to be known in the Western World as the Nehru jacket came to the Boomer Generation in variety of ways. The fashion item itself had its origins in Asia thousands of years ago. Most of Asian cultures had a variation on the straight, thigh-length jacket with a collarless neckline. The jacket, so called because it was worn over a shirt, was generally reserved for the noble class or used as ceremonial garb.

The garment we knew as the “Nehru jacket” was so named after India’s political activist and first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964). As a constant reminder of his objection to British rule, he wore a traditional coat that resembled the styles of Achkan, Sherwani or Bandhgala designs that spoke of Indian culture in the years immediately before and after India gained its independence in the 1940s.

The U.S. got its first-hand look at Nehru’s mode of dress in 1962. China had just acted aggressively by moving troops into northern India, alarming world leaders in the process. In an effort to sway Nehru into joining the fight against Communism, President Kennedy invited him to visit the White House. A pacifist at heart like his co-activist friend Gandhi, Nehru called China “India’s brother.” Shortly thereafter China withdrew its troops. Photos of the President and the First Lady with the Prime Minister and his wife fascinated fashionistas in Britain and the U.S.

One of the earliest commonly-viewed influences of the style turned up in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No (1962). The title character (played by Joseph Wiseman) wore a Mandarin collar jacket that was probably more Chinese-influenced than Indian. As the villain in the film, he was the antithesis of India’s Prime Minister.

A burgeoning counterculture fashion industry and a growing number of disaffected youth  began looking to the East for guidance, after rejecting “Western values” as they saw them. They coalesced when the Beatles began wearing collarless suits in the early 1960s; the Beatles had a huge influence on the elevation of the Nehru jacket, but not in the main form Mandarin collar we recall from the era. Rather, British designers used the style as inspiration for collarless suit jackets. Before the Beatles, it was common for rock ‘n roll band members to wear business suits and ties. The Beatles were among the first to straddle the line between respectable and irreverent by wearing collarless suit jackets.


Timothy Leary wore a collarless Asian-style garment in the days of his Hippie influence.

In 1966 the Beatles visited India to study meditation. By the time they returned to Britain, Eastern philosophy and style had permeated the counterculture, especially the Hippies. British designers, keen on expanding the new Age of Fashion, seized the moment and produced variations of their own on a jacket they now labelled as “Nehru,” both to honor the pacifist man and give a Western name to an Asian style. Nonetheless, even though there are photos of John and George wearing Indian-style Nehru jackets around the time of their India trip, it is worth noting that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (1967), the first released after their trip, does not depict the Fab Four wearing Nehru jackets. Rather, they are dressed in military-style band uniforms that do have a collarless neckline.

Fashion followers say the popularity of the jacket, which had been on the rise up to the Summer of Love in 1967, took a nosedive after celebrities such as Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joe Namath began wearing the style on a regular basis, often paired with a turtleneck and beads or a medallion necklace. By that point — around 1968 — jackets, vests, shirts and blouses sporting the Nehru collar were available across the consumer spectrum for men, women and children. The Nehru was doomed to be a fashion fad in the Western world, though it still turns up as hip wear for some popular musicians.

And that is where Mister Boomer’s awareness entered. On a family trip to New York City in 1967, Brother Boomer slipped into a shop in Greenwich Village and emerged with the most beautiful Nehru jacket Mister B has seen to this day. It was jet black with a gold brocade paisley design that was all at once modern and timeless, classy and fashion-forward. When the family returned home, Mister Boomer kept an eye out for a similar garment for himself. The closest he came was a short-sleeve shirt that sported a Nehru collar. It was blue with a gold paisley pattern, but paled in comparison to the masterful garment his brother had procured. Mister Boomer did not get invited to many parties, but does recall that in his earliest high school days, he wore his short-sleeve Nehru to one. Needless to say, he was the only one dressed in that style.

How about it, boomers? Did you wear Nehru-style clothing? If so, was it a fashion statement or a cultural statement?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History and have Comment (1)

How Boomers Kept Warm

As winter makes a comeback this week across a good portion of the country, Mister Boomer is forever amazed at how thin the outerwear appears on the young Millennials he sees darting around town. If we saw coats and jackets like these back in the early Boomer Days, we would have put them in the same category as fashion from Star Trek — the stuff of science fiction. Advances in lightweight materials and especially insulation innovations have enabled modern outerwear to be a fraction of the thickness of what we had as kids, without sacrificing warmth.

If you were a kid in the late fifties and early sixties, your choices for winter warmth weren’t that much different than what your parents wore in the 1920s and ’30s. Wool and heavyweight cotton coats, hats, scarves and pants were the order of the day. While younger children had snow suits (as portrayed in the movie, A Christmas Story), older kids had snow pants that had buttons in the waistband to attach suspenders while teens tended to wear long johns under their regular winter-weight pants. Gloves and mittens were also wool or cotton, though lined leather gloves made it into Mister Boomer’s wardrobe for dress occasions such as Sunday church, family weddings and funerals.

As a youngster, Mister Boomer remembers wearing snow pants over his school pants, held up by suspenders. When he got a little older, he wore long johns under corduroy pants to school. The trade off was that warmth on the way to school gave way to potential overheating in the classroom. Jackets and coats were usually wool or had a wool lining, but as the mid-sixties introduced synthetics into the marketplace, acrylic pile linings were replacing the wool. For the most part, boys and girls wore the same type of garments, though in Mister B’s experience, girls tended to choose mittens and boys had gloves.

Most boomers will tell you they played outdoors every day. When kids expected to be outside for a few hours, they often doubled up on their layers. Two pairs of socks inside their boots, two pairs of gloves, a t-shirt, shirt and a sweater, and as previously mentioned, pants and snow pants or long johns and pants. Only the coldest of days would have much of an effect short-term, except when the fabric got wet from snowball fights, making snow forts, snowmen and snow angels. Mister Boomer and his siblings, when cold and wet, would enter the house through the back door and replace the wet garments with dry ones, hanging the wet ones on the clotheslines in the basement. We’d plan ahead leaving extra gloves, socks and pants for themselves since we didn’t want to cut into outdoor play time by having to remove our boots to walk through the house.

During the early years Mister Boomer remembers having black wool pants that had flecks of color threads in them. His parents often bought Mister B the same styles they got for his older brother. So the brothers had these pants and later in the sixties, matching brown suede pants, too. The wool pants were warm, though a little scratchy. In retrospect Mister B thinks the fabric must have been a quarter-inch thick. He wore them for several years, until he grew out of them. The suede pants were equally groovy, though not as warm.

As the sixties marched on and jeans became an everyday fashion, heavyweight or lined jeans were added into the mix for a lot of boomers. They were available for years, but in many areas jeans were not allowed in school, at least until the late sixties and early seventies. Too cool for black rubber galoshes, teens began wearing suede half boots that had a fleece lining. By then turtleneck and v-neck knit sweaters were popular for both boys and girls, and jackets were the choice more than three-quarter length coats.

Like everything we knew as kids, outerwear has evolved. While maintaining a fashionable silhouette indoors and out may have been top-of-mind for celebrities and wealthy folks, for the rest of us, form followed function. We needed warmth, and that meant bulk. Today’s kids have many more choices. Now if we could only convince them that “outside” isn’t a bad thing.

Do you have any fond memories of bulky outerwear, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History,Seasons and have Comment (1)

Some of Mister Boomer’s Favorites of 2016

It’s the New Year, traditionally a time to look back in reflection and ahead with hope. In that spirit, please enjoy some of Mister B’s hand-picked favorites from 2016.

Boomers and Torn Jeans: The Evolution from Time-to-Replace to High Fashion
Our mothers fretted over our torn “dungarees” only to find a decade later that torn jeans were part of the fashion scene.

Boomers Twisted the Night Away
Mister Boomer explored the origin of the Twist.

Boomers Loved Gene Pitney Songs
Early to mid-boomers probably count Gene Pitney among their favorite singers of the ’60s.

Boomers Heard the Quotes of Their History
We were there, man!

Boomers Benefited from Space Products
Are you aware of space technology in your everyday lives?

Boomers Will Recall 1966
Fifty years ago from the year that just passed, the times they were a’-changin’.

Boomer Comparison: Drug Stores Then and Now
The local pharmacy sure has changed since we were boomer kids. Here is a comparison.

Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together
The role of the bikini in boomer-era movies is iconic and undeniably modern for the time.

Boomers Have Lived Through Many Eves of Destruction
The song reverberates even today.

Boomers Gladly Went Where No One Had Gone Before
2016 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the original Star Trek on TV.

Boomers’ Diets Have Changed Over 50 Years
Boomers watched the era of convenience foods enter the picture, and the American diet.

Boomers Saw Their Lives in “The Flintstones”
The technology employed in The Flintstones mimicked the space-age devices that were common in boomer households. The major difference was instead of electrically-powered devices, the action of the devices was powered by animals.

Here’s to another great year, and hoping your 2017 is boomer-ific!

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Food & Beverage,Fun,Getting Older,Music,Pop Culture History,Space,TV,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Some of Mister Boomer’s Favorites of 2016

Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

July 5th marks the 70th anniversary of the introduction of the modern bikini. Though mosaics and wall paintings reveal that women wore two-piece costumes in Roman times around 300 A.D., and as far back as 1600 B.C. in Minoa, it is Louis Reard who is considered the father of the modern bikini.

The French engineer introduced his “bikini” on July 5, 1946. He named it after the atomic test of the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands because he expected it would generate a burst of excitement equal to the atomic test. Little did he know bikinis would play a starring role in many movies of the Boomer Generation. Many are part of the classic moments of film from the era. Here are just a few:

Brigitte Bardo: The Girl in the Bikini (1952); And God Created Woman (1956); et al
When the bikini was introduced in 1946, it did not receive a warm welcome in the fashion world, especially in the United States. Some say it was the image of Brigitte Bardo wearing bikinis in various movies through the 1950s and ’60s that changed a few minds. Although the actress took on many types of roles that showcased her acting range, she was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit model before there were SI swimsuit issues. Many boomer boys spied their first bikini as worn by Brigitte Bardo in movie magazines borrowed from their fathers’ collections.

Ursula Andress: Dr. No (1962)
When James Bond (Sean Connery) sees Ursula Andress rise from the ocean in a white bikini with a diving knife strapped to her hip, even he had to pause. The scene became so iconic that it has been repeated and parodied ever since, including Halle Berry’s reinterpretation of the scene, rising out of the ocean in an orange bikini in Die Another Day (2002).

Annette Funicello: Beach Party (1963); Bikini Beach (1964); How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965); et al
Beach movies hit the boomer scene from 1963 to 1968. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, previously of Mouseketeer fame, were recruited to play a teenage version of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies … on the beach. Annette Funicello’s bikini was a two piece in name only. It was stipulated by contract with Walt Disney that she not be allowed to show her belly button, so some would say her swimwear in the movies was downright matronly. The fun thing for boomers, though, was there were no such stipulations on the other girls on the beach.

Raquel Welch: One Million Years B.C. (1967)
Technically, beauty queen Raquel Welch isn’t wearing swimwear in this movie. Rather, it was a furry animal skin two-piece that became so iconic that the still publicity shot for the movie became a best-selling poster. Mister Boomer has to admit, he was among the boys who taped the poster to his wall. The role was originally offered to Ursula Andress, but by then her salary requirements were too much for the producers.

Jane Fonda: Barbarella (1968)
Directed by  Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda’s husband at the time, Barbarella was a campy movie trip to outer space fantasyland via hallucinogenic imagery, so naturally, bikinis would would have to play a part. Mister Boomer first heard about the movie when a neighbor returning from his stint in Vietnam talked about it. It was years later when Mister B first saw the film, but Brother Boomer saw it much sooner.

Shocking to many in its day, the bikini now is commonplace poolside and on beaches around the world. It has even been named the official athletic wear for women’s professional beach volleyball. Monsieur Reard used a grand total of 30 square inches of fabric for his original creation, while today’s versions run the gamut from modernly modest to barely there. Many movies featured memorable bikini-clad women throughout the boomer years. What is your favorite bikini movie moment, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Film & Movies,Pop Culture History,Uncategorized and have Comments Off on Boomers and Bikinis Just Went Together

Boomers Say a Fond Goodbye to More Icons of the Era

This past week two bright lights of boomer pop culture were extinguished. Both were women whose names were hardly household words in the lives of boomers, yet boomers definitely knew of their work: Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson; and Margaret Vinci Heldt, the creator of the Beehive hairdo.

Janet Waldo 1920-2016
Janet Waldo broke into acting as a teenager with bits parts in films like What a Life (1939) and on radio shows throughout the 1940s. In 1943 she became the star of the radio show, Meet Corliss Archer, playing the role of the title character, a 15 year old girl-next-door. Her teenage girl roles would follow her throughout her career. She went on to appear on radio shows including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and more than 100 animated and TV shows, including I Love Lucy (1952), The Phil Silvers Show (1955) and Get Smart (1966), to name only a few.

Janet Waldo became best-known to boomers as the voice of animated characters, most notably, Judy Jetson in the original The Jetsons TV show (1962). The animated show ran one season, but remained in syndication through 1983. In 1985 new episodes were created, then a TV movie, Rockin’ With Judy Jetson — with Janet as Judy — debuted in 1988. She reprised her role as Judy Jetson in Jetsons: The Movie (1990), but after her part was recorded, she was replaced by Tiffany when the studio decided the pop star would help the movie at the box office. She was quoted as saying she was hurt by the slight, and felt it was disloyal of Hanna-Barbera. Yet she expressed her gratitude for the relationship she had had with the studio and continued to work.

Throughout the the 1960s and ’70s and into the ’80s, Janet continued to lend her voice to cartoons. Among boomer favorite shows where she voiced a character were: The Atom Ant Show (1965); as mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople on The Flintstones; as Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races (1968); and Josie McCoy in Josie and the Pussycats (1970).

Her last credit was a voice role on an episode of King of the Hill in 1998. At 96 years old, Janet was the last surviving cast member of the original Jetsons. For boomers everywhere, she will always be Judy Jetson to us.

Margaret Vinci Heldt 1918- 2016
The world will remember Margaret Vinci Heldt for giving us the Beehive hairdo. She broke into the hairdressing industry in the late 1930, and by the 1950s, had her own hair salon — Margaret Vinci Coiffures — on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. She won the National Coiffure Championship in 1954, and through her industry accolades, was asked to contribute to Modern Beauty Shop Magazine on many occasions. In 1960, the magazine wanted to talk about the new decade and what hairstyles might look like, so they asked Margaret to come up with something new and different. Popular hairstyles in the 1950s were dominated by the Pageboy, Flip and French twist, so Margaret wondered if it was time to try something on top of the head. She said she was inspired by a pillbox hat that she owned. She had always wanted to create a hairstyle that the hat could be worn with, so the Beehive was born.

The new ‘do caught on in a big way throughout the early-to-mid 1960s with young film stars and top music stars, including Brigitte Bardot, Priscila Presley, the Ronettes, Audrey Hepburn, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and many more. After disappearing for a while, the hairdo is popular with celebrities once again. We have seen the B-52s (of course), Marge Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Adele, Katy Perry, the late Amy Winehouse and many others, all sporting versions of the Beehive.

Mister Boomer enjoyed the Jetsons, but has to admit he wasn’t a great fan of the Judy Jetson character. George, Rosie and Astro were his favorite characters. Through the years, though, he certainly learned to admire the vocal greats of the era, especially the female greats like Janet Waldo and June Foray.

As to the Beehive, Mister Boomer has first-hand recollection. Not only did his mother don a Beehive in the 1960s, he had several cousins who also wore the ‘do in their high school pictures. Early boomers were teenagers when the Beehive appeared, so the timing was right for boomer girls to grab onto the latest hair fashions. As such, Mister B recalls the neighborhood girl who often babysat for Mister B and his siblings perpetually wore a Beehive; the hairdo just fit certain people or personalities. Though Mister B knew his cousins without their high school Beehives for decades after, the babysitter will forever be frozen in time with shellacked hair rising above her head.

What memories of Judy Jetson or Beehive hairdos do you have, boomers?

posted by Mister B in Fashion,Pop Culture History,TV and have Comment (1)

Boomers Will Recall 1966

Hey, boomers! By now most of us have made our peace with the fact that we’ve been around for more than a half century; The oldest boomers will turn 70 this year, while the youngest will reach 52. A lot has changed in the past 50 years, and misterboomer.com has discussed many of these changes through the years. Now let’s take a look back at the way we lived 50 years ago. Set your Wayback Machines to the year 1966 and let’s take a look at what was going on in April, May and June of that year…

On the Domestic Front
• Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States.
• The Uniform Time Act was signed by the president, which simplified how daylight saving time was applied (April 13).
• U.S. population surpassed 190 million.
• The median income was $7,400, but more women were returning to the workforce, which helped boost household income by another $2,000. By 1967, 35% of women were working compared with 23% in 1957.
• The average price of a gallon of gas was 32¢.
•  The average price of a new home was $22,300, but on the resale market, the average was $14,200.
• The Supreme Court ruled that police must inform suspects of their rights upon arrest — known ever since as Miranda rights (June 13).
• Ronald Reagan became the governor of California (June 7).
• The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded (June 30).

Vietnam
• 250,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam, including many early boomers (April 29).
• Anti-war protests were increasing. In May, tens of thousands protested at the White House and the subsequent rally at the Washington Monument (May 15).
• U.S. planes began bombing Hanoi (June 29).

Music
• Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde was released (May 16, though not advertised until June 25); completing his trilogy of rock albums, starting with Bringing It All Back Home (1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (1966). Two songs from the album became top-twenty singles hits: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 and I Want You. Well received in 1966, Rolling Stone magazine named it number nine on its list of  The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Pet Sounds was released by The Beach Boys (May 16). Unlike Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, it received a lukewarm reception. It was heralded as the first rock concept album, even though it does not have a predetermined narrative. It is cited as the beginning of the psychedelic era, and took rock from music to be danced to, to music for listening. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named it number two on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Hit singles from the album included Sloop John B, Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows.

Space Race
• Russia’s Luna 10 successfully orbited the moon (April10), becoming the moon’s first artificial satellite.
• In the Gemini IX program, Gene Cernan became the second U.S. astronaut to perform a space walk (June 5). His extravehicular activities were supposed to include some work, and planned to expand NASA’s knowledge before a moon launch. But a bloated and torn spacesuit, darkness and a fogged visor prevented him from doing much but float around, as his U.S. and Soviet predecessors had done before him. Nevertheless, he logged two hours and ten minutes outside his spacecraft. Cernan later became the last man to walk on the moon in the Apollo 17 mission (December 19, 1972).

Fashion
• Many fashion historians believe 1966 was the pivotal moment in which styles of the 1950s were replaced with those of the 1960s.
•  The shiny vinyl look for boots, hats and rain gear was trending. Flowers and patterned shirts and pants were in vogue for men and women,
• The mini skirt, popularized by Mary Quant in 1965, reached peak popularity.

Mister Boomer had one more year of elementary school before entering high school. He was aware of much of what was going on in the country and the world by then: his class had written letters to relatives of classmates sent to Vietnam; he watched every space launch and followed newspaper stories about the Space Race; he heard the popular music of the day on his transistor radio, and Brother Boomer bought both Dylan’s Rainy Day Women and The Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice on 45 RPM records. Nonetheless, it was a time for Mister B to still be a kid. That summer his family would take a cross-country trip to Yellowstone National Park in their 1966 Ford.

Fifty years ago, 1966 was a pot on the stove on the verge of boiling over. The clash between generations was growing, and boomers were about to play a major role in politics, civil rights, fashion and music.

What do you recall about 1966, boomers?

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