Boomers Wore Their Winterwear Well

Despite any recent prognostication by a groundhog, the calendar shows there are still plenty of winter days ahead. That got Mister Boomer thinking about the different types of winter coats he has had over the past six decades. Prior to the 1960s, practically all winter clothing was made from natural materials, but the introduction of synthetic fabrics to make winter clothes coincided with the rise of the Boomer Generation.

Well into the 1960s, the majority of men’s winter coats were still made from wool, cotton, leather, suede or sheepskin, with wool being the predominant material in Mister Boomer’s neck of the woods. Stuffing and lining, when present, was either animal fur or down.

The DuPont Corporation developed an acrylic fabric in the 1940s, but it was the 1950s before the first practical acrylic fabrics began being used to make clothing. Its first uses were for linings, such as gloves and boots, and sweaters. Acrylic had advantages over wool in that the clothing was more lightweight and moisture-resistant, while still keeping the wearer warm. It could also mimic real wool, and was soft to the touch. Plus, acrylic fabrics generally held up well to repeated washing, and maintained lightfastness with less fading. As the 1950s became the 1960s, the affordability of acrylic fabrics, especially in versions made to feel like materials such as cashmere, became less expensive for growing boomer families. Besides, a bonus for boomer moms was that acrylic coats were not prone to moth damage once stored in the off-season.

Mister Boomer has vivid memories of most of the winter coats he had from the time he walked to kindergarten with his older brother. From those early days through his elementary school years, Mister B’s coats were made of wool or corduroy (a heavy cotton). Sweaters worn under the coats were made of wool or cotton. As boomers will recall, wool sweaters could be an itchy annoyance throughout the school day. Nonetheless, drafty classrooms and daily outdoor recess required that children wear warm clothing throughout the day.

Once Mister Boomer was in high school, he had an inkling of a fashion sense that was directly influenced by Brother Boomer. A few years older than Mister B, Brother Boomer had his eyes open to 1960s fashion, beginning with a Beatles’ style suit. Nonetheless, Mister Boomer’s father generally dressed quite conservatively, so standard winter coats and jackets remained the order of the day.

Sometime in the late sixties, Brother Boomer bought a synthetic suede bomber-style jacket with an acrylic-fur collar and lining (he had been working part-time by then). Mister B had to have the same one, and somehow his parents agreed. Up until that point, most of his winter coats had been three-quarter length, so now this jacket made an unwelcome difference on colder mornings as well as for outdoor play. After two or three years, he outgrew the jacket and went back to longer coats.

Mister Boomer never had a ski-style jacket in his early days. While these jackets began to appear in the 1950s, Mister B’s family didn’t hop on that bandwagon. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1970s that Mister B purchased a ski-style jacket, which was entirely made from synthetlc materials.

When did you acquire your first winter clothing made with synthetlc fabrics, boomers?

Boomers Embraced The Beatles

It was 60 years ago this week that The Beatles landed in New York City. As a prelude to their U.S. visit, The Beatles released their first album in the U.S. on January 10, 1964 (Introducing … The Beatles), followed by the release of their first single (I Want To Hold Your Hand) on January 18. Their second album (Meet the Beatles) was released on January 20, 1964. On January 25, the I Want To Hold Your Hand single was number one on the Cash Box Magazine music chart.

Landing at JFK airport on a Friday afternoon, February 7, 1964, a crowd of thousands of teenagers skipped school just to get a glimpse of the Fab Four walking down the staircase of their Pan Am Boeing 707. Two days later, the group performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show. A record-breaking 73 million people tuned in that night, including Mister Boomer’s family.

While brilliant marketing may have made their debut one of the biggest publicity splashes of any decade, the band’s popularity only grew from there. It was Murray the K, then a DJ on the WINS radio station in New York, who mentioned on air that The Beatles would be arriving on Pan Am Flight 101 from London. Other radio stations picked up on the story and the word was out. Meanwhile, Capitol Records had bumper stickers stating, “The Beatles are coming,” ready for distribution. A U.S. firm that had contracted to make and sell merchandise for the band had promised a t-shirt and a dollar bill for every teen who showed up at the airport. Mister Boomer didn’t see any evidence that the t-shirts received their t-shirts and dollars.

Mister Boomer’s introduction to The Beatles arrived with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. His family tuned in that night, as was the usual for their Sunday night TV viewing. Mister B recalls thinking I Want To Hold Your Hand was a catchy tune, but had no idea why the girls in the audience screamed and shouted so loudly that the band could hardly be heard.

When The Beatles landed in the U.S., Mister Boomer’s family did not own a record player. Sometime within that same year, Mister B’s cousin got a new record player and she gave the family her old one. It was a portable box phonograph that had a lid with a latch, and a handle that made it look like a piece of luggage. Though basic, it could play both 33 1/3 RPM albums and 45 RPM singles. At that point, Mister B didn’t pay any attention to it. The family had no records, and it sat, lid closed, in a closet in his sister’s room.

However, soon after receiving the record player, the family was shopping at a local discount store. There, Mister Boomer’s sister and brother asked their parents if they could buy a package of records. The package held ten or twelve 45s, for the price of one dollar. A clear cellophane center revealed one record in the pack, and it was a Beatles tune: She’s A Woman. Once the family got home, Mister B’s sister dragged the phonograph from her closet and set it up on the floor. She put on the first record the family owned, and the sound of The Beatles emanated from the monophonic speaker. As might be expected, the rest of the package was filled with novelty records and others from unknown bands. When Mister B got custody of most of the family records years later, those original 45s remained in the collection.

What memories of The Beatles’ first appearances in the U.S. do you have, boomers?