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The window to watch:1950’s

by Michael Weare
1 June, 2011
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About the author

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

Marlon Brando

What clothes, what watches, what cars and what music were people into in the 1950s?

This is the first in a new series called Window to watch in which we walk through the decades in terms of changing tastes in these key areas. The main picture shows Marlon Brando, one of the greatest actors of all time, who with his moody broody good looks famously said when asked what he was rebelling against: ‘What have you got?’ How cool is that?

Fashion: Teddy Boys

Teddy Boys

Britain normally has a good excuse as to why things are so bleak, and in the 1950s they had the best one of all; nearly six years of devastating World War had created shortages of everything from eggs to knicker elastic. Until the early 50s the tradition was that men dressed like their fathers, which was dull, grey and ultra conservative.

But Teddy Boys, as they became known, chose to emulate the dress code of their Edwardian grandfathers which was much more exciting. The fashion was for long frock coats and fancy colourful waistcoats, while hair was slicked back with layers of greasy chip frying Brylcreem.

The 50’s saw the evolution of the moody teenager. When the teenage rebellion movie The Blackboard Jungle was first shown at the Elephant & Castle cinema in 1956, the Teddy Boys ripped out the cinema seats and created havoc.

The same behaviour then ensued in cinemas the length and breadth of the country and created shock banner headlines in all the newspapers. This was in the days before the newspapers created all the shocking news headlines about themselves.

Watch: Patek Philippe Ref 2526

Patek Philippe Ref 2526 18k yellow gold watch

A whole world away from the riots on the streets and in the cinemas, the upper classes were still living life very much as they always had done, which was very well indeed thank you very much. It was the chummy old boy’s network of the City during the week and the horse and hounds on the weekend. Watches of the era were simple, clean and extremely elegant – like this exquisite Patek Philippe Ref 2526 in 18k yellow gold.

This watch, with a small seconds hand, is powered by the famous 12 600 calibre movement with 30 jewels, which was Patek Philippe’s first automatic. It was retailed by Gubelin and has a beautiful 18k brick style band. The only way the filthy hoi polloi known as the working classes could ever hope to get their hands on such a watch as this was by stealing it.

Car: Austin Cambridge or Westminster

Austin Cambridge and Austin Westminster

Cars were built to last in the 1950s, everything was heavy and solid, possibly to the detriment of the mileage, but as a testament to how these cars can run and run, they still serve as taxis in some of Britain’s former colonies – and they are still in immaculate condition.

Austin’s slogan was ‘You can depend on it’ and you most certainly could. The 6 cylinder 2.6 litre Austin Westminster was a powerhouse in its day – the days when Britain still had a car manufacturing industry and was building some of the best cars in the world.

Music: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Before Elvis there was Bill Haley and the Comets, who caused a sensation in Britain, but he was dropped like a scalding hot potato as soon as Elvis came on the scene. Elvis is probably the most sensational, sexy, outrageous and incredible thing ever to happen to popular music.

He invented rock and roll without knowing he was doing it, even a series of God awful movies could not diminish his charisma and talent. He remains the best selling solo artist in the history of popular music and is probably the most important figure in the history of 20th century pop culture.

Like all decades, those living in the 50’s felt it was a time of immense change and innovation.

‘I have nothing to offer anyone but my own confusion.’
1950s beat poet Jack Kerouac

Michael Weare | Website

Michael Weare has been a professional writer for 30 years, writing about Japanese technology, German and Italian cars, British tailoring and Swiss watches. Michael manages the editorial content of Click Tempus and will be keeping the magazine fresh and informative with regular features, as well as bringing great writers to the magazine. Email: michael@clicktempus.com

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