In light of the recent performances of Grease at Kuwait English School, the culture and aesthetic of the 50s era has once again come into focus. From high-waisted polka dot skirts to weathered leather jackets, the 50s were a time of experimenting with fashion. The popped collar revolution has managed to rise above the dreaded 20-year fashion cycle and remain stylish throughout the past six decades.
Fashion in the 50s is characterized by pop colors and a cool sense of preppiness. For men this was the introduction of loosely tailored suits and – later in the decade – leather jackets. For women, it sparked a love for everything high-waisted as well as bigger hair. Nonetheless, there is more to this era than the fashion that has taken the world by storm.
The recovery from WWII and the Cold War, the 50s was a decade of excess, with people wanting bigger and better everything, no matter what budget they were on. Affordable cars were getting faster, louder and more colorful with muscle car models such as the 1956 Chevy Corvette as well as the 1959 Chrysler 300E hitting the market. This went hand in hand with the rise of automobile entertainment such as drive-in movies as well as drive-through fast food facilities.
Many people consider the 50s culture synonymous with the Coca Cola culture, where the color red and sugar and fun were rife. Perhaps this is the best testimony for the perseverance of the 50s through the past few decades. According to an article by the Business Insider, the average person consumes a Coca Cola product once every four days. In addition, we are bombarded with adverts for the drink (or one of its sister beverages) throughout our visual culture, from billboard adverts, emotional and nostalgic television adverts to extensive product placement in popular movies.
Undoubtedly, there are some trends that didn’t make it out of the decade alive. One example is the cone-shaped “Bullet” bra. Another is the impractical girdle undergarment. It is also important to remember that the 50s was an era of conformity in fashion, with very many of the trends being tailored to a specific body type, especially in the case of women’s fashion. This meant that people without a cinched waist or a substantial bust were often excluded from the fashion market. It also encouraged the use of the aforementioned bra and other body-shaping clothing to alter natural body shapes. Furthermore, the luxuries of the era were only available to those with money and – after the worldwide conflict of the years prior to this – many people were out of pocket and simply could not take part on the colorful, excessive consumerism.
In Kuwait, there are various establishments that embody the 50s culture, such as Johnny Rockets and even T.G.I. Friday’s. However, what stands out most about these places is not the vintage-inspired décor or the wistful wall hangings. It is the laid-back, friendly atmosphere that embodies 50s culture and we are all trying to incorporate into our daily lives in whatever way we can.