Cool Cats and Squares: Your Guide to Satisfying 1950s Nostalgia

January 24, 2022

Nostalgia is one of the most powerful forces in culture. Missing the aesthetics and general aura of a given decade has led to resurgences of style and culture.

For example, the recent resurgence of interest in the 1980s has led to things such as denim clothing, electronic music and media like "Stranger Things" becoming popular once more. Nostalgia recurs in cycles, especially when it comes to the culture and details of entire decades. For example, the nostalgia for the 1980s was largely a product of the 2010s.

However, one of the most popular decades for nostalgia trips, regardless of the year is the 1950s.

If you're curious about entertaining 1950s nostalgia, below is a basic guide on how you can emulate everything from clothing to the movies of the period.

The Clothing

The clothing of the 1950s varied greatly but were instantly recognizable thanks to silhouettes and patterns. In the cultural memory however, you may recognize the distinct styles of the '50s as being separated between preppy and rebellious.

The preppy looks of the '50s are highlighted by slim jeans or pants for men paired with button ups for a clean-cut look. A varsity jacket is usually the final article of clothing. Women wore simple blouses paired with full skirts that came below the knees. Or they used Gertie patterns with smooth shapes and trim necklines. Although some women wore pants, it was almost universally worn high-waisted and with a tight blouse, usually with a kerchief tied around the hair.

Rebellious attire back then was far from the counterculture looks of the '60s and would look pretty clean for today. Black leather jackets for men which were popularized by famous male celebrities, like Henry Winkler and James Dean, became the definition of fashion for the 1950s rebels. The jacket would be worn with tight jeans, which were scandalous at the time. Finally, aviator sunglasses were part of the defining rebel look.

The Vehicles

American motor vehicles became all the rage in the 1950s, thanks to the economic impact of World War II launching brands, like Ford and General Motors into new heights. Whether you wanted to be a square and stay in school or were a rebel, you needed a cool set of wheels to ferry you around.

The most iconic car of the '50s has got to be the enormous 1959 Cadillac. This is perhaps one of the most recognizable silhouettes among any motor vehicle, The blocky front, combined with the fin-like protrusions on the back and the dimpled sides all make it look like a sleek shark on the road. This imagery is largely aided by the crips sky-blue color and the shiny chrome details.

If you prefer something less wholesome and more edgy, motorcycle culture sprang into full prominence in the same era. Cafe racer looks became as popular as Cadillacs in the era, perhaps spurned on by the success of the movie "Rebel Without a Cause." Many motorcycle gangs known today had their roots in the 1950s, thanks to advances in streamlining the vehicle.

The Food

Perhaps an enduring testament to the 1950s menu is how many restaurants today still make excessive use of the design and menus of the day. The quintessential 1950s diner is forever ingrained in popular culture, with high stools by the bar, gleaming chrome surfaces, perhaps a jukebox by the corner.

But what of the food itself?

Fast food chains, like McDonald's, got their start in the 1950s and their menu items like French fries, cheeseburgers and milkshakes were all products of the decade. On the more decadent side of things, haute cuisine dishes, like the butter chicken kiev, the dramatic cherries jubilee and the rich beef wellington were also staples of classier 1950s dining establishments.

The Films

You can't emulate 1950s nostalgia without bringing up the primary method through which people remember it: films and television. The 1950s was the age of television, when people could bring home entertainment for the first time. Comedies like "I Love Lucy" and "The Dick van Dyke Show" have earned their place in history for being some of the first programs on air.

Cinemas were also changing, with schlocky B-movie sci-fi offerings projected in double-feature style at drive-ins across the country. One would also be remiss in exploring '50s nostalgia without bringing up the dreary, dramatic and dark movies of the noir genre. Detectives chasing dames and seedy cities with constant steam and shadow were extremely popular at the time, cementing the genre in the public eye.

The power of nostalgia cannot be denied and the 1950s, being so rooted in the cultural zeitgeist through film, movies and other facets, makes it a popular choice. So slip on your aviators, hop in your Cadillac and take your pals out to the drive-ins.


Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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