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The Forward Look: 1957

The Forward Look: 1957

In the Pace of Cultural Change department, here are some of my brother's friends on the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo campus 53 years ago this month. Almost could have been taken today, you might be thinking.

Now, put yourself back in time to 1957 and imagine that you're looking at a photo shot 53 years previously to that, in 1904. Might the same thought occur to you?

35mm Ektachrome slide by my brother. View full size.

Then and now....

I've got the right glasses and the right hair.... what I would give to be sitting in this picture. Wonder what she's thinking?

Blue Rondo

This screams 1950s to me -- the cheongsam blouse she's wearing, her skinny-band wristwatch (my grandmother had several -- they were merely silky material and not leather); the pointy-edged eyeglasses of the gent in the foreground; the black socks and loafers of the man in the middle. All perfectly fits into my 1950s dreams. I look at them here, and hear the Dave Brubeck Quartet not far off.

No, certainly not today.

Whilst subtle, the differences in the clothing and hairstyles are the giveaways that this is a period photo.

In 1957 I was 12 years old and even Down Here (Australia) the fashions were very similar. I'd go so far as to say exactly the same, due to the very strong American influence on all that we listened to, watched, drank and wore.

A photo that is definitely late 1950's-early 1960's, pre-Beatles and still with an Everly Brothers flavour.

Au courant

I have two teenage boys and BOTH of them could pose for this picture. the do NOT have shaggy hair and a couple of their female friends wear stuff like this every day and have curly hair that's not straightened. No, I do NOT live in Pleasantville!

Understated, underrated

Don't ever change, P. Love you.

One single lifespan

The comment reminded me of a coworker whose Aunt came to Oklahoma Territory on a covered wagon and before she died in the early 1970's flew on a jet plane. To think that something like that would be possible in one person's lifespan is really amazing.

Maybe somewhat situation-specific

I think different social milieus change on different schedules.

Actually, those three people in 1957 probably would have been somewhat startled by a comparable photo of three college students in 2010 -- there'd almost certainly have been somebody wearing jeans and a T-shirt, which would probably, have been a little past the edge in 1957 (although not by 1967). Also, the woman and the two men are dressed much more differently than would probably be the case now. So while what they're wearing is all (except perhaps for the socks :-) within the range of normality for college students today, most of what college students wear today would not be within the range of normality for 1957.

And there are some environments where a group of people in 1957 could easily have looked at a corresponding photo from 1904 and thought "that could have been taken today." Not a college campus -- in 1904, most colleges would have been men-only, and people would have worn suits and ties -- but maybe a factory floor or a mail room, where norms of dress changed less between 1904 and 1957 than since, and the equipment from 1904 would not look horribly dated in 1957 (although it would in 2010).

The Pace of Change

Your commentary is so right! We hear a lot about how our era is one of unprecedented technological and social change, but the generations that lived through the biggest changes in recent history were those who navigated the Industrial Revolution and the massive social and political changes of the century and a half that followed it. The cultural changes we observe today are like the smaller ripples of a big splash that began with spinning jennies and steam engines and iron smelting in the early 1800s. Arguably, even the startling technological transformations our generation is living through are not as momentous, culturally speaking, as those experienced by even our grandparents, who witnessed two world wars that tore apart colonial empires, reorganised the global balance of power, transformed economic structures and social relations and brought institutions like the welfare state. The subtly shifted hemlines and hair fringes and colour palettes that separate these three people from their modern counterparts are not nearly of the same magnitude.

Genius

I love the captions for the photos here at Shorpy almost as much as I do the photos themselves (almost).

tterrace, your observation about the pace of change has to be the best thus far.

Could almost have been taken today

Except for the clothes and the shoes and eyeglasses and hairstyles and jewelry. And that green cap. Very 1957 with the flat bill.

Just what I was thinking!

This could have been taken yesterday. The look is completely timeless. Another keeper, Tterrace!

Stuck

I love both your brother's photo and the point you made in your caption, tterrace. I've been happily stuck in 1957 ever since it happened and both of my parents were born in 1904, giving the two years you mention special significance for me.

Haircuts are the giveaway

If the fellas' haircuts were long and shaggy, and the young lady's hair was straightened with a flatiron, this photo could have been taken now. Well, the black socks and brown shoes are a bit of a giveaway, too. Now he'd be wearing Chucks. (Actually he might quite likely be wearing Chucks in 1957, too!)

 
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