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Unemployment Lineup: 1939

Unemployment Lineup: 1939

April 1939. "Salvation Army, San Francisco, California. Unemployed young men pause a moment to loiter and watch, and then pass on." Large format nitrate negative by Dorothea Lange. View full size.

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What did they call bellbottoms?

Probably they called them bellbottoms. One day, I’m pretty sure it was in 1966 or maybe ‘67, I was sitting at the dining room table gazing out at the street as a girl I recognized from my high school was walking past wearing some very widely flared pants, which I remember thinking looked pretty cool. They were just coming into style at the time, and my mom walks in the room, sees her out the window and exclaims, “oh my goodness, bellbottoms! I wonder if they’re coming back in?” I don’t think I’d ever even heard the term up to that point, but she should have known as she was a teenager herself about the time of this photo.

From Right to Left

Jerry Lee Lewis, William Shatner, Norm McDonald.

Fashion repeats itself. Again.

The exaggeratedly wide bottom pant recurs several times in recent fashion history. In the 60's we called them bell-bottoms. In the 20's they were called Oxford Bags. I don't actually know what they called them in the 30's, but they were indeed worn. It seems to be a young person's style in every decade though... they're sold in one 1935 catalog titled as a "Campus Hit"!

Familiar face

I noticed the fellow on the left looks like a young Bill Murray.

The three distinct styles of dress and manner are interesting.


I'm sure someone with fashion knowledge of the era can explain why the two guys on the right seem to be wearing denims that are flared at the bottom. I know that was the style in San Francisco in 1967 but am surprised to see it in 1939. Were they Navy veterans possibly?

Much has changed...

... but the corner building is still there.

In a couple more years

They'll have all the work they can handle!

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