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The neo-pin ups: Reimagining mid-twentieth-century style and sensibilities

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Pin Up style has made a comeback with dozens of pin up competitions featuring at retro car festivals and events across Australia. A sub-culture has grown up around this phenomenon, with boutiques, celebrities and online influencers celebrating its aesthetic. I refer to this group as ‘neo-pin ups’ to differentiate them from the pin ups of the mid-twentieth century. Despite heralding the style and beauty of 1940s and 1950s pin ups, these neo-pin ups bear little resemblance to their mid-century counterparts. Researchers such as Madeleine Hamilton have investigated the era of the original Australian 1940s and 1950s pin up, finding an image deemed to be both ‘wholesome’ and ‘patriotic’ and suitable for the troops on the front lines. Ironically, this social approval resulted in pin up evolving in a more explicit direction throughout the 1960s as epitomized by Playboy magazine and the Miss World competitions. During this time, the increasingly influential feminist movement challenged the way women were viewed in society, particularly in regard to objectification and the male gaze. This critique continues today with the #metoo and gender equality movements. This article investigates how and why Australian women are transforming the image of the 1940s and 1950s pin up. Drawing upon interviews and observations conducted within the Australian neo-pin up culture, this article demonstrates how neo-pin ups draw on contemporary mores, rejecting the social values of their mid-century counterparts and reclaiming women’s place in society and history, from a female point of view. Neo-pin ups are not looking to return to the past, instead they are rewriting what pin ups represent to the present and future.
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Keywords: ethnography; fashion studies; identity; performativity; pin ups; subcultural style

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of New England

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies. The journal will be receptive to articles which focus on Australasian examples, or broader comparative and theoretical questions viewed through an Australasian lens.
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