Pin-Up Queens: Three Female Artists Who Shaped the American Dream Girl

It’s easy to think of pin-up art as a charming relic of the old boys’ club—images that might line the walls of a Mid-Century smoking room where Don Draper and Roger Sterling slap each other on the back. And the names of the artists that come up over and over again are men: Alberto Vargas, George Petty, and Gil Elvgren.

“She was an icon for women … (continue reading)

Say Ahhh: An Oral Surgeon’s Quest to Reimagine the Garage-Band Guitar

It’s not unusual for men of a certain age to have a soft spot in their hearts for the look of vintage guitars and the sound of rock ’n’ roll. Some get as far as a high-school garage band, others might learn enough covers to tear it up at the neighborhood bar, but most guys with even a grain of common sense between their … (continue reading)

‘The Great Gatsby’ Still Gets Flappers Wrong

Have you heard? There’s a new swell in town named Gatsby, and he’s bringing flapper flair back into fashion. Baz Luhrmann’s latest cinematic spectacle—his take on “The Great Gatsby”—promises to be a sensational commercial for Prada and Brooks Brothers, who partnered with Luhrmann’s wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, on the film’s clothing. Fashion-world heavyweights, like Vogue and WWD, are already gushing about the new Roaring … (continue reading)

Love at First Kite: How Pizza and Pente Led to One Oklahoman’s High-Flying Obsession

Vintage kites from all over the world hang from the ceiling and walls of the late Richard Dermer’s popular Hideaway Pizza restaurant in Stillwater, Oklahoma—and that’s only a fraction of his collection. To many locals, the kites might just seem like another piece of quirky décor. But not so. Dermer, who spoke with us before he passed away in March 2014, was an avid kite enthusiast, and each … (continue reading)

Digging for the Perfect Beat: Davey D on the Vinyl Roots of Hip-Hop

When Dave “Davey D” Cook got into hip-hop in the late ’70s, he didn’t see himself as an archivist. A teen growing up in the Bronx, New York City, he was digging through his mom’s records looking for a great funky beat to rap over. At the time, hip-hop was only five years old. Cook was inspired by Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and DJ Kool Herc, a … (continue reading)

Dying To Go Retro? This Modern-Day Morticia Gives Death A Makeover

Caitlin Doughty gushes about death like it’s her high-school crush. “I don’t just pretend to love death. I really do love death,” writes Doughty. “I bet you would too if you got to know him.” The young mortician’s web site even includes a checklist of tips for improving your relationship with death, like magazine dating advice (“Spend quality time together,” “Review your expectations,” etc.).
Like a character straight out of HBO’s … (continue reading)

Dr. Seuss, the Mad Hatter: A Peek Inside His Secret Closet

Dr. Seuss had a unique remedy for writer’s block. When the late author, the alter ego of Theodor Seuss Geisel, was penning his beloved Beginner Books for Random House in the 1960s, he’d have his editor in chief, Michael Frith, over to his house, where they’d work until the wee hours. And when they’d get stuck, according to “Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel” by Judith and Neil Morgan, … (continue reading)

Black Is Beautiful: Why Black Dolls Matter

As a little girl, Samantha Knowles didn’t stop to consider why most of her dolls—her American Girl dolls, her Cabbage Patch Kids, her Barbie dolls—were black like her. But black dolls were not common in her upstate New York hometown, whose population remains overwhelmingly white. So when Knowles was 8 years old, and one of her friends innocently asked “Why do you have black dolls?”, she didn’t … (continue reading)

The Mao Mango Cult of 1968 and the Rise of China’s Working Class

For 2,000 years, the peach was the iconic fruit of China, an auspicious symbol of good health and a long life. But from August of 1968 until roughly the fall of the following year, the mango was China’s most revered produce item, whose meaning was unwittingly bestowed upon it by none other than Mao Zedong.

“Apparently, Mao didn’t like fruit. It was an easy re-gift.”
Now … (continue reading)

Happy Valentine’s Day, I Hate You

With all the hand-wringing over anonymous commenters and social-media trolls, you’d think the Internet is to blame for all the woes of humanity. After all, what could people do with their ugly, mean thoughts before they had Yelp, Reddit, or Tumblr to help broadcast them? But as far back as the 1840s until the 1940s, they could send them in a Vinegar Valentine. Yes, that’s right. For … (continue reading)

Toys That Were Made to Be Broken

Remember the shoddy toys you begged your parents to buy while waiting in the supermarket checkout line, then promptly lost interest in before the day’s end? Those cheap plastic knock-offs have mostly been ignored by collectors, too, consigned to the dustbins of history almost immediately after purchase.

“I had things like ‘Annie’ curlers hanging on the wall—just crazy, weird toys all over the place.”
But Brian Heiler represents the exception … (continue reading)

Happy Kids on Christmas Morning

It’s easy, as an adult, to get bogged down in the un-fun, stressful aspects of Christmas. The mall becomes a madhouse that empties your wallet. Meals have to be planned and cookies baked. The house has to be decorated, inside and out, cards must be sent, and presents need to be wrapped. And that’s not to mention all the tension and drama that can … (continue reading)

You’d Better Watch Out: Krampus Is Coming to Town

You’ve heard the rumor that Santa Claus will leave a lump of coal, possibly some switches, for children who rank on his “naughty” list. But did you know that before the 20th century, old Saint Nick—that is, the European St. Nikolaus—had a devil sidekick do his dirty work? Krampus, a furry, horned, cloven-hooved creature with a disturbingly long tongue, was in charge of filling boots with spanking … (continue reading)

Hello Sailor! The Nautical Roots of Popular Tattoos

Traditional tattoo designs, like anchors, swallows, and nautical stars, are popping up on the arms and ankles of kids in every hip neighborhood from Brooklyn to Berlin, Sao Paulo to San Francisco. Yet these young land lubbers probably don’t even know the difference between a schooner and a ship, much less where the term “groggy” comes from. (Hint: Grog once referred to a watered-down rum issued by the British … (continue reading)

Nostalgia is Magic: Tavi Gevinson Remixes Teen Culture

Tavi Gevinson was just 11 when she appeared on the fashion scene in 2007, not via New York or Paris, but through her PC in Oak Park, Illinois. Through her insightful and whimsical blog, Style Rookie, Gevinson mused on topics ranging from couture collections to middle-school dress codes, building an online fan base of teenagers and adults who loved her then-signature gray hair and eccentric sense of … (continue reading)