Radio Sandwell Lifestyle News

Why women want a 1950s man

2012-12-30 22:06:42

Which era of men do you think women most pine for?

Maybe the chivalrous knights of Medieval times? Maybe those laidback cads of the 1920s? Maybe the dashing young Tommies of World War II?

In fact, the answer is 'none of the above'. According to one new study, modern women look at modern men and wish they were a bit more '1950s'. Here's why - and why they should be careful what they wish for.

The 1950s ideal

What is it about the 1950s? Many older people look back on the decade as a halcyon age, a perfect mix of post-war optimism and pre-modern innocence. But now it seems that even young women are looking back at it through the same prism of starry-eyed idealism.

The survey, by men's grooming label Scaramouche & Fandango, found that 61% of women think the 1950s male was more appealing than his 2012 equivalent.

It seems that one of the things modern women most like about 1950s man are his (supposed) good manners. The 1950s gent would hold a door open for a woman and buy her flowers. Six decades of feminism be damned, because a large majority of the women surveyed found this chivalry both attractive and sadly lacking in the 2012 model of manhood.

The survey also revealed that our women appreciate the crisp, well-pressed suits of 1950s man and his groomed appearance.

Ian Linaker, co-founder of Scaramouche & Fandango, said: "Our results show that today's men are a far cry from the more well-mannered and desired gentlemen of the 1950s, especially as only 47% of men polled revealed they have some sort of grooming regime".

It's a sentiment that was recently echoed by actress Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary in the hit drama Downton Abbey. She opined: "men standing when women arrive at the dinner table, opening doors for's lovely when you see a man do that. But young men wouldn't think about that because it's not the culture any more."

The Don Draper fantasy

But what this survey really reveals is that women are attracted to the idealised version of 1950s man they've seen on the screen. Don Draper from Mad Men is the most obvious example; a masculine, powerful, driven man with a very good line in crisp, dark suits.

The appeal of Don Draper has been endlessly discussed. Certainly, his 1950s mindset has something to do with it, along with his 'retro-sexual' appeal. He's well groomed and well dressed, but he isn't the sort of man who spends hours in front of the mirror.

He also knows how to shake a man's hand and hold a coat for a lady. If we can forget for a second that Don is a serial womaniser, a borderline alcoholic and not even who he claims to be, he's the perfect gent!

The 1950s man: a product of 1950s society

The problem for all these modern women with a fetish for 1950s man is that it's impossible to separate the man from the society that made him. The 1950s were a decade in which a veneer of good manners masked a deep seam of inequality.

So 1950s man held doors for a woman and pulled out her chair at dinner. He bought her flowers and complimented her on her lovely new dress. And, in turn, she was entirely dependent on him for financial security.

According to family historian Stephanie Coontz, the 1950s were a time when: "it was much more difficult for a woman to support herself outside marriage...most of the options were low-paying secretarial or 'Girl Friday' positions".

A poll at the time found that two-thirds of women would marry someone they didn't love if he met other criteria, the most important of which was the ability to provide financial security.

Women wanted security, and men wanted women who would look pretty, keep house and support their efforts to make money. In other words, 1950s relationships were based on a deal that few women would accept today. She played the role of homemaker and housewife, and in return was treated with condescending gallantry - and regarded as something less than equal.

1950s v 2012

So perhaps women today should be careful what they wish for. The conventions of 2012 are based on a far more equitable (if not 100% equal) division of power and wealth. 

It could also be argued that, if men are less chivalrous than they were in 1950, it's because we're not sure chivalry is what women want. How many women today would actually find being helped out of a chair and into a coat condescending and inappropriate?

And let's face it, it was far easier to keep those crisp two-pieces in tip-top condition when you had a wife at home doing all the washing and ironing.

So hankering after some idealised vision of the 1950s male is all well and good, but we can't help thinking that few women would appreciate the reality.


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