Monday, February 24, 2014

Sex Sells -- Then and Now

Women have been used in bicycle ads almost since the beginning ("used" is a pretty good word here). I mean, who can forget that iconic Cycles Gladiator ad from the 1890s? At that time, bicycles represented speed, beauty, and freedom, and many of the ads from the early days of bicycles characterized those ideas with almost-mythical women and celestial scenes, often hinting that on a bicycle one might actually take flight. Is it any wonder that the Wright brothers started out making bicycles?

Cycles Gladiator - 1890s - is probably the most recognizable bicycle advertisement from that era, but the themes of the etherial, goddess-like woman, flying with the bike through a starry sky, can be found in many other bicycle ads from the same time period. More can be seen in this post from last year (here). I have to admit, I really like these "golden age" posters, and have quite a collection of them.
In this ad from the 1920s, a much more earthbound woman enjoys her bike by the sea. More terrestrial, less idealistic. It's a nice poster -- captures the style of the time pretty well.
I'm guessing this was from the 40s. It definitely has some of that "pin-up" quality to it, and the artist made sure to emphasize the woman's bust as much as possible, but on the whole, it's pretty tame.
Late 60s? Early 70s? This woman's dress looks pretty "mod." I'm not sure how practical it would be if she actually wanted to ride the bike, though. Then again, I don't think that's why she's in the picture.
This one ran in the 70s -- I've seen a couple versions of it with the same girl, different poses. One version said "From Sweden, With Love." I don't know if she'd be able to ride with toe-clips in those shoes. Pretty typical of 70s bike-boom era ads.
I have to kind of admire this Fuji ad from the 80s. Carol Addy was actually a women's national team cyclist. She's actually dressed for riding (including cycling shoes), and one can assume correctly that she actually can ride. An advertising rarity. By the way, after her racing career ended, Carol Addy got a medical degree and is now an Endocrinologist at MIT Medical.
This one from Italian carbon bike maker Stradalli is so crass and so blatant in its objectification, it just makes me want to laugh. (From a Retrogrouch perspective, the bloated carbon fiber billboard-like bike is kind of crass and blatant too.) Who are they kidding? She's wearing cycling clothes (but not for long), she's facing the wrong way on the bike, and what's with those shoes? I suppose it doesn't matter what kind of shoes she's wearing, though, because there aren't any pedals anyhow. There's a whole series of these from the same company -- they're all pretty bad. Some may be worse.
I could probably get into a whole Retrogrouch thing about how the Old Days were better, and the "use" of women in ads is worse today than it was in the past, but realistically I have to admit I might have a hard time supporting the case. One can find pretty gratuitous examples from any era. Nevertheless, a lot of those vintage ads at least have a more artistic quality to them, that makes them a little easier to appreciate, though. Oh well. Thoughts or reactions are welcome.

7 comments:

  1. The "height" of artistic sex cycle ads has to be the Cinelli ad with a naked woman riding a ladies bike through a wall with a sort of modern/postmodern building cluster in the distance. I always imagined the ad approval meeting featuring several leering fellows saying "artsy it up some more!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I almost included that one. There are just so many to choose from.

      Delete
  2. Appreciation of sex and the bicycle, The Social History of the Bicycle credits the bicycle with reducing inbreeding and expanding the gene pool. Ladies and gentlemen learned to love the bicycle .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have actually read that -- it was an interesting historical perspective. Thanks for adding it here.

      Delete
  3. Then there was the classic Lambert ad featuring the sexy blond in knee-high leather boots straddling a bicycle. It was effective for sure, at least on me as a 15 year old well recent boy. I bought a Lambert. It was a bit of a lemon until I swapped out the derailleur for a Shimano Crane.
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/images/lambert-june-73.jpeg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember that ad. Liked the boots. I never bought a Lambert, though.

      Delete
    2. Smart move, it was a fragile poorly designed bike. I should have bought a Schwinn World Voyageur instead, but there was nothing sexy in Schwinn ads to appeal to an adolescent.

      Delete