Nov 29, 2022

Funny and daft ads from the 1950s and 60s.

1950s and 1960s women's magazine covers. A selection of Woman and Home magazines.

Women's 1950s and 60s advertising. Let's have a laugh

In the 1950s and early 60s, there was post-war enthusiasm, innovation, weird and wonderful products, and suspect advertising.

Setting aside all the sexist tripe that came out of this period - that's a subject for a future blog post - I have chosen from my small collection of 1950s and 60s women's magazines a few funny and daft ads for our amusement.

The world of the post-war UK housewife wasn't all beer and skittles

Going by the content in these women's magazines you'd think that the housewife had it all on a plate.

But like the food of the day, what was on her plate was by today's tastes, unpalatable.

For starters, she was expected to stay home and look after all things homey.

And that included the husband. The husband was the sole breadwinner and he needed to be looked after, cared for, cherished.

So she did.

She cleaned, she shopped, she cooked until her bones cracked. All done so that he could return after a hard day's work to a spotless home, warm tartan slippers and a plate of grey cabbage.

She had to look lovely and be uncomplaining and get on with the job.

She also had to look after the children: feed them, wash them, walk them to school, put them to bed. Every single bloody day.

And all done with a beaming smile on her face like a Stepford Wife.

The grateful housewife

Mrs Hammond from Acacia Avenue may not have had the looks or riches of a Stepford Wife, but she had a man to support her.

As most women got married and had no source of income of their own, they were reliant upon their husbands.

Such financial insecurity shackled them and made them, by all accounts, subservient. There are many references in the ads about pleasing their man or being grateful.

It's a world that sticks in the craw today.

I think, and hope, we've come a long way since then.

1962 colour advert for P&B wool. A husband and his wife look at a catalogue.
P&B - November 1962

Please him? Please yourself

Just look at his face! He's so happy that you've given him the 1962 tweed-textured catalogue to choose the latest in stylish tweed-textured whatnots.

He's torn between the tweed-textured plus-fours and the tweed-textured driving gloves.

Yeah. It's called fashion. Look it up.

1956 black and white advert for Quaker Oats. A husband and wife try to cook a bowl of oats.
Quaker Oats - January 1956

Your wonderful lazy idiot husband

Poor useless man. He's incapable of cooking a simple bowl of oats in the morning. And he's certainly not going to get his oats tonight. Who can blame her?

1956 black and white Player's Navy Cut cigarette advert with a man and woman smoking on a mountain top.
Player's Navy Cut - July 1956

Good old cigarette ads. Don't you just miss 'em?

After an arduous, heart-pumping hike up the mountain, there's nothing like a good old full-strength cigarette to clear the lungs. Ah! All that clean fresh air and rich nicotine does you good.

1955 black and white advert of a man and woman at the seaside smoking Players Navy Cut cigarettes.
Player's Navy Cut - October 1955

Whatever the pleasure indeed: dogging 1950s style.

Don't believe the 1950s couple were straight-laced church-going souls. At weekends the wife and her hubby enjoyed the local seaside air along with a few strangers who happened to be passing by.

Y-front underwear 1959 advert. Black and white photograph of a young boy in Y-front underwear.
Junior Y- Front - April 1959

Y-fronts? Yes, why Y-fronts?

These days you can get put behind bars for producing an ad like this. In those days, on the other hand, things were a little more lax when it came to photographing young boys in tight underpants.

I suspect this boy is now either a Tory MP or a serial killer.

A Brasso and Silvo advert 1962. Colour photograph of a dinner table setting with silver service, candelabra, cut glass and red roses.
Brasso and Silvo - November 1962

What a shiny knob you have!

What a beautifully choreographed set! It's what every normal suburban household aspired to in 1962.

The baby blue Ford Cortina MK1 is gleaming on the driveway, the tea roses have been pruned to an inch of their lives, and the lawn has its stripes. Ah, bliss.

The final touch of class is the thoughtful and stylish arrangement of the cigarettes. Pre- and post-prandial coughs all round. Lovely.

It's all very swinging. And I bet they did.

Watch out fly!
Secto! August 1955

1950s fly sprays - they're really safe!

George Langelaan wrote the original short story 'The Fly 'in 1957 two years after these ads appeared.

He had dual French/British citizenship and spent a lot of time in Britain as a spy for the SOE (Special Operations Executive). No doubt he sifted a lot of material and perhaps a few women's magazines.

Do you think he came across these ads and 'The Fly' was inspired by such grotesque imagery? Unlikely, but an interesting thought.

Secto, thankfully, doesn't exist anymore. DDT wasn't banned in the UK until 1986, by which time most of the nation's households had inhaled clouds of the stuff.

It adversely affected all living things, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, who from birth, thinks and speaks in Latin and always wears a top hat, even in bed.

1962 Sirdar wool advert. Colour photograph of a man and woman playing with a small dog and a ball of Sirdar wool.
Sirdar wool - October 1962

1960s middle-class gayness

Gay ways seem to be kicking off big time in the 60s. Strutting down Carnaby Street in kinky boots, singing The Young Ones, and entwining your pet pug with balls of wool while the wife looks on. The evidence is all there.

Do you think she knows? The dog probably does.

A 1962 McDougall's flour advert. Colour photograph of a cooked pie on a dinner table.
McDougall's flour - October 1962

Haute cuisine '60s style

Before Fanny Cradock came along and made everyone cook in their evening gowns, the British housewife used her ingenuity to rustle up something remotely decent. Or awful, in this case, like these rolled-up diminutive penises.

This became a speciality of every housewife with a wicked sense of humour. Playful rearrangements of the rolled-up whatsits with a couple of olives caused much giggling in suburbia.

1955 black and white advert for Heathcott Flare Free outfits. A woman is wearing a nylon flare free outfit.
Heathcoat Flare Free outfits - October 1955

The perfect 1950s dress: it doesn't go up in flames

Before central heating, there were coal fires in every household. Before light bulbs became commonplace, there were candles everywhere. There were also lots of men lighting up their pipes willy-nilly.

The possibility of a housewife catching fire while going about her daily business was very high indeed. Thank goodness for Heathcoat Flare Free nylon outfits!

Well done to that person - no doubt, a man - who understood a woman's fear and invented a stylish way for her not to go up in flames.

What a jolly clever and thoroughly decent chap. Give him a knighthood. What a useful invention.

1962 advert for a kitchen sink. Colour photograph of a woman holding a kitchen sink in the living room.
Leisure Sinks - February 1962

A 1960's love affair - with a sink

Oh, George! What a hero. It's not every day your rich plumber husband gets the boys to drop off a sink in your living room. He's full of surprises is old George.

He's so thoughtful. He knows his wife loves the sink so much he's glued her head to it. What a nice chap.

1962 advert for a kitchen sink. Colour photograph of a woman with her chauffeur holding a kitchen sink.
Leisure Sinks - November 1962

The 1960's subservient wife. How lovely

That's right, woman! Do as you're told. It seems that 'Henry is so sweet and understanding...sometimes. '

Sometimes? So when is he not? When he comes home drunk? When he's lost on the horses again?

But despite being the occasional grump, life isn't so bad when Henry stumps a few guineas for a flash sink. And a Roller. With a chauffeur.

The chauffeur looks fed up with it all. Looks like he's been traipsing around Harrods all day with that damn thing.

1962 advert for a kitchen sink. Colour photograph of a just married couple with a kitchen sink on the roof of their Mini car.
Leisure Sinks - October 1962

The perfect 1960's wedding. Sink included

Yes, the best man has thought of everything, except using his brain. Putting a sink on a car?

I wonder where they're going for their honeymoon with that? Can you imagine turning up at a five-star hotel with a sink on top of your car?

'Yes, of course, sir. I'll bring it up to your room, sir. No problem. Where would you like it plumbed in, sir?'

1955 black and white advert of a kissing couple on the front cover of the Picture Show Annual.
Picture Show Annual - October 1955

Sitting in the back row '50s style

These days people go to the cinema to see a film. They get all po-faced and earnest and talk about the stars and the storyline and the special effects.

In the 1950s, people didn't go to the cinema to see a film. They went to get frisky and have their first kiss and fumble with unfathomable underwear in the dark. And if they were lucky, it would be with someone they knew.

They don't make cinemas like they used to.

1962 Seagers Egg Flip advert. Two women are sharing a bottle of egg flip.
Seagers Egg Flip - November 1962

Flipping hell - it's strong this egg flip

Is it any wonder she looks off her trolley? Seagers Egg Flip's alcohol content is a minimum of 28 per cent. It's her third glass of the day, and it's only ten o'clock in the morning.

Keep a bottle handy, it says in the copy. There's one in every drawer of her house. She's the happiest housewife on the estate, though she sometimes has trouble finding her way home.

1959 Wright's Coal Tar Soap advert. Black and white illustration of a female patient talking to her doctor.
Wright's Coal Tar Soap - August 1958

Trust me, I'm a doctor - sort of

The more I read this ad, the more I think he's not what he seems.

We could be naughty and rewrite this:

'Tell me Doctor! Why do you always use Wright's Cold Tar Soap?'

'Well, you see, Mrs Smith, I just have to keep my hands soft and sensitive so that I can diagnose troubles in and around your naughty bits and your fabulous bosoms. They are quite wonderful. Let me check them again just to make sure.'