2017 was the year I finally replaced my old Ikea sofa with some midcentury fabulous Joybird reproduction furniture (I loved that Ikea sofa – it just wasn’t me anymore) and realized my dream of some SWEET OCEANIC ARTS LAMPS! In bittersweet news, our beloved family realtor and friend Florence Trelford passed away, leaving me the Heywood Wakefield bookcase and round coffee table that had previously belonged to my grandmother.
Not long ago I got a very pleasant note from the people who run Sin in Linen, a Seattle-based home textiles company inspired by vintage, pinup, rockabilly, punk, tattoo, gothic, and related aesthetics. Since 2004, owner Sandy Glaze has offered bedding, kitchen goods, and bathroom decor suiting a variety of alternative tastes.
From their main line, you can choose sheet sets, duvet covers, curtains, baby bedding, aprons, oven mitts, and other useful home items in a variety of exclusive fabrics. They kindly sent me one of their signature kitchen aprons and an oven mitt and potholder set in the mid-century modern-inspired “Atomic Dreams” print, a fabric specially designed for them by artist Ragnar of Ragnarama.
Recently, my friend Gailynne asked me to write an article for our costumers’ guild newsletter. She knows I love mid-century fashion, and she needed someone to write a piece on “beatnik” fashion for our “On the Road” event coming up in November. I thought it would be fun, so I jumped on it! I figured it would be a good way to learn more about the “Beat Generation” and the (old school) hipster culture that inspired – and was inspired by – it.
When most people hear the word “beatnik,” they probably imagine bored-looking bohemian gals in berets and guys in turtlenecks and weird little goatees. These stereotypes are rooted in truth, but like the term “beatnik” itself, they’re not really very representative of the movement defined by the “Beat Generation” nor the people inspired by its counterculture philosophy. The reality is that the intellectuals, artists, and anti-bourgeois iconoclasts of mid-twentieth century America dressed a lot like everyone else.
Legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen created the term “beatnik” in 1958, a portmanteau of “beat” and “Sputnik” (as in the Soviet satellite) that – in conjunction with a short report about freeloading hep cats helping themselves to booze at a magazine party – was meant to poke fun at common perceptions of the counterculture. Namely, that the group was full of lazy opportunists with far left political leanings. According to Caen, however, Beat Generation mainstay Jack Kerouac didn’t find it very amusing. “You’re putting us down and making us sound like jerks,” Kerouac apparently told him. “I hate it. Stop using it.”
I’ve linked the newsletter .pdf below if you’d like to read the whole article!
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was a source of political contention and financial worry. In the late 1970s, it was a symbol of metropolitan glamor (it was the Emerald City in The Wiz, after all!). In the 1980s and 1990s, it stood for commercial success and tourist fascination. In the early 21st century, it became Ground Zero. And now, for most people, the World Trade Center is back to being the World Trade Center once again, proof that determination can – just as in the 60s and 70s – overcome political strife. Things may never be right in Lower Manhattan again, but things can be good.
Here’s a trailer for a crazy documentary about tightrope phenomenon Philippe Petit and his successful 1974 attempt to cross the span between WTC 1 & 2 on a wire. The film is streaming on Netflix!