Back in the day, uptight puritans refused to show Elvis' hips on television, for fear his seductive gyrations would break the Seventh Seal and allow the Devil himself to walk the Earth. It sounds ridiculous now, but our standards are always in flux. What's normal today will eventually seem ridiculous and prudish. For there is always another Elvis, thrusting and wiggling inside our hearts. Just look at how ...
Baseball is the quintessential American sport, and it's hard to think of a piece of sportswear more iconic and ubiquitous than the baseball cap. So why was it once considered a no-no to wear one on the street? To understand, you have to consider the fashion mandates of the time. Since any decent man was expected to leave the house wearing a hat, baseball caps allowed players to retain their scalp's dignity during games.
But a sporting hat was not an acceptable replacement for your daily headpiece, not when you had better options available to hide your skull-shame. It's like wearing a codpiece to Starbucks -- there's technically no law against it, but no one is going to talk to you.
Only 50 years ago, chicken wings were just marginally more appreciated than the bird's insides. Everyone saw them as one of the least desirable cuts, and they were usually cooked into stock for less-demanding dishes. Then in 1964, one family from Buffalo, New York blazed a trail for the popularization of wings.
The heroine of this story is Teressa Bellissimo, owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. Her husband Frank had ordered chicken necks to prepare spaghetti sauce at home, only to get the useless wings by mistake instead. This raises a number of questions, chiefly concerning the preparation of spaghetti sauce in the '60s. But depending on who you ask, either Frank didn't want to waste the delivery and asked his wife to improvise something, or their son's drunk friends did. You know what they say: The fickle whims of any man are the beleaguered mother of invention.
The resulting garbage food Bellissimo whipped up with what's now known as Buffalo sauce became a sensation at the bar, then in the city, then all over the country. But it wasn't an entirely happy ending. After all, it ain't Teressa's name on the bottle.
Up until about the 1960s, running down a street in America was about as normal a way to exercise as doing naked cartwheels. Then a future Nike co-founder brought the trend over from New Zealand, whereupon it was initially met with rightful suspicion. If they weren't obviously a soldier or athlete in training, joggers were often stopped by the police, who figured that anyone zooming down the sidewalk was up to something.
The media found the craze so amusing that openly incredulous articles were published in outlets like The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times (we see the same thing today, only about avocado toast and selfie sticks). One early adopter spent a day in court fighting a ticket for illegal use of a street by a pedestrian, and another was forced to call the police on the police after they chased him through alleys near his own home.
But in the '70s, joggers were being validated by Olympians like Steve Prefontaine, Jim Ryun, Frank Shorter, and Bill Rodgers, who were all part of the "Running Boom" of the time. The stigma started to vanish, and by the end of the decade, it had hit the mainstream. Even President Carter got in on the action.
He tried, at least.
A grown man in possession of a pinball machine should be ashamed for a number of reasons, but back during Prohibition, he would be arrested. For many years, pinball was considered not a harmless pastime for children and classic rock wizards, but a sleazy game of chance associated with gangsters and gambling.
In 1942, NYC mayor Fiorello LaGuardia said pinball machine "pushers" were "slimy crews of tinhorns, well dressed and living in luxury on penny thievery." LaGuardia launched a campaign of crackdowns, leading to this amazing picture of the man himself taking a sledgehammer to a seized pinball machine, keeping children safe for another day.
And the game stayed prohibited until 1976, when someone finally had a chance to show the New York City Council that pinball actually required some skill. That's an argument we're still having to this day whenever enough people get drunk at the bowling alley arcade.
What's weird about the following photographs?
Could you put your finger on it? People in old-timey photos are simply not supposed to be smiling for the camera. We tend to expect this instead:
State Library of NSW
It wasn't just a matter of long exposure times and fallible facial muscles. Having your picture taken used to be an event reserved only for the most special of occasions. And you were lucky if it happened more than once, so you really had to make it count. People wanted to be remembered as profound, stern-looking individuals lost in thought. So our great-great-grandparents believed that smiling in photographs was about the most embarrassing thing you could do. Oh, maybe you could get away with a faint curvature of the lips, but grinning or showing your teeth would inevitably leave you remembered as a hopeless fool.
Even a complete goofball like Mark Twain looked dead serious in just about every picture. He once wrote to The Sacramento Daily Union that "A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever." People didn't start smiling in photos until around the 1920s and '30s, when snapshot photography became available to everyone, and they realized one photo wasn't going to shame them for life. Then Facebook happened and proved that belief right all over again.
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