Sports Illustrated came into its own from a bumpy start in the 30s and 40s, selling a lifestyle of polo and yachting to a niche group of upper-class readers. After being sold to Time-Life, the magazine limped along until the late 50s, when advances of television and an economic boom helped sports like baseball and football become the enormously popular spectator events that they are today. Like Playboy, Sports Illustrated worked as a form of masculine-driven lifestyle escapism where one could lose themselves for a while in the life story of a high-living prince, or to dream about fishing instead of whatever soul-grinding desk job they were working at.
Sports Illustrated has done a beautiful job of digitizing their back issues, which includes this issue here, so if you want to read (most of) this issue’s articles at a far better resolution than what I’ve got here then please support their hard work.
The editors hadn’t figured out yet that supermodels in bikinis sold covers, so this month we’re getting a look at THE MAD WORLD OF BRIDGE, which I promise is actually more interesting than it sounds.
“What was that, baby? My co-workers are laughing at me? What – no – I couldn’t – KILL my co-workers?”
This has to be one of my least favorite contents layouts so far. Just putting the whole cover image with the headlines in your TOC? Weird. I like the vertical column of photos in the center, which really sells the high quality photography as a hallmark of the magazine. I also find the preview for next week’s issue to be a nice inclusion, but it’s a little weird that it’s at the very front and not something that tantalizes you at the end of the magazine, like it would be today.
In an issue so dominated by clean-shaven men, any photo of a man with a beard is really striking. This Rasputiny-looking fellow is the Schweppes spokesman, who was a British Navy man turned businessman turned spokesman. According to his obituary, he wrote a whole book on how to be awesome. He was a proto Dos Equis Man. Here he is in action:
No other mixaaah has Schweppe’s bittahsweet flavaaah and raare effahhvesence!
3/4 length sleeves today are almost exclusively for women’s clothes. I think Norris was trying to make 3/4 sleeves a thing for men. It didn’t work. Like all 3/4 sleeves, it just looks like your sleeves are way too short for your arms. Men were probably like “This sucks! make women wear them instead!”
Ha ha! YOU SUCK AT FISHING!
Consumer reports apparently really hit Charlie Brown right in the feels.
Some quick hits, excellent for bathroom reading. The late Prince Aly Khan will show up again later with a longer memorial, which befits him as The Coolest Man Who Ever Lived according to the writers of Sports Illustrated.
Back in my grandpappy’s day if you wanted to sell a man a parrot you put on freshly pressed trousers, and a belt, and a tie! I bet Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t sell a parrot to anyone in his stupid hoodie!
Somehow “You know you’re in a fine dining establishment if there’s a ketchup bottle on every table” doesn’t really ring true for today.
…in which a ski resort is personified as a helpless woman in desperate need of a man to rescue her.
Sports Illustrated has always had phenomenal photography.
The fabulous and tragically short life of Prince Aly Khan, who died in Paris at the wheel of his Italian sports car with his supermodel mistress by his side (she miscarried their baby but was otherwise ok).
Great graphic design. Swim trunks for the Pete Campbells, the Don Drapers, and the Roger Sterlings!
Full article here
A feature on a young Orlando Cepeda, who has gone on to have a very full life of baseball and death threats from the mafia and drug convictions and also the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The worst nightmare – your wife having to fix a flat by herself.
In which more hot dog puns than you think are possible somehow make it into a single paragraph about an airline.
I love that they straight-up used the word “virility” in their ad for leather accessories.
Let these dorky men tailor you a suit just like your father’s!
From the intro on this week’s cover story: “Bridge experts are a weird and motley group whose jealousies and bickerings would do justice to a school for adolescent girls. They shout and rave and climb the table. They malign each other’s personalities and deprecate each other’s playing ability. When they win it is because of their partner. They are egotistical and supersensitive, noisy and moody, flamboyant and withdrawn and dozens of other mutually contradictory couplets. But there is one thing they are not – and this applies to every champion bridge player from Whitehead to Goren. They are not dull.”
Well! This cover story is actually a preview from a whole book on the Contract Bridge scene by Jack Olsen. If you remember the last season of Fargo, you’ll know that Bridge is something that people still take very, very seriously. And apparently still attracts crowds of murderous weirdos.
Don’t you fuck with Helen up there, she’s an acid anti-kibbitzer (kibbitzing means to spectate over someone’s shoulder while they’re playing cards). “Once Helen Sobel wearied of a female kibbitzer who was all but sitting in her partner Goren’s lap. When the woman asked Sobel, in the middle of a hand, ‘How does it feel to play with an expert?’ the best female player in bridge pointed to Goren and said ‘I don’t know. Ask him.'” OOOOOOOH GIRL.
He isn’t even real and I want to punch him so hard.
The midcentury masculine fantasy of being the Lord of the Manor was really deeply entrenched, wasn’t it?
Now that is the face of a man who is wearing comfortable underwear and wants everyone to know about it!
“This ugly shirt is only worn by…well…every man in India.”
You wouldn’t question a man with an eye-patch who speaks like an old-timey British colonial big game hunter, would you?
This really was a golden age of silly costumed spokesmen (today it’s “ironic”). I couldn’t find any background on the Holsten Knight, other than “he defends the trademark” as the emblem on every bottle, and that he crosses his legs at the ankle like a lady of good breeding. I imagine he had a lot of trouble getting up out of that chair.
That is a strikingly beautiful model. Maybe it’s just because the “beach look” didn’t involve huge bubble hair so she looks very contemporary.
When you have absolutely no delusions of appealing to women with your looks and you just want a quality old man hat, Mallory is your company!
Also, this is Sam Snead. He was kind of a massive deal in golf for over 40 years, but he never got a drink named after him so his legacy is shaky at best.
You would likely not see an elderly woman giving tips on a perfect golf swing in today’s Sports Illustrated, but Blanche Graham Sohl was a legend of amateur golf in the 30s.
It’s the Pat Boone collection from Dickies! Aww, what an adorable and freshly scrubbed racist nutcase!
“In 10 years, Johnny’ll be handcuffing himself to this tree in protest of the Nixon Administration!”
You get that girl in your heathery knit sport shirt, you incorrigible stud muffin. You lord of the moors and glens of suburbia.
America was going through some national angst in 1960, going by this ad from Life magazine. Aside from the obvious wars and growing civil rights unrest and so on and so on, 1960 was an election year, which we all know can be a time for serious soul-searching.
“A fun car, a happy car!” I imagine the ad executives sweating and swearing and throwing back whiskey tumblers as they berate their underlings while they try to come up with ads that will sell this car to the Buick and Pontiac crowd. I guess they finally settled on “your wife will love it”.
I mean, look at this thing. It’s ADORABLE.
Reader mail! Last issue featured a story about a little girl in Baltimore who could jump rope really well. Sports Illustrated has come so far, you guys. And of course, someone borked up the math in the story so there’s a flood of snarky responses from eggheads who can’t resist pointing out that they made a mistake.
Way to be gross to Francis Raye of Syracuse, who asks that gymnastics be given more respect and gets a response back that amounts to BUT GIRLS IN LEOTARDS, AMIRITE?
Meanwhile, this man wears his madras well.
The evolution of Eastman Kodak ads from 1900 (Cosmopolitan) to 1936 (Harper’s Bazaar) to this ad in 1960 has been very interesting to watch. At least by this time they had figured out that putting your ad in color is key to selling color film.
“I think I’m hallucinating! Is this one of those JAZZ cigarettes? OH MY HAIR!”
Thanks for reading another week with me! The poll I put out a few weeks ago gave me a lot of good feedback and a ton of great ideas for what to review, so thank you for adding your voice to my little blogging experiment here.
- Over 57% wanted magazines that had a familiar name or brand but was before their time
- 35% voted in favor of fan-centric niche magazines, with the rest about evenly split across other categories
- 16% of you now suffer from lung cancer thanks to all the magazines from the 70s
- Suggestions for magazines to review in the future included Odyssey, Dragon, Omni, Tiger Beat, Spin, The New Republic (which my work happens to have mad issues of, so you’re in luck, anonymous contributor!), National Geographic, and others. Next week we will be dipping our toes into some sleazy waters with the March 1965 issue of Modern Romances, a pulp magazine for “good girls”.