Journal Article

The Bachelor Pad as Cultural Icon

Bill Osgerby

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 18, issue 1, pages 99-113
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epi008
The Bachelor Pad as Cultural Icon

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Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare

(Trans: ‘If You Don't Swing, Don't Ring’).

Inscription on a brass plaque at the entrance to the Playboy Mansion, 1960

Focusing on the representation of domestic interiors in American men's magazines during the mid-twentieth century, this article explores the history and significance of the ‘bachelor pad’ as an icon of high-living modernity. Beginning with a consideration of Esquire magazine in the 1930s, attention is given to representations of the sleek, stylish bachelor apartment and its role as a totem of forward-looking and ‘liberated’ masculine consumerism. Depicted as a place where men could luxuriate in a milieu of sybaritic indulgence, the ‘bachelor pad’ was configured as the spatial manifestation of a consuming masculine subject who later became pervasive amid the consumer boom of the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, the fantasy of the chic, gadget-laden ‘bachelor's lair’ was a recurring icon of hedonistic, masculine consumption in men's magazines such as Playboy, Escapade and Rogue. Cosmopolitan and brimming with á la mode luxuries, the ‘bachelor pad’ was a leitmotif in these magazines' wider celebration of masculine consumer pleasure and desire. Analysis of these representations, it is argued, suggests that in American culture during the mid-twentieth century the ‘masculine’ arena of production and the ‘feminine’ domain of consumption were not neatly and clearly divided. Instead, the iconography of the ‘bachelor pad’ in American men's magazines points to a significant masculine presence within mid-twentieth century commodity culture.

Keywords: consumption—domestic space—gendered design—leisure—masculinity—United States

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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