Pinups are not solely an American phenom, but they are typically American. Sexploitation is worldwide but America, long a puritanical country, also had an anti-puritanical mindset. And this is why the pinup has been so popular. It began in the 1890s as a window on the female form. Charles Dana Gibson’s famous Gibson Girls were not taboo but they were idealized women with large breasts and tight waists. Their influence on fashion and lifestyle was major.
There have been many expert pinup artists, like Alberto Vargas and George Petty, who appeared in Esquire and Playboy, respectively. But the pinups that define an American industry are those somewhat ironic, slightly sardonic, totally idyllic and splendidly anatomic ink blotter and calendar girls, always captioned with silly puns like “Don’t Try Any Pincer Movements On Me” for the boys overseas, produced by Mills-Neslund Dental Lab, or “I’m Awfully Easy On the Pupils” for Masters Fast Freight Service. These and so many others helped promote the most diverse assortment of businesses and stores. But hey, that’s advertising.
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