We’ve posted before about how our changing collective awareness of homosexuality in the U.S. over the last several decades often leads us to see implicit(or even explicit) gay themes in vintage ads and photos that likely wouldn’t have carried those connotations at the time. My colleague Gregory R. sent in a set of ads from the 1940s for Cannon Towels that perfectly illustrate this. The ads, part of their True Towel Tales campaign, focus on the experiences of U.S. soldiers fighting in various parts of the world during World War II. They seem intensely homoerotic by today’s standards:
Found at Retronaut.
Editor’s Note: This post inspired me to put together a “Before Homosexuality” Pinterest Board. You can see our whole collection there.
Emdub1985 — October 19, 2012
I am pretty sure the Sal Romano type Art Directors of that era had some leverage in getting these in print.. pretty awesome!
Gal_leena — October 19, 2012
They're also pretty good examples of using soldiers to sell stuff to women at home. Came across some vintage ads in Irish 1915 newspapers of a similar ilk. Find it interesting how happy the soldiers always are in them. Like they haven't a care in the world and a tin of toffee of a pack of chewing gum was going to be a cherry on top of the cake.
John Hensley — October 19, 2012
What you have here is a clear example of objectifying female gaze. It's only homoerotic when a male gaze is imposed on it.
Elena — October 19, 2012
"Buna Bathtub" sounds kind of Polari... :D
You also have to love that they have to caution the audience not to iron the terrycloth towels.
wisewebwoman — October 19, 2012
You have to love these bloodless, fully limbed, laughing battle grounds. I suppose there was a towel lorry following them around?
Sam Rogowski — October 19, 2012
Isnt a bunch of in shape military homosexual-ish men exactly what those women at home want in their lives? The artists definitely know their audience.
decius — October 19, 2012
When it's a bunch of naked sexualized women being used to sell a product to men, it isn't homoerotic, even by today's standards. Ads containing naked sexualized men, directed towards women, wouldn't be homoerotic even today.
Lunad — October 19, 2012
Those locals in the first picture look thrilled that naked soldiers are using their old boat for a bath.
Rishi — October 19, 2012
Lol, some of the guys are naked except for their helmets. Ya know, just in case I guess.
April — October 22, 2012
My grandfather was stationed somewhere in the south pacific during WWII and my mom has a few of his pictures of a bunch of soldiers skinny dipping and horsing around nude on the beach, so something like these scenes did happen in real life!
J. Mann — October 22, 2012
David Chapman's pictorial history, "American Hunks:
The Muscular Male Body in Popular Culture, 1860-1970," surveys these ads and others while offering historical context. (Ditto for his companion volume, "Venus with Biceps: A Pictorial History of Muscular Women.")http://www.arsenalpulp.com/bookinfo.php?index=299
Fratriarchy, Homoeroticism and Military Culture « The Disorder Of Things — November 1, 2012
[...] The ever-excellent Sociological Images offers up this 1940s advert, and others like it, as an example of how images previously taken to be innocent consumer bait for stereotypical homemakers now appear to us as dripping with homoeroticism. They may have added too that this half-ironic, half-nostalgic distance is what endears us to such images, which we then enjoy as vintage objects, for all that we know about the true historical context in which they were produced. [...]