1818 Getting the new year off to a brisk start, the industrious German Baron Karl Drais of Mannheim and his chief game-keeper, one Otto Schillinger, invent a means of transport which combines people-power with the two-wheeler principle in the first ever balance bicycle. The two-wheeled contraption allows its rider to push their feet along the ground as with regular walking or running and steer the front wheel via the hinged handlebar. This "running machine", or in German, Laufmachine, was also dubbed the draisine (draisienne in French), the velocipede, and my favorite: the dandy horse. They had to be made to measure in order to fit a rider's height and stride, which limited how many people owned one. Also, the dandy horse was made entirely of wood, which limited its practical use to well-maintained pathways and gardens. Because so many riders avoided the rough roads in favor of smooth sidewalks, many municipalities enacted laws prohibiting their use.
1860s Frenchmen Pierre Michaux, Pierre Lallement and the Olivier brothers launch the first pedal-equipped bicycle, mass-producing a velocipede made entirely from wood. As you can imagine, this would be mighty uncomfortable to ride, especially on the cobblestone roads of the day, and it was promptly nicknamed the boneshaker.
1870 An English inventor named James Starley began tinkering with the design of the boneshaker, primarily by making the front wheel much larger. Big front wheels - up to 60" (1.5m) in diameter meant the rider could go much faster. The enormous front wheel next to the much-smaller back wheel reminded people of a British penny and a farthing coin, resulting in the charming moniker of Penny-farthing for these bikes.
1880s English engineer Harry "Henry" John Lawson designs a bicycle powered by the rear wheel, which kept the rider's feet safely out of reach of the front wheel. Borrowing from the tricycle, chain drive technology allowed for much smaller wheels, which had the advantage of putting the rider's feet within easy reach of the ground, making it much easier compared to a penny-fathing to actually come to a stop. Probably the main reasons the clever new safety bicycle took time to catch on were the fact it was more complex to operate, it was much heavier and also more expensive.
But catch on they did - especially with Western women. Suffragists immediately recognized their potential for freeing a girl from having to always be tied to a male escort and praised the safety bicycle as a "freedom machine." Which didn't go over too well with the prevailing male establishment, causing ministers and doctors, even, to claim that bouncing around on a bike could harm a woman's fragile insides and even worse, the friction of the seat could cause her to become aroused. Oh hell yes. Women promptly ditched their petticoats and layers (Victorian women wore an astounding 11 pounds or so worth of undergarments), laced up their boots and shimmied into newfangled bloomers. "This small fashion shift revealed women's legs, and women's bodies, in mainstream culture like never before," notes an interesting piece in HuffPo. "Women were simultaneously more masculine and also more sexual."
early 1900s A fictional babe named Cosette proceeded to capture the zeitgeist. College pals Edmond Osborne and Thomas Murphy - under the aegis of Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company, located in Red Oak, Iowa - published a calendar, released in 1903 featuring the first pin up.
Pin-ups enjoyed their peak popularity during World War II, when the government used illustrations of hot chicks to sell soldiers on the fact that patriotism was worth dying for. The Mad Men followed suit (in their snazzy suits), using pin-up girls to sell anything sex helps to sell (ie. everything).
However, the original pin-up babe had class. Risqué, certainly, but not explicit. Erotic of course, but in a fun and flirtatious way. And always safe for work, unlike the most recent Pirelli 2015 calendar. This trade calendar - originally published in 1964 by the UK subsidiary of the Italian tire company Pirelli and gifted to their "important" customers and celebs - certainly has pretensions of grandeur, I'll give it that. But thanks to crotch shots, silly costumes and a blow-up doll aesthetic, mission not accomplished.
Mission Drivecraploadsofbuzz accomplished, but bare boobs + models = yeah, duh.
For the forty-second edition of The CalTM (who trademarks their popular moniker?!), the theme was Calendar Girls 2015, which apparently means latex. "We used it to give the pictures a hint of fashion...to add to the beauty of the models - and just a touch of humor, too," notes Carine Roitfeld, who styled the shoot. "I didn’t want to make a conceptual calendar, or link it to some particular location," adds Steven Meisel, who shot this cal, "but rather to create 12 posters in which women, in all their sensuality, are the absolute protagonists of 12 very different images."
It sounds, though, like makeup maven Pat McGrath had the best job on the shoot. "Since I wanted to limit the use of clothes and accessories," continues Meisel (which I'm thinking is a fancier way of saying nekkid), "and since I had absolute creative freedom, I found it very exciting to play with the colours, the makeup."
Translation: boobies, shine and just enough NSFW factor to titillate.
Sigh. Really? This is the best "astonishing creative talent" can come up with?
Titillation? Please. Talk about a no-brainer. One interesting study on the influence of new media on adolescent sexual health found, for example, that of every 11 total hours spent daily with media (11 hours...per day?!...god no wonder we only rank 36th in the world in terms of education), 4.5 hours are devoted to watching television, of which something like 70% of the programming contains at least five scenes with sex per hour of programming.
Suffice it to say that wherever we look, titillation is a given.
Which leaves charm. Like the images created by the old-school pinup illustrator Gil Elvgren (1914-1980). (above & left) Elgren's wardrobe-malfunctioning girls didnt mean to provide a flash of their naughty nothings...it just kind of happened. They weren't simply sitting there, legs spread. They were doing everything things like laundry, yard work, climbing trees and even skeet-shooting or changing the tire of a car. "Many pictures feature a young woman in a situation that accidentally revealed her stocking tops and garters," notes one retro pin-up enthusiast. "Rather than overly titilating imagery, Elvgren seemed to go more for personality and even humor."
Characteristics in woefully short supply these days.
- Lesley Scott