Reader Harriet sent in this fantastic pattern she found on etsy, which she's aptly titled "Before They Had Pipes":
Wow. Look at all those little businessmen! Harriet thinks that Mr. Blue Plaid in front looks suspiciously like Sal from Mad Men. I don't follow the show (a sin for a vintage lover, I know -- I didn't get into it at first and now fear it will take over my life if I try to catch up), but I suspect that Sal is a toupee-wearing ladies' man. The rest of the "boys" don't look so innocent either. Mr. Red Vest behind him looks ready to sell us a shady bill of goods, while Mr. Gray Blazer/Bow Tie is clearly another snake oil salesman. I'm not quite sure what Red Plaid Vest has done at such a young age to deserve framing, but Brown Suit? I pity Brown Suit. If there's a Willy Loman in this diorama of 1950s white collar masculinity, it's Brown Suit.
There are a couple of other 1950s boys' patterns in the seller's shop, and together they offer an amazing glimpse into the strict gender roles men were forced into during this time. I know I focus so much on the societal restrictions placed on women that I forget that men and boys -- even if they didn't have to deal with everything from job discrimination to girdles -- had their own cultural baggage. If you look at these patterns, it seems that boys were being molded into "little men" from a very young age.
This one, Simplicity 4964, at least makes a passing acknowledgment to boyhood and puberty. Charming Red and Cute Stripe pose for the viewer while White Shirt gives grooming advice to Tennis. ("The ladies, they like it when you shave, see? And they think it's real special when you slick back your hair.")
But Simplicity 4740 really portrays its boys as little men -- they truly are only a pipe away from manhood:
These kids are having a business conference before bed! Check out Red Robe! He's not just holding a sheaf of papers, briefing Blue Plaid and White Robe with some last minute details on tomorrow's presentation...he's wearing SLACKS ad DRESS SHOES underneath the robe!