Real Men Wear Aprons, in Paul Outerbridge Jr.’s Vision at the Met

THE DAILY PIC: The great '30s photographer captured an era of gender tension.


THE DAILY PIC (#1484): When you start digging into the supposedly safe, wholesome, Norman Rockwell glories of pre-war America, the gender tensions can turn out to be overwhelming. What, for instance, are we supposed to make of this coffee ad, from the old A&P supermarkets, photographed by the great Paul Outerbridge Jr. in about 1939 and recently on view in the “Grand Illusions” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York? It shows a bunch of guys hanging out in the kitchen drinking coffee, with one of them wearing his wife’s apron, no less, such as could hardly be needed to brew some joe. (Aprons were seen as an exclusively feminine garment – and still mostly are, judging by the ribbing I get when I wear mine.) There was never more than a knife’s-edge distance between the aggressive homosociality of that era and its homoerotic flip side. That’s the thing about truly great advertising: It reveals far more than it means to about the people being sold on its products, because it has to speak to who they really are. (Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987;© 2015 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA)

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