Theda Bara. Dorothy Lamour. Betty Grable. Jean Harlow. Vivien Leigh. Greta Garbo. Elizabeth Taylor. Jayne Mansfield. Twiggy. Farrah Fawcett. And, of course, the magnificent Marilyn Monroe.
They came from different eras, from 1910 until the 1960’s. They were beautiful, alluring, and represented the “ultimate woman.” Pin-up girls were posters that represented every man’s dream of the perfect woman! These pin-ups graced the lockers of high school boys, calendars, and the American soldiers of World War II’s bunk rooms. Far from home, the G.I.’s treasured pin-up girl posters; they gave the soldiers something beautiful and sexy to see instead of their all-male comrades, not to mention the misery and graphic violence of war. Army Air Corps pilots, who risked their lives every day, developed “nose art” that was beautifully painted upon the outside cockpit of their fighter, bomber or cargo airlift planes. In addition to stunning depictions of fierce, snarling animals like tigers, eagles and sharks, pin-up girls frequently graced the noses of U.S. aircraft. And in 1941, test pilot Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in a jet he decorated with a gorgeous pin-up of his wife, naming the plane “Glamorous Glynnis.”
In 1947, the Army Air Corps officially became the United States Air Force. Nose art, especially that of vintage pin-up girls, continued to grace the outside cock pits of the best and fastest aircraft in the world. But times change, as does “political correctness.” Thirty years later, in the beginnings of awareness of the sexual harassment and exploitation of women, nose art was officially banned by the USAF, and this pin-up art vanished forever. It’s only seen now in museums depicting the lives of servicemen in ages gone by.
Several sources cite the top three pin-up girls as Betty Grable posing provocatively in a one-piece bathing suit, Marilyn Monroe’s revealing skirt “blow up” from The Seven Year Itch, and Farrah Fawcett as she appeared in TV’s “Charlie’s Angels.” But it doesn’t end with the beautiful and sensual pin-up girls; the past decade has given us pin-up men as well! Handsome heartthrobs Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Fabio adorn the walls of many a teenage girl’s bedroom. Also popular in modern pin-up art are rock singers Ozzy Osbourne, Zakk Wylde, Steven Tyler, and the enormously popular cross-over group, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Pin-up art reached its heyday during World War II, and art experts say that it will never quite be the same again. During this time, every female star in Hollywood had aspirations of becoming a popular pin-up art subject; this was part of their formula to successful movie careers. Today you can find vintage pin-ups on the Internet that are of fine quality and evoke memories of days long gone.