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Pin Up! The Subculture

Negotiating Agency, Representation & Sexuality with Vintage Style

Kathleen M. Ryan

Dangerous. Sexy. All-American—or rather All-World—Girl. Pin Up! The Subculture is the first book to explore the contemporary international subculture of pin up, women (and men) who embrace vintage style, but not vintage values.

Award-winning filmmaker and author Kathleen M. Ryan spent more than five years in the subculture. It’s a world of cat eye makeup, carefully constructed hairstyles, and retro-inspired fashions. But it’s also a world that embraces the ideals of feminism. Beauty, according to the pin up, is found not in body type or skin color, but in the confidence and sexual agency of the individual. Pin ups see their subculture as a way to exert empowerment and control of their own sexual and social identities—something that is part of the pin up’s historical legacy.

This lavishly illustrated book includes interviews with more than fifty international pin ups and helps readers to understand how they use social media and personal interactions to navigate thorny issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, sizeism, and other difficult topics. Ryan demonstrates how even within subcultures, identity is far from homogeneous. Pin ups use the safety of their shared subcultural values to advocate for social and political change.

A fascinating combination of cultural history, media studies, and oral history, Pin Up! The Subculture is the story about how a subculture is subverting and reviving an historic aesthetic for the twenty-first century.

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List of Figures


Cover:Broderick, Sheila. Bang Bang Von Loola. 2014. Sheila Broderick Photography. Frederick, CO.

Figure i.1. Grimshaw, Nicola. Ria Fend. 2016. Nicola Grimshaw/My Boudoir UK and Ria Fend. London, UK.

Figure i.2. Photo montage: Ashleeta by Mitzi and Co. Photography, Miss Rockwell De’Vil by Kat Spoer Photo, Kat Stroud by House of Winter, Paula Luv Kasun by Jason Frazee, The Urban Pin Up Self-Portrait, and Ruby Feldman aka Ruby’s Musings by Megan Ewbank.

Figure 1.1. Ash, Jessica. Bunny Lucille as Hilda. 2017. Jessica Ash and Bunny Lucille. Clearfield, UT.

Figure 1.2. Gibson, Charles Dana. The Weaker Sex. First published in Collier’s Weekly, July 4, 1903. Library of Congress, Washington, DC. Accessed November 24, 2018.

Figure 1.3. Mozert, Zoë. A Run on Sugar. c. 1945. In The Great American Pin Up by Charles Martignette and Lou Meisel (Köln, Germany: Taschen, 2011), color plate 368, 206.

Figure 1.4. TuPu Art. Diamonds. 2017. TuPu Art/The Urban Pin Up. London, UK.

Figure 1.5. Donigan, Daemon. Dapper Dan Doll. 2015. Donigan Artworks and Dapper Dan Doll. Arvada, CO.

Figure 1.6. House of Winter. Kat Stroud as Hilda. 2018. House of Winter and Kat Stroud. Sacramento, CA.

Figure 1.7. Myla, Karissa. Brickhouse Betty as Hilda. 2018. Karissa Myla/Charm City Curves and Brickhouse Betty. Baltimore, MD.

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