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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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1 The Curious Case of the Pin Up

Extract

In July of 2017, BUST published a story about pin up model Bunny Lucille.1 The plus-sized pin up turned to the 1950s Duane Bryers illustrated character Hilda for inspiration, recreating poses and sets from the drawings. She posted her first homage to Hilda on Instagram in June of that year: a recreation of a 1963 calendar print of Hilda toasting marshmallows over a potbellied stove wearing a red flannel union suit (see Figure 1.1). Other recreations followed. Lucille-as-Hilda reading a scary book, peeling onions over a bucket while sitting on a three-legged stool wearing an apron and denim shorts, or naked using flowers as a do-it-yourself bikini. When one Instagram commenter critiqued her photos—and body type—saying “you don’t have the tits” to pull off Hilda, Lucille responded:

You aren’t a happy person. My experience of you is what a coward does to someone. Only a bully would put down someone they don’t know. And someone who doesn’t have the courage to post pics about themselves, like yourself. It doesn’t matter what you say or any sad souls like yourself say, I know who I am. You do not, and you hide not only from others but mostly from yourself.2

She sees Hilda as a personal inspiration. “Hilda was a curvy, creative, quirky, sexy pinup, from the ‘50s who lived her life, like no one was watching,” she ←25 | 26→said in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle. “And if they were, she got over it...

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