Why can American blue-collar “earth taste” aesthetics spread all over the world?

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The so-called modernist aesthetics can be summed up in a short sentence as ” less is better” . It is not difficult for us to catch a glimpse of this fun from home furnishings, digital equipment, household appliances and fashion, and young designers often regard it as the industry standard.

However, in the popular consumer culture, it is still a striking forces, opposite, pursuing a “big and strong” (  More of Better IS) fun. It is especially obvious in the fast food field. McDonald’s Big Mac and Burger King Whopper  ( literally meaning “big guy”) are both the embodiment of this “big is good” aesthetic.

This kind of global consumption culture of local taste, traces its origin, is the gene left by American blue-collar aesthetics. The most distinctive feature of American blue-collar consumer aesthetics is that the bigger the better, the more dazzling the better, and the more robust and durable the better. This is contrary to the idea that the aesthetics of middle-class designers advocate the more streamlined the better, and the lower-key the better.

The global industrialization process after World War II coincided with the prevalence of blue-collar aesthetics in the American consumer market, so it was promoted to countries all over the world, squeezing a distinctive sense of earthy presence among the modern aesthetics dominated by designers.

1. American earthy style

After World War II, the income of the blue-collar class in the United States rose rapidly, approaching the income level of white-collar workers. But their tastes did not simply move closer to the taste of Chinese products, but stubbornly insisted on their own preferences. Their living habits, social styles, and children’s upbringing styles all make them choose a consumption style that is completely different from that of white-collar workers.

For the wealthy American blue-collar workers’ families, the huge, shiny, and cool appliances, cars, and tableware, on the one hand, are a symbol of rising economic and social strength, and on the other hand, they also have the most direct sensory impact.

Take the home furnishings of the kitchen-dining room after World War II as an example, the typical middle-class design concept is simple, glamorous, and refined:

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?The features of the Chinese kitchen design at that time were monochrome wallpapers, flowers, candles, small plates, and glasses.

At the same time, the blue-collar family’s favorite dining room and kitchen design pursued large mosaic wall tiles, durable stoves, thick tables, large plates and large bowls, which were well placed, giving people a sense of ample stability.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

In 1953, Mary Brewer, a night shift worker, had to cook three meals a day for the whole family. The round face of the child, the thick arms of the hostess, and the crowded dining room layout match well

The middle class at that time liked the pure white and simple refrigerator:

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The blue-collar favorites are brightly colored refrigerators and stoves with shiny, huge handles.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

This is because the kitchen-dining room played quite different functions in middle-class families and blue-collar families at that time. The survey shows that the most important room in the minds of middle-class women is the living room/living room, which is a place where the whole family chats, plays, and watches TV; in contrast, middle-class women want the simpler the kitchen as possible, and don’t want to worry about cooking. Yourself.

The most important room in the minds of blue-collar women is the dining room/kitchen. This is where they prepare meals for the family and rest in a daze. They need a variety of bright, joyful, and sturdy products to make them feel at ease. On the other hand, pieces of shiny electrical appliances are also a symbol of modernity and western style in the minds of many blue-collar workers.

At that time, SRI, a well-known American consumer motivation survey company, summarized the consumer tastes of the living room and home furnishings of the three major classes of society:

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

When a middle-class woman with a petty bourgeoisie style appears in a blue-collar family, it will give people a strong sense of contrast:

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The story illustration “The Rich Lady Came to My Kitchen” from the American version of the soulmate magazine “True Story” for blue-collar women

In the opposition of this taste, for a long time, the bright and sturdy blue-collar wind appliances have conquered the market. Because the market research at that time found that if the market penetration rate of mass consumer goods climbs from 35% to 65%, it is necessary to firmly grasp the taste of blue-collar families, especially blue-collar housewives.

On the surface, those bright and huge exteriors seem flashy. But in fact, the design of various electrical products has mostly realized the separation of appearance design and function realization. A survey conducted by Consumer Reports in the United States at the time indicated that many electrical appliances that were judged by designers as beautiful and vulgar in appearance were actually quite powerful.

Blue-collar women like big electric appliances, while blue-collar men like big cars. Because in the United States after World War II, cars have long been an indicator of social status. Blue-collar men will buy cars with distinctive interior and exterior decorations and domineering leaks to show their income and status.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The sharp and raised rear wing of the car was originally the favorite of the wealthy blue-collar Americans after World War II, and this preference later spread to other classes.

Among the various automobile categories, the most prominent blue-collar male is the larger and larger pickup trucks. This consumer hobby is increasingly “infected” to the upper-middle class of society who are greedy.

2. Why can blue-collar style lead mass consumption?

Blue-collar tastes guided the American consumer fashion in the 20th century, which is actually an anomaly in modern consumer commerce.

According to general experience, it is often the elite designers who define the new fashion. The upper-middle class consumers are the first to try it. After being screened by the market, it will gradually spread to other classes. These consumer fashions led by the middle and upper classes often symbolize style, wealth, and power, and because of this symbolism, they are followed by other classes.

It is rare that the blue-collar consumer culture of the United States has been able to influence the domestic and even the global consumer market so greatly . It benefits from the right time and place.

First of all, this has benefited from the tremendous increase in the income level of the American working class since the Industrial Revolution.

Before the 19th century, the living standards of American workers were not high. Ordinary American immigrant families in the 17th century often did not have basic items such as tables, oil lamps, and potty. They slept on the floor and grabbed food with their hands. Until the first half of the 19th century, the average life expectancy of Americans was only 38.5 years, and the average height of adult men was only 1.71 meters. Even the purchase of teapots and dining tables required federal luxury tax.

The famous pastor Duffield recalled that when guests visited when they were young, the children in the family had to hide in the bushes because they had no clothes to wear.

With the progress of the Industrial Revolution, mirrors, tables, chairs, and stoves gradually entered ordinary American labor families in the mid-19th century; more and more couples no longer need to squeeze a big bed with their parents and children, and no longer wear homespun clothes made by their mothers. More importantly, the production of agricultural products in the United States has become very abundant. Unfinished bread and corn paste can be used to feed pigs and dogs. This was unimaginable for European farmers at that time.

However, until the railway was established, ordinary people were still highly dependent on the shopkeepers who walked the villages and alleys for their consumption and shopping.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

A hawker who sells snake oil. William Rockefeller, the father of the oil tycoon Rockefeller, was a hawker of fake snake oil.

After the rise of railways, a variety of industrialized, pre-packaged cross-regional brand products have been able to enter thousands of households along with trains, mail order catalogs, and delivery workers.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

 Nabisco’s five-cent-a-box Uneeda biscuits (left) are one of the earliest railway pre-packaged foods; the raincoat kid logo symbolizes the ability of the biscuit box to be moisture-proof and waterproof. The company’s Oreo cookies (right) are also printed with the same cross holy ball logo

And the 20th century, the United States ushered in mass production (Mass Production’s) , mass marketing  (Mass Marketing) and consumer credit (Mass credit) era. Standard assembly line production provides mass-produced affordable products; radio, television, and newspapers provide large-flow marketing methods; and various credit services provide convenience for blue-collar borrowing and shopping in the United States.

These changes in production, marketing, and credit methods are all conducive to the popularity of blue-collar consumption with a large population and winning by quantity. However, different commodity categories rely on different paths.

Standardized scale production saved hamburgers, mass media marketing popularized jeans, and consumer credit support such as FHA mortgage insurance created a unique suburban blue-collar lifestyle in the United States.

3. The historical process of American blue-collar aesthetics

American burgers were invented no later than 1885, but almost all burger chains that have been passed down to this day, such as White Castle, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc., appeared after the 1920s.

This is because, before this, burgers have always been a kind of roadside stalls and diner food for blue-collar workers, and they are the cheapest ground beef products that ordinary people can eat. Because of this, the sanitary conditions of hamburgers have been worrying for a long time. News of hamburger patties spoiled, stained, borax and excessive sulfite-added “black meat” are constantly emerging.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

In 1905, reporter Upton Sinclair’s masterpiece “The Jungle” exposed the chaos in the meat industry at that time

In the food hygiene movement in the early 20th century, hamburgers became a target of public opinion. Many Americans no longer trust hamburger patties, and the later “Meat Inspection Act” and “Pure Food and Drug Act” were even more important. Strict supervision of hamburger meat.

In the 1921s, in order to “whitewash” the public image of burgers, Walter and Anderson opened a white castle burger restaurant with a visual feature of “white and clean”.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The first American hamburger restaurant chain uses an enamel hood exhaust system and stainless steel interior. The beef is supplied by a regulated butcher. The employees wear spotless uniforms and foldable paper hats and copy them to other branches.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

 The early menu of the White Castle Burger, with special emphasis on self-regulated and safe meat

The standardized and industrialized preparation and sales model of the White Castle Burger Restaurant has improved the hygiene and public image of Hamburg. Since then, follow suits have risen, and there are dozens of chain burger shops, such as white cottages, white domes, white fortresses, white mills, blue castles, red castles, silver castles, and prince castles. .

Before and after World War II, McDonald’s and other emerging hamburger shops used franchise operation to open stores, further turning the once blue-collar hamburger stall into a cross-state and transnational business.

If Hamburg’s “turnover battle” relied on standardized scale production, jeans, the blue-collar workwear of the year, became fashionable, and they benefited from the 20th-century mass communication and marketing media such as movies and television.

The emerging film and television media not only made jeans popular, but also fabricated the non-existent legendary image of “the hero of the old west in jeans”.

Jeans (Jeans) to the first association of contemporary people, it is probably the Old West era horse galloping, and then shot Yiyanbuge cowboy.

However, the traditional denim of the 19th century did not wear jeans.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

A real cowboy in leather pants in the 19th century

The current copper nailed jeans were actually not invented and patented until the 1870s, and they were only sold on a large scale in the 1880s. At this time, the era of open grazing in the Old West has basically ended. Barbed wire closed pastures, meat packaging plants, and railway networks have replaced the traditional cowboys who have been open to herding and driving cattle for thousands of miles.

The jeans invented at this time were dominated by sturdy denim and solid copper rivets. They were the favorite work clothes of western miners and factory workers. Jeans at that time tended to have wide waists and legs, and did not have the fashionable appearance of today.

It is a variety of Western movies since the 1920s that made jeans a standard feature of Western pioneers on the screen.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

In 1938, John Wayne wore Levi 501 jeans in “Flying across the Mountain” and quickly became popular. Wayne’s appearance largely defines the next generation of audience’s imagination of the cowboy image

After the western film ebbs, jeans have become a youth fashion with the help of youth rebellious films.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The 1955 movie “Rebellion Without a Cause”

Hamburgers, jeans, and a lot of small consumer goods loved by American blue-collar workers, such as biscuits and soda, have since become brand-name products that have swept the world. However, there are also some consumer products such as American rugged home appliances, pickup trucks, etc., and the consumption boom has always been limited to the United States.

The reason may be simple, because these big guys take up too much space, and only American blue-collars have large enough rooms/garages to install them.

Thanks to the support of free real estate transactions and preferential mortgage insurance, a huge class of suburban blue-collar workers who lived in their own houses and drove big cars emerged in the United States after World War II.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

The Federal Housing Management Association (FHA), established during Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1934, provides residents with government-insured housing mortgages. According to FICO credit points, applicants can purchase FHA-insured housing with a down payment as low as 3.5%

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

1954 portrait of a blue-collar family in the American suburbs

In the 1940s, the suburban population of the United States only accounted for 19% of the total population. By the 1960s, it had grown to 30%, and more than half of contemporary Americans (55%) lived in the suburbs.

Why can American blue-collar "earth taste" aesthetics spread all over the world?

According to Pew statistics, 55% of Americans live in suburban counties

The more spacious housing conditions allow American blue-collar workers to move large and gorgeous electrical appliances and tall and prestigious pickups into their homes according to their own “big and strong” aesthetic preferences. In the international market lacking these conditions, it is inevitable that these “big and strong” products often lose out to Japanese and other “small and refined” products.

Reference materials:

[1]Booker, K. M. (2012). Blue-Collar Pop Culture [2 volumes]: From NASCAR to Jersey Shore. Praeger.

[2]Fischer, C. S. (2010). Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character. University of Chicago Press.

[3]Nickles, S. (2002). More is Better: Mass Consumption, Gender, and Class Identity in Postwar America. American Quarterly, 54(4), 581–622.

[4]https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2018/05/22/demographic-and-economic-trends-in-urban-suburban-and-rural-communities/

[5]https://eh.net/encyclopedia/a-history-of-the-standard-of-living-in-the-united-states/

[6]https://www.vogue.fr/fashion/article/vogue-encyclopaedia-the-history-of-denim-jeans

[7]https://www.seriouseats.com/food-history-1904-worlds-fair-st-louis

[8]https://sourcingjournal.com/feature/top-denim-moments-film-jeans-grease-marlon-brando-daisy-dukes-252708/

This article comes from WeChat public account : Elephant Association (ID: idxgh2013) , author: Zhu Buhuan

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