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Bearded Men of the 21st Century (1939)

The February 1, 1939 issue of Vogue ran this photo of the 21st Century man. The caption appears below. The picture can also be found in the book Exit to Tomorrow: World's Fair Architecture, Design, Fashion 1933-2005.

Gilbert Rhode banishes buttons, pockets, collars, ties. The man of the next century will revolt against shaving and wear a beautiful beard, says the designer of boilers, pianos, clocks, and metal furniture. His hat will be an an antennae - snatching radio out of the ether. His socks disposable, his suit minus tie collar and buttons.

See also:
Closer Than We Think! Throw-Away Clothes (1959)
Disposable Clothes Just Around Corner (1961)
Futuristic Hairdo Hit Women Like New Atom Bomb (1948)
Waitress of the Year 2000 (1939)
Fashion Wired for Sound in Year 2000 (1957)


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Reader Comments (27)

Here's some contemporary commentary by writer S. J. Perelman:

"On this man's head Mr. Rhode places an "Antenna Hat", rather similar in design to the coils of a copper still: 'It snatches radio and Omega waves out of the ether - here, at last, is man's opportunity to escape from the deadly monotony of the twentieth-century male hat.' The delightful prospect of having Guy Lombardo playing about your head and ears is enough to stir the pulse of the most apathetic."

"Mr. Man of Tomorrow will further wear a modish surtout called the Plastivest, fasioned of Plexiglass - two words, incidentally, which I will thank Mr. Rhodes to tow out to sea and burn at his earliest convenience...the feet, presumably with streamlined bunions, are to be encased in nothing more or less than congress gaiters 'with pores just large enough for air, but too small for water': and, finally, men will have returned to wearing long hair and marcelled beards in the fashion of Artaxerxes. 'And perhaps we shall find a few platinum blondes, too,' murmurrs Mr. Rhodes engagingly."


January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I think I could take him.

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersir jorge

That gap between the shoes and the pants though, so unbecoming! Tsk, tsk.

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

For 1939, this man's hair is extremely long, and long hair back then was associated with the age of chivalry, pirates, and musketeers. For modern times, hair was neat and trimmed, and slicked. Modern times demand hygiene and conformity.

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLonghair

Why the hell AREN'T we dressing like that now?

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Is that a wok ring on his head?

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAntinous

I have a beard, I don't wear a tie, and my wife makes me throw away my socks when they all too often get holes in them. The future is here!

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

So what is it with futurists and pockets anyway? I remember Gene Rodenberry never passed up an opportunity to mention that people in the 24th century wouldn't need pockets. Did having pockets used to be some sort of icon of lower-class impoverishment?

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris Wren

How are you supposed to carry around your bottle of hooch and a couple frogs without pockets! Silly futurists.

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

so they thought it'll still be hammer time....

January 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpoint

Looks more like the 2020 version of the Middle Eastern suicide bombers. "For the extremists on the go!"

January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

'with pores just large enough for air, but too small for water'


January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

My thought was -- "It's the president of Iran!"

January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Muhlberger

Yeah, the Gore-tex prediction is startling spot-on.

On the other hand, it takes a real imbecile to combine a refusal to shave with a turtleneck shirt...

January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

Wow, there is a great skit from a 90s comedy show The State, called "The Bearded Men Of Space Station 11". (Here's a" REL="nofollow">link). I had no idea that there was a real precedent of mixing futurism and beards.

January 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

they got wearing sweat pants in public right but the bling is usually around the neck instead of the waist.

January 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershahn

"Duty Now For The Future!" -- Devo

January 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbuzz

On pockets, or lack thereof:

I think the lack of pockets on these outfits is a result of the "streamlining" aesthetic of Art Deco, which was a huge influence on a lot of "futuristic" designs. The sleek, uninterrupted surfaces of aerodynamic surfaces found on ocean liners and trains were put on every consumer object imaginable, whether or not aerodynamic lines were practical for them (a radio doesn't really have problems with air resistance). The whole point was that these things looked faster, more modern, and more efficient. So, the designers of these futuristic costumes have "streamlined" the outfits to make them look more modern and functional, not actually be functional.

January 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdeath-worm

Substitute ear-mounted cell phone for the antenna array and we're actually pretty damn close.

January 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShrike58" REL="nofollow">This video clip actually shows the bearded future man right at the end.

January 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAaron T.

As the Star Trek world had no money, keys (automatically opening doors), pens/notebooks (padds) or watches (just ask the computer for the time) there was no need for pockets. I remember Commander Riker was carrying around a tiny transponder gadget once - he had to stick it in his boot!

March 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Osama Laden: Fashion Designer
London-Paris-New York

November 22, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

My favorite bit is the disposable socks. Like, with everything else involved, sock quality came into question. Ha!

April 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcheline

Looks like some kind of space age harem guard.

January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

"a radio doesn't really have problems with air resistance"

The Art Deco era coincided with the first era that mass-produced goods were cheaper than domestic help - as the Depression worsened, middle-class families had to let the maid go; when it loosened, more working-class families could afford good design.
Streamlined household fixtures were easier to dust (and keep clean generally) than the old heavily decorated ones.

January 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternlpnt

Bushy goatee, a turtle neck, and high waiter pants? The people of the future will be nerdy beatnicks?

Cool Daddio.

I for one welcome our bongo overlords.

February 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSheikh Jahbooty

If it wasn't for the harem pants I'd do him.

November 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpaceyG

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