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Plaza Magazine UK & Europe - - CONTENTS - BY Karl eirik haug

A per­fect pic­ture of the best car re­views from Nor­way.

“I col­lect car ads”: not the great­est rev­e­la­tion if you want to make a hit at din­ner par­ties, true. But that’s what I do – and have been do­ing – ev­ery day, all my life since I was ten: I col­lect car ads. I would wan­der with my back­pack from car dealer to car dealer all over Scan­di­navia and later the rest of the world. I cut out ev­ery imag­in­able car ad­vert from new and vintage men’s mag­a­zines. The of­fice is burst­ing at the seams with them. So what is the con­clu­sion af­ter all these years and tons of glossy car pho­to­graphs? Well: us men used to dress bet­ter. “Used to” clearly means in the six­ties, when the car be­came se­ri­ously de­moc­ra­tized. Trousers were never creased. Shirts al­ways looked freshly ironed. Nowa­days male mod­els in car com­mer­cials on film and TV look as if they have been un­trained: three-day stub­ble, un­brushed hair, hun­gover ex­pres­sion. Some call it in keep­ing with the times, but from a purely bac­te­ri­o­log­i­cal point of view it’s not far from con­ta­gious de­cay. The car is still among the main pos­ses­sions – and sta­tus sym­bols – peo­ple in­vest in, apart from a house. Pos­ing be­side your car is best done in clean, beige trousers, not scuzzy jeans. Cars and clothes have a long history in com­mon. Dur­ing the roar­ing twen­ties it was al­most ex­clu­sively the com­bi­na­tion of women and cars in the ads. Whether it was His­pano-suiza, Horch, Packard, Volvo or Ford. When colour pic­tures were still not too com­mon the fo­cus moved to the de­sign of the car. Later on the colour of the woman’s dress would match the car. Dur­ing the fifties and the cold war the male model came to dom­i­nate: cars went from be­ing a sport, rich men’s play­things, to be­ing like any old piece of cloth­ing. With­out a car you were not a real man. The brochures and ads that I have col­lected from the six­ties show un­usu­ally well pressed leg­wear and shirts. Leaf­ing through the old mag­a­zines in my of­fice – like Play­boy or Gen­tle­man’s Quar­terly, I find some ad­verts that might help to clear up the mys­tery. “Car trousers”. ”Car pant – easy iron pants for driv­ing”. The ad­vert prom­ises that the trousers will look just as great when you ar­rive in New York as when you left Chicago. Car travel – and tourism as a whole – is not some­thing that has been as­so­ci­ated with nice clothes. Mod­ern tourists travel shame­lessly in baggy beach shorts and creased, sweaty t-shirts. Car trousers or car pants were a fan­tas­ti­cally pop­u­lar phe­nom­e­non that has now al­most dis­ap­peared. Polyester was the so­lu­tion to lots of hours be­hind the wheel. The an­swer to why men looked so good in car ads from the six­ties: polyester. For­get linen, cot­ton and wool. Polyester does not breathe. It smells by the end of the jour­ney. Some­times it stinks. But who cares – it al­ways LOOKS good. The fash­ion in­dus­try dis­cov­ered car trousers, the crease-proof, rust-proof so­lu­tion for ev­ery­one who has to sell some­thing when they ar­rive at their des­ti­na­tion. The car was the Face­book of its age. The car in­dus­try, on the other hand, rust-treated their prod­ucts with­out be­ing able to save them from the rav­ages of time. When an oth­er­wise stylish Cadil­lac El­do­rado ar­rived at its jour­ney’s end it was not only dirty but also had holes in it from rust and other wear and tear. Late in the sev­en­ties both men and women dis­ap­peared from car ads. Af­ter the oil cri­sis in the au­tumn of 1973 the pho­to­graphs be­came less funky, more sober. Noth­ing more nor less than a sim­ple “pack­shot”. From then on the car was more or less the prop­erty of the bank. Let us there­fore linger a while, and en­joy the pic­tures from the time when men still had style by the mile. The guys in the pic­tures, usu­ally mod­els – have done them­selves up to match a twotone prod­uct of which a fair part con­sists of plush, leather, chrome and vinyl. Now that the mo­tor­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is mon­i­tored, with po­lice speed cam­eras be­tween Gothen­burg and Stock­holm, it does not feels as mas­cu­line as it did. You can’t even smoke in the car. So why get all tarted up like they do in the HBO se­ries Mad Men? My­self I want to carry on col­lect­ing old car ads and shar­ing the plea­sure with as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. It does not do any­one any harm and some­thing good does come of it: the pic­tures re­mind me of how I can dress in a less slovenly way.

Well-dressed in an Oldsmobile ad the six­ties.

Nor­we­gian Karl Eirik Haug is the founder and editor-inchief of Carl’s Cars, the well­known car mag­a­zine.

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