This is a repost of a blog from 2011 on our sister project, Hinges of History.
The World War II-era pin-up art is quite amazing. It’s no surprise that scholars like Walt Reed have dubbed the era “the golden age” of the pin-up. Think about it: pin-ups were everywhere, from magazines like Esquire to the noses of planes to even personal snapshots (check out our friend Maria Elena Buzek’s fascinating book Pin-Up Grrls for a discussion of that phenomena). The director’s mother – the WAVE who inspired this project – had a collection of drawings she did during the war era of women in pin-up guise. They were everywhere.
This is a recruitment poster for the WAVES and SPARs done by pin-up artist George Petty. Petty was the “establishment” when it came to pin-ups – he pretty much created the famous Esquire pin-up centerfolds. But when he left the magazine in 1940, his role was taken over by an young upstart, Antonio Vargas. His pin-ups (dubbed “Varga Girls”) made the Petty pin-ups look tame by comparison: buxom, long legs, tiny waists – to contemporary eyes a combination of Barbie doll and Playboy centerfold.
This image came from a calendar Esquire ran during the war – which featured a WAVE-to-be. The poem alongside her reads:
I’m going to join the Navy WAVES and help the war to halt, and also show my Navy beau that I am worth my “Salt!”
Vargas also did the SPARs recruitment poster, below.