Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerismby Thomas Frank
Pub. Date: 12/28/1997
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
The most evocative and representative symbol of the 1960s is its youth counterculture. Yet as we learn in Thomas Frank's fascinating and revealing new study, the youthful revolutionaries were joined--and even anticipated by--such unlikely allies as the advertising industry and the men's clothing business. In both areas, each an important pillar of fifties conservatism, the utopian, complacent surface of postwar consumerism was smashed by a new breed of businessmen who openly addressed public distrust of their industries, who recognized the absurdity of consumer society, who made war on conformity, and who, by the decade's end, had settled on youth rebellion and counterculture as the symbol of choice for their new marketing vision.
In the fifties, Madison Avenue had deluged the country with images of clear-eyed junior executives in fedoras, happy housewives baking perfect cakes, and idealized families in gloriously tailfinned American cars. But during the "creative revolution" of the sixties, Frank shows how the ad industry turned savagely on the very icons it had created, debunking the Detroit automobile in the Dodge Rebellion, celebrating irrepressible youth with the Pepsi Generation, and imagining brands as signifiers of rule-breaking, defiance, difference, and revolt. Meanwhile the menswear industry, erstwhile maker of staid, unchanging garments, began ridiculing its own traditions as remnants of intolerable conformity and discovered youth insurgency as an ideal symbol for the colorful fashions it hoped to introduce. Thus, the strategy of co-opting dissident style that is so commonplace in today's hip, commercial culture emerged.
Focusing on such advertising campaigns as those for Volkswaagon, Volvo, and Virginia Slims, the Dodge Rebellion, the Pepsi Generation, and the rise of GQ magazine, Thomas Frank demystifies Sixties counterculture while regaling readers with the curious history of co-optation.
Accessibly written in Frank's engaging and energetic style, The Conquest of Cool is a thorough, enlightened history of advertising as well as an incisive commentary on the evolution of American sensibility. Exposing a part of the cultural revolution that was ubiquitous but largely invisible, Frank adds detail to a part of the sixties canvas that has remained blank, while pointing the way toward a reconsideration of an almost mythic decade.
- University of Chicago Press
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- 5.75(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Table of Contents
1. A Cultural Perpetual Motion Machine: Management Theory and Consumer Revolution in the 1960s
2. Buttoned Down: High Modernism on Madison Avenue
3. Advertising as Cultural Criticism: Bill Bernbach versus the Mass Society
4. Three Rebels: Advertising Narratives of the Sixties
5. "How Do We Break These Conformists of Their Conformity?": Creativity Conquers All
6. Think Young: Youth Culture and Creativity
7. The Varieties of Hip: Advertisements of the 1960s
8. Carnival and Cola: Hip versus Square in the Cola Wars
9. Fashion and Flexibility
10. Hip and Obsolescence
11. Hip as Official Capitalist Style
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