August 26, 2008

Ad slogan: "Keep that schoolgirl complexion"

This American ad campaign spanned at least 30 years, as far as I could document -- try to guess when. Surely it's sometime recent, given how "obsessed with youth" we are, right? Guess again: it started in 1924 and lasted at least until 1953, though probably not long after that. Was it some obscure product hawked only to a tiny niche audience? Guess again again: it was for Palmolive soap, one of the most popular soap brands, and the campaign was commented on in Time magazine. Check the results of this search to see some of the pictures and the Time reports.

Unfortunately I couldn't find pictures online for the next example, but Taschen's All-American Ads of the 30s has an ad for a make-up company called Seventeen that promises to make you look like a teenager again. It uses the word 'teen-age three times in case you didn't get the point. As before, it is a mass market product.

It's typical for skin products to sell "a more youthful look," and sometimes they even use numbers like "5 years younger" or "shave off 10 years." But those are relative numbers -- what number is the ideal age for her skin, the age where she would like her skin frozen forever? They never seem to mention that, aside from these two ad campaigns. Sure, you wouldn't sell well if your slogan was blunt, like "You looked hotter at 17." Still, contemporary ads -- Dove's "real beauty" being the worst offender -- allow women to delude themselves right into spinsterhood. It's high time for a return to tough love.

Nowadays, they'd send a "To Catch a Predator" team to any ad agency who thought of slapping such a slogan on a mainstream product, let alone name the company Seventeen when its audience is much older. And as I showed here, there has been an increasing trend in the age of Miss America winners from 1920 to today, and among Playboy Playmates of the Month since the late 1960s. So I don't know what women past their prime are complaining about -- they've never had better PR in human history. The mollycoddled cougars of today would be driven to suicide if they were surrounded by 1930s ads with their ubiquity of super-girly faces.

On a related note, ever wonder what Angelina Jolie looked like before she developed into a trannie? See here. Yeah, she still had a more masculine face than the average girl, but it doesn't look nearly as strong as it does now.


  1. Agnostic,

    You are right, of course, about a "theme" this blog has touched on over and over and over again.....

    Women from about 16-23 are at their "peak", irregardless of what Madison Avenue tries to sell us.

    It really is a shame our modern economic/social arrangements interfere with young women getting married at this time, when they are at their most valuable. At 18 is when a great many women just look utterly shiningly, glowingly beautific. They never get this back, no matter how much copper-infused-emu-oil-containing-moisturizing-coco-butter moisturizer and soap and vitamins they buy.

    Women dont realize (because the media lies to them) that they will never inspire romance to near the degree when they are 34 that they could have at 20 in a man.

  2. looking toward the distant future, is it possible the peak attractiveness age of women will increase as we become longer- and better-lived through sexual selection? that is, with women putting off childbearing until their 30s might there not be a sexual selection effect for particularly blessed women whose full beauty blooms later in life, or who retain their beauty/fertility for longer than the average woman?

  3. I think you get a more honest signal of "good genes" by looking at 40-somethings, just because they've been put to a stronger test. But by that time, it's too late to have kids -- let alone more kids than those cuties who had them during their 20s and 30s.

    Women who plan on looking good for a long time don't want to prematurely fuck that up by having kids, so I'd expect to see a dysgenic result, with the best-looking women not breeding at all.

    The only hope lies then with good-looking men -- they can pump out kids at a huge rate during their entire lifetime, and it doesn't impact their looks at all.

  4. Angelina Jolie has the kind of face that suffers particularly badly from a loss of babyfat. She just isn't that sexy anymore. However, she looked her best in her early to mid twenties, not as a teenager.

  5. I don't think so. I checked stills from her movies, and by 23 she already looks pretty harsh (as in Pushing Tin), getting worse after that. She still looked great at 21 in Mojave Moon, though.

    Here's her first photo shoot, when she was 16:


    Especially picture 9 -- much more beautiful than at 23 or older. It looks like her peak years were late teens and early 20s.

  6. "The only hope lies then with good-looking men -- they can pump out kids at a huge rate during their entire lifetime"

    But don't child support payments put a major crimp in this possibility? It seems like you would need not only good-looking men but wealthy good-looking men, with quite less than frugal dispositions. Maybe this would work with the sperm bank conceived population, the newspaper articles I've read on donors whose children number in the double digits invariably mention their good looks, but I'm guessing the size of this group is rather negligible compared to the rest of the population.

  7. The idea is that women would conceive with good-looking men opportunistically when they're ovulating, and have their provider support a cuckoo's egg.

    There's lots of evidence that human females pursue this strategy -- looking for a quickie with a "good genes" guy when they're most likely to conceive. The strongest predictor of female orgasm, that I've read, is the guy's facial symmetry, another codeword for how good-looking he is. How in love they are, etc., didn't matter.

    The orgasm reaction serves to suck the sperm into the uterus, increasing the chance of conception when the guy is good-looking.

  8. I meant paternity testing as part of the larger child support system. Cuckolding seems to be far more risky now, you have to be a rather dopey and servile provider to not follow up on your suspicions with a simple DNA test. I doubt cuckolding will totally disappear, but it seems like such technology should significantly constrain the practice, atleast in those countries where it is readily available.

  9. DNA testing will spread like nuclear technology -- everywhere because people will pay for it. So that's a new wrinkle in the risky strategy of cuckoldry. The downside is the man kills the woman and kid, and high tails it out of there, if the baby looks like Sir Sexalot or whatever.

    Given the anonymous nature of urban living, no real threat of relatives retaliation, and loss of religious/moral/social strictures, that is IMHO a real risk.

    But the biggest issue is time, not just pure attractiveness. The "European" way of love/marriage/children since oh say about AD 900 to well, 1968 or so, has been marriage to one girl in her mid/late teens, intense sex and ATTACHMENT on both partners, creating a lifetime bond. Peak attractiveness only lasts a short while, but the mutual bonds creating companionate love are potentially enormous.

    That's probably the "secret sauce" of European success post AD 900 or so, against the Viking, Muslim, Mongol, and other models it went up against. Lots and lots of "beta" guys intensely hooked up with their wives who could be called upon for intense sacrifices, and also lots and lots of resources, newer and ever better weapons, ways of fighting, systematizing, and so on.

    Compare the couple who got married at 18, and at 38 have spent 20 years intensely together, vs. the couple who spent that twenty years having sex with lots of other people. While there is no guarantee that any individual couple will succeed/fail, the aggregate tips decisively to the couple at 18.

  10. There's a pretty rich demographic literature showing that in Northwestern Europe, at least since 1500, women married *late* -- typically around 26, as low as 22 or 23 in good times, as high as 30 in bad times.

    The Medieval Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe until somewhat recently, had the pattern you're describing. But "Romeo and Juliet" did not exist in the North.

    The only exception I've found is that aristocratic English females tended to marry before 21, mostly between 13 and 18, around 1500.

    By now, it's probably partly genetic -- Northwestern girls are just less instinctively driven to older guys than are Southeastern girls.

  11. You are correct and probably about the year also that Palmolive began using the slogan "Gives you that schoolgirl complexion all over". My grandfather, Edward H. Pearson, wrote it. He worked for an agency on Madison Avenue in New York. I must consult my Mom for the name of the agency if she remembers it. Grampa Pearson died at age 54 in 1965. He served in the Army for four years during WWI and the NY Times had a story about him since he was shot in Europe, but the bullet was never removed, miraculously. I have a very vague memory of his gentle nature.


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