The 1970s was not a classy decade – at least not for the pin-up world. The envelope was pushed and stretched, and everything came out. The name of the game was going boldly where no mainstream publication had dared to do.
As an overall theme for this decade, it was all about one upping what the other guy did. We touched last decade on the increasing “pubic wars” between Playboy and Penthouse. It was in this decade that Playboy decided to up the game and show full frontal nudity.
Technically, the first sighting of any hair was in August of 1969, when Paula Kelly, one of the first African-American models for playboy showed some slight glimpses of hair during a shoot. As an interesting side note, more outrage came from showing pubic hair than a black model – with criticism from black support groups on having the first pubic hair be on shown on a black woman. But in 1970, Penthouse decided to show full frontal nudity. And with that Playboy featured in 1972 Marilyn Cole as the first centerfold to bare it all.
The magazine game went down hill from this point – with each magazine trying to outdo the shocking displays that the other one featured. This continued to build until 1974 when Hustler magazine started. We now see a clear split in the market as Hustler and Penthouse go towards a more graphic approach to photographing nudes – helping to define the genre of Hardcore Pornography. Meanwhile, Playboy turned around and began to focus on the softcore aspect of the magazine, with particular attention towards quality articles.
On a separate note, we see that race acceptance has also been developing. The first inclusion of an ethnic model in Playboy was in the mid-sixties. By the 1970s, we see more and more ethnicity in the pages, seeing sexuality embracing the growing social and political acceptance of the time.
Stylistically, we also see the complete opposite style of the 30s and 40s. Instead of seeing highly made up women in glamour settings – we see a raw sort of beauty. Unkempt hair, loose clothing, and a care free attitude helped define the underdone beauty of the era.
Enough with the magazines, another huge influence was hitting the media: posters. The 1970s were the time for the poster girls, and a few stars shined like never before. Perhaps the most well know was Farrah Fawcett. This woman’s claim to fame sprung up with her lustful red swimming suit poster, setting an all time high pin-up poster sales record of over 20,000,000. Likewise, Sports Illustrated model, Cheryl Tiegs, had a poster that sealed her fame forever in pop culture. The power of the teenage fantasy and need for pretty girls helped redefine the pin-up genre and brought it back to its roots of mass produced pictures of pretty girls. The posters also helped push the careers of many of the poster girls – like Fawcett into the popularity of TV shows. But more on that next decade.