Buttoned-Up Britain

By common consent, Fifties Britain was a grim, buttoned-up time of austerity, grinding poverty, back-street abortions, bomb craters, back-to-back slums and hard labour for the love that dares not speak its name. People left their doors unlocked because they had nothing worth nicking. Suffocating social conformity and knowing your place ruled the barren and humourless post-war roost. Woe betide the unmarried girl who found herself in the family way or the boy caught with his willy in the wrong hands. Moral outrage came with razor-sharp teeth – rebel at your peril. It took the Swinging Sixties to loosen the corsets and un-stuff the shirts. Or did it? Take a look at this hilarious piece of 1951 social history from British Pathé News. Presumably shown in picture houses up and down the realm, it’s the campest thing I’ve seen all year. I wonder if any of these boys were caught with their willies in the wrong hands?

Thank you to I Should Be Living in Bora Bora for finding this little gem.

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17 thoughts on “Buttoned-Up Britain

  1. Woah! This is pretty racy in its understated way, fascinating clip. Thanks for moving my post-war stereotype of Britain into another realm!


  2. . You could play out all day as long as you were home for tea .suspected ” gay men ” were referred to as fairies or a ” bit effeminate . holidays in ” tin ” caravans at the ” sea side ” were fabulous . I had a great childhood in the fifties . Thanks for reminding me . Merry Christmas !


  3. Amazing who would of guessed all that campness was going on, thank you for sharing. I remember my Mother always talked about my Dads friend who was gay and how much fun they all had. I did not think much of it then but this has put a whole new perspective on it. Loved the commentary.. those names like Raymond, do people still name their children Raymond I wonder ?


  4. . . 1951 – I dreamed of stuff like this after the trunks my mother knitted for me got their first trip to the beach – after the first wave thay grew ten sizes and were round my ankles!


  5. I think someone should reintroduce these swim suits for today’s market. I wanna see sweet cheeks on the beach before I die. 🙂


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