Jamie Brenner on The Year America became Sexy
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I have to admit I was late to catch Downton Abbey fever. While the show captured the imagination of my friends who typically reserved such passion for books, I was distracted by my own obsession with that particular historical era. My focus, however, was on this side of the pond: 1920s Manhattan, the dawn of the jazz age, flapper dancers, and, of course, Prohibition. This is the setting of my novel The Gin Lovers, and before I’d written one word, I was convinced this was the all-time sexiest decade. Here are the top reasons why:
Alcohol was illegal – Prohibition doesn’t sound like fun, but the truth is, when things are forbidden, they are that much more enjoyable. And danger is sexy: what could be more fun on a date than sneaking to a forbidden speakeasy, giving a password for admittance only to wonder if the night will end with a police raid.
Flappers – The word “Flapper” is supposedly derived from the image of birds spreading their wings and learning to fly. Whether that is true or not, it is a fitting metaphor for the women of the 1920s who, for the first time, wore dresses with hemlines above the knee, revealed bare arms, wore the highest heels to date (up to three inches), and did away with the chignon in favor of chic bobbed haircuts. Also, thanks to advances in cosmetics, flappersdebuted the bee-stung lips and khol-rimmed eyes we still hold as the “sexy” ideal to this day. (At least, I know I do!)
Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgeral – The author of The Great Gatsby and his wife, Zelda, were the Brangelina of their time. The couple’s every move was chronicled in the tabloids, and personally, I would have loved to live in a decade when writers were the hottest couple on the planet.
Art deco – The visual design style of art deco from interiors to jewelry design to architecture was brash and colorful. For the first time, the exterior world started to look flashy, and kind of hot.
Jazz music – Instead of the upstairs/downstairs vibe of Downton Abbey, the jazz clubs gave the denizens of New York an uptown/downtown experience of culture. A shared love of jazz brought people of all classes and races together in a social setting in an unprecedented way.
Women got to go to the polls. (No, not the poles -- that's what we consider hot today.) In 1920, women got the right to vote in this country. There’snothing sexier than a woman who thinks for herself and has a voice in society. Thanks, 1920s!
Finally, it should come as no surprise that the term “sexy” was coined in 1923 for heartthrob Rudolph Valentino. All things considered, not only were the twenties the first sexy decade, but in my book, the all-time sexiest decade.
Jamie Brenner’s 1920s historical novel The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press), will be out in paperback on February 12. Jamie writes erotic romance under the name Logan Belle, including the trilogy Blue Angel (Kensington), Bettie Page Presents: The Librarian (Pocket Star/Simon & Schuster), and the upcoming Miss Chatterley. She lives in New York City. For more, please visit www.jamiebrenner.com or follow her@jamieLbrenner.