While researching this month’s theme, I found a number of interesting or amusing newspaper clippings about “sheiks” that didn’t quite fit into my articles (or would’ve made them too long).
But since I like to share my joy, here’s a small collection covering various aspects of 1920s sheik culture. You might find these insights mighty similar to the public’s thoughts on flappers, too.
The use of “sheik” and “sheba” to describe hep teens seems to have grown in popularity very rapidly after the release of The Sheik in 1921 (as you know), and became a staple of contemporary slang until the early ’30s. Here’s an example from 1924–oh, those traffic-endangering young spooners!
As is to be expected, there was much concern over the fun-loving Flaming Youth zooming around town in fast cars. Some elders were convinced kids were headed down the road to perdition. A few were, shall we say, more blunt about this opinion than others:
Others associated the “sheik” with the disreputable sort of man who would lead young housewives astray, as seen in this columnists’ essay:
Apparently at least one high school banned the “side burns and baggy trousers” look (a la Valentino), thinking the lounge lizard style made their schools look bad, more or less:
“…Scarlet insertion, ribbons and ornamental buttons on trousers of the male were hereafter to become a scene disgusting in the eyes of the student”. Tell me how you really feel, Organization for Reform in Men’s Dress at the School State!
Indeed, President Coolidge himself felt compelled to weigh in on the topic:
Of course, plenty of people had no problem with the “sheik” trend, such as this gal (and no, it’s not your eyes, this clipping’s pretty fuzzy):
“In 1908 we never worried about the morals of the ‘young people.’ And goodness me, there isn’t any reason why we should be worrying today.” (I daresay articles like this would surprise many modern folks who think everyone in the past all thought the exact same way. Nuance, my friends–it always existed.)
Another letter writer who is for ’em:
I detect some sarcasm in the following of-its-time article (if you don’t spend much time looking through vintage newspapers you might not know that journalists lived off of sarcasm and snark). Good golly, imagine what today’s Portlandia would think of this:
Hollywood was also hoping to deter sheiks (and their shebas), but for more practical reasons:
Something tells me not all sheiks dreamed of getting a construction job in L.A. over a “glamorous” stint in motion pictures, regardless of how useful it might be.
This is fun. An advice column included the following letter from a young bride-to-be, praising her sweetheart from going from “parlor sheik” to “a real man”–notice that there’s apparently a difference!
Aww–whoever Blondy Bob and her fiance were, I hope they had a happy life together–sounds like they were off to a hopeful start! (And you didn’t need to get that dig in about “missing your girlhood,” advice lady.)
A peek into the travails of dance-loving high schoolers with, courtesy of this clipping. Includes a whimsical touch of regional dialect:
Speaking of dancing, I love this ad:
Let’s end with this comic strip found in an article by Lucy Laird, which didn’t quite fit anywhere else but really needs to be enjoyed:
That’ll do! One more Sheik Month post is on the schedule–I better get typing!