Won't you wear my ring around your neck? & other adorable "vintage" expressions of love.
January 4, 2013 7:26 AM   Subscribe

What are some obscure traditions or gestures that people used to express their love for one another in the 1920s-1950ish that are no longer really practiced?

What are some sweet, yet obscure gestures and expressions of love that people in the past used to do for one another when they were in relationships or dating?

Looking for things that are no longer typically done. Think: wearing your boyfriends school ring on a necklace or wearing his varsity jacket...only even more random than that.

I feel like the 1920s, especially, had a lot of little quirky romance related traditions for people to show that they were in love with each other or that they "belonged" to each other. I know I've read articles on this but I'm totally blanking this morning and can't think of any.

I tried google but I keep getting wedding ideas. I figure the smart people of ask mefi will be able to help.

p.s. I'm looking for inspiration for a jewelry craft project. Ideas don't have to be jewelry based, though. Just looking for concepts.

Thanks in advance!
posted by twoforty5am to Human Relations (38 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Writing "SWAK" (sealed with a kiss) across the flap of an envelope.
posted by HotToddy at 7:27 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Buying the wife a vacuum cleaner.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Putting the stamp on an envelope upside-down.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Locks of hair were a definitely a thing, albeit in even earlier times.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:33 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Giving someone your fraternity pin.
posted by xingcat at 7:33 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

My grandmother explained the tradition of bringing your needle and yarn to class and knitting a pair of socks for your beau as the way to inform the other students in class that you're taken and it's serious. While it is an expression of love, however, it isn't an expression of love toward your intended, more of an announcement or status.
posted by horizonseeker at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Little House books are full of girls being given rides home from church in the buggy of their admirer.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:38 AM on January 4, 2013

The Claddagh ring "code"? It's probably still being done by teenagers in Boston, at least, but it seems a bit old-fashioned.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:45 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sharing a malt with 2 straws. Naming your car after your girlfriend. Perfumed letter.
posted by The Deej at 7:49 AM on January 4, 2013

Playing somebody a love song on a piano.
A bunch of old Scottish traditions for weddings here.
posted by rongorongo at 7:49 AM on January 4, 2013

Well you used to be able to slide over on the seat and sit next to your boyfriend while he drove.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:50 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

Lavaliers, serenades.
posted by apparently at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Sailor's valentines
posted by neroli at 7:52 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all fantastic and exactly what I had in mind! Thank you! Keep 'em coming?
posted by twoforty5am at 7:56 AM on January 4, 2013

I was in college in the late 80s and lavaliers and pinning were still totally a thing in the greek world. I have the memory of being tied to my wife's sorority house porch mostly naked, covered in old food, in winter, in Indiana, while being serenaded by the girls, as a reminder of the event. And I've been watching Greek via Netflix, which is greek life in the cell phone age, and pinning is still depicted as part of greek life there too.

Given how slowly a lot of less admirable traditions in greek life are changing, I'm fairly certain pins and lavaliers are still an important part of it.
posted by COD at 7:58 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Carving initials in a tree.
Actual hand written notes (texts are NOT the same! no matter what you kids say!)
posted by HuronBob at 7:59 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

The carving and gifting of wooden lovespoons has been popular in Wales for centuries. Gold, silver and pewter jewellery has additionally been popular in this century.
posted by humph at 8:18 AM on January 4, 2013

my mother (teen in the late 50s) seems really fixated on the notion of a fuzzy sweater -- that a guy would give a fuzzy (say, angora) sweater to his sweetheart as a gesture of affection. (maybe indicating an interest in feeling her up? who knows.)

I think that the colors of flowers, especially roses, were still important in the time frame you're looking at -- less so than during the Victorian era, of course, but still, white roses for innocence, pink for affection, red only for serious love . . .
posted by acm at 8:22 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wearing the guy's ID bracelet; the bracelets themselves are a thing of the past.
May baskets (also for friendships)
posted by jgirl at 8:30 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Well you used to be able to slide over on the seat and sit next to your boyfriend while he drove."

This reminded me of an idiosyncratic but excellent one: My college roommate's father was dating a girl when seatbelts started to be a thing. He had a boat of a Buick with no seatbelts, and she kept hassling him to get seatbelts installed for safety's sake. He finally gave in and had two seatbelts installed: One in the driver's seat, and one in the middle of the front bench seat. So she could belt in, but only if she sat right next to him where he could keep his arm around her. Things escalated rapidly from there.

Forty years and two children later, they were still married!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:45 AM on January 4, 2013 [20 favorites]

Candy and flowers when greeting a date.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:56 AM on January 4, 2013

Pins/lavaliers/serenades were part of the greek system when I was at (huge, greek-dominated, tradition-heavy) university in the early 90s, but although we did them, they were sort of winked at as charming anachronisms rather than activities of the current age.
posted by apparently at 9:00 AM on January 4, 2013

There were kiosks where people could put messages onto records which they could give to their partners -- see the novel Brighton Rock (1938) by Graham Greene and the film that was produced from it.

Although the cabinet card had fallen out of favour by the date range that you specify, I believe that giving professionally-printed photographs was still quite popular.
posted by Bare Ruined Choirs at 9:05 AM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Carrying a girl's books home from school.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:19 AM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Before American agriculture became large-scale and mechanized teenagers on farms would hold "husking bees" to husk the ears of corn out of their husks by hand. The custom was that if you found an ear with red kernels (common before the hybridization of corn; this was open-pollinated stuff) you got to kiss your sweetheart.
posted by werkzeuger at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

small_ruminant: Carrying a girl's books home from school.

Great example. And it ties in interestingly with this recent MeFi post on the short history of the backpack, as I knew about this custom as a child, but I couldn't figure out for the life of me why the girl didn't just have a backpack like a normal person.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2013

When it was unheard of for a woman to pay for a dinner out or some other date that cost money, the expectation in the etiquette guides was that she would reciprocate in other, non-monetary ways (no, not like that--get your mind out of the gutter). Acceptable reciprocity might include taking your sweetheart a pie or cookies, packing a picnic lunch for the two of you, or perhaps once you are engaged to be married, cooking a meal for him.
posted by decathecting at 9:54 AM on January 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

My father used to put masking tape on his back spelling out my mother's name when he was tanning. Apparently, this was a thing in the early 60s.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:13 AM on January 4, 2013 [11 favorites]

Bunny Ultramod: I really hope you have a picture of that! Not to share here - just because.
posted by COD at 10:24 AM on January 4, 2013

fraternity pin and given rides home from church in the buggy of their admirer both a big deal.

True story to illustrate: (1940's): A young coed was wearing a fella's fraternity pin. She was waiting for the bus one day when a car pulled up to the stop. The passenger was a (male) classmate and the driver was also a student, recently returned from the war. Despite being pinned to another, she took the ride - the driver was hella handsome!

The pin was returned poste-haste. The wedding to the driver was six months later. Ten months after that, my mother was born.
posted by pointystick at 10:50 AM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

Bread and Butter
posted by Thorzdad at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2013

FWIW, pinning, lavaliers and serenades are indeed still a thing in Greek life - a friend's daughter was just engaged through the traditional progression at college. When I was in college it was a big deal when my boyfriend let me borrow/wear/permanently reside in his Greek-lettered sweatshirt. That said we were a couple (though not engaged.)

Claddagh rings are also very much still a thing - a friend recently divorced replaced his wedding ring with an outward-oriented Claddagh ring.

Has anyone mentioned wearing a guy's letter jacket, of the varsity variety?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:41 AM on January 4, 2013

Has anyone mentioned wearing a guy's letter jacket, of the varsity variety?

I can assure you, this is still a very common practice in high schools across the country.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:04 PM on January 4, 2013

During WWII, my grandfather made my grandmother a ring out of a quarter during downtime. Now that they are both gone, this ring is one of my family's most valuable keepsakes.
posted by lstanley at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2013

My grandfather bemoaned the loss of silver coinage. A boy could take a silver coin and over time with patience round down the edge using the back of a metal spoon as a hammer and then drill out the middle to make his sweetheart a silver ring.

Sharing the Rumble Seat.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:14 PM on January 4, 2013

Sweetheart Jewellery was a thing.

Mizpah jewellery is something I used to collect, though most of what's around is Victorian (and I also love Posie rings, and other rings with sentiment, and have seen them from every era - they weren't always just for romance.)

I have found Dearest and Regard rings from all ages.

The Language of Flowers is still practiced.

There was Lover's Eye jewellery - creepy and cool.

Prince Albert was an (excellent/awful - depending on your taste) giver of custom-made thoughtful and sentimental jewellery and other things to Queen Victoria. As she mourned him, she set the fashion in jewellery and sentiment - jet, and anything dark often carved symbolically was something that became the fashion, and still the custom of others. When she moved into wearing silver, then you see some really sweet things - ivy for "forever", hearts and arrows, hearts with padlocks, and other sweet symbols. Those darn Victorians were really really sentimental. Hair jewellery, portraits and cameos - not all of it had to do with mourning.

Love Knots are also a thing
in jewellery - particularly the Knot of Hercules.

There's always the classic name tattoo...

And, back in my day, we would call up a DJ and dedicate a song to the guy we had a crush on.
posted by peagood at 7:06 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Dedicating songs, yes (this was the 70's, mind). And corsages were a big deal at prom/grad for me in the late 70's/early 80's, but they were an anachronism from another age.

And love letters. I don't know if people do still write love letters, but I have several folded away; they're actual physical markers of the relationship.
posted by jrochest at 3:12 AM on January 5, 2013

Candy and flowers when greeting a date were mentioned, but that still occurs (is fairly expected) in many of the circles I'm familiar with.

Also, yes, people still write love letters. Even those in my daughter's generation do so.
posted by _paegan_ at 10:45 AM on January 5, 2013

« Older Old friends, babysitting, child with special needs...   |   Tips for napping? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.