In the 1950s, Count Igor Cassini Loiewski, a Russian-American gossip columnist who penned the Cholly Knickerbocker column for the Hearst newspaper chain, famously coined the term “jet set” to chronicle the international comings and goings of café society. Long before air travel was commonplace, taking flight was the height of chic — and the rich and famous dressed the part, ready for their paparazzi shot.
In the new book Come Fly With Me: Flying in Style (Rizzoli New York), author Jodi Peckman takes us back to the golden age of air travel and traces the golden thread to the present day, bringing together a host of celebrities snapshots that showcase the best in airplane ensembles.
“My interest in these kinds of images started with a photo of Paul and Linda McCartney arriving at the airport in the early 1970s. I loved everything about it. A look at a famous family in such a public space, they seem so natural. They are not posing, they don’t look overly self-conscious, and their style is fabulous,” Peckman writes in the book’s preface of a 1971 black and white photograph made at London’s Heathrow Airport included in the book.
“In fact, all these photographs I’ve collected have incredible style. For me, it’s an interesting, unique way to look at fashion through the last fifty years. Whether the subjects are strutting through the terminal as if in a runway show or consciously masking themselves from the paparazzi, all of them have a stylish, whimsical quality.”
The Fine Art of Flight
Whether it’s a snap of Marilyn Monroe snuggled in fur while descending the stairs of a plane onto the tarmac at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in 1959, the Jackson Five in a symphony of majestic afros, wide lapels, and plaid trousers strolling confidently through Heathrow in 1972, or Joan Collins dressed in a smart white suit with purse and hat to match while an airport valet wheels five pieces of her monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage, it is clear that celebrities of yore enjoyed playing to the public and to the press, firmly embracing the fact that stardom required them to always be at their best.
As the book reveals, it’s a notion that has lost some steam as the years progress, much like the glamour of air travel itself. As the airlines began cutting corners, packing people into what ostensibly feels like a coach bus with wings, the panache of air travel became less appealing to all but the most dedicated style queens. “I personally go to the airport looking like a homeless person, because I think people will leave me alone. But I dress myself with my luggage—all my luggage matches,” Andre Leon Talley is quoted as saying in the book.
No longer the center of glamour, the airport remains a fascinating place to people watch, taking in a wide cross-section of humanity. As fashion editor Carine Roitfeld observes, “Sometimes when you go to the airport and look at the people, you see the worst looks—but the worst looks can give you more ideas than the best looks.”
By Miss Rosen
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer focusing on art, photography, and culture. Her work has been published in books, magazines, including Time, Vogue, Aperture, and Vice, among others.
Come Fly With Me: Flying in Style, by Jodi Peckman, published by Rizzoli New York, $29.95. Available here