It’s safe to say that gender roles have moved on quite a bit since the 1950s. Back then, women largely stayed home and kept house while men went out and earned a living. However, expectations were beginning to change during the decade itself, and some of the qualities girls desired in a husband may come as a big surprise.
When it came to finding the ideal husband, for women of the 1950s height was key. The perfect suitor had to be tall, with the optimum measurement seemingly being a nice, round 6 feet. Back in 1957 the average woman was 5 feet, 2 inches tall, meaning girls dreamed of having a man tower over them.
While many women today may dream of being swept off their feet by a tall, dark and handsome stranger, ladies in the 1950s had different tastes. For them, the ideal man would have had sparkling blue eyes. And according to some studies, there may be scientific evidence to suggest that people are generally more attracted to light eyes than dark ones.
Another highly prized attribute for women of the 1950s was athleticism. Being sporty in general was considered a big plus, and it didn’t really matter what a man’s specific preferred activity may be. However, that being said, according to a 1956 Life article basketball, baseball and football were the most popular sports girls had in mind for their future husbands.
While the perfect housewife was expected to work around her husband’s needs, women didn’t seek out domineering men. With that in mind, ladies would avoid a man who would crack the whip, so to speak. Instead, they wanted a more equal partnership, which was perhaps a sign that gender roles were already changing.
In line with new ideas about the modern man, women wanted to find a husband who was willing to help out around the house. In the 1950s, however, females were expected to take the lion’s share of household chores. As a result, even a little cooperation from the man of the house would probably go a long way.
Has a steady job
When women married 60 years ago, most of them gave up employment in order to fulfill the role of a housewife. With that in mind, many girls dreamed of bagging a husband with a reliable profession. After all, the whole family would rely on the man’s income to survive, so being able to provide for them was considered very important.
While raising a family on one income may seem like a stretch in this day and age, women didn’t expect men to keep a tight hold of their wallets. In fact, stinginess was considered an very unattractive attribute in a husband. Consequently, the perfect man of the 1950s would have been generous with his cash.
The 1950s are widely considered to be the Golden Age of Hollywood. So it’s little wonder that women took inspiration from the movies when it came to picturing their perfect man. One popular crush of the era was William Holden. Filmmaker Billy Wilder once said of the actor, “He was a genuine star. Every woman was in love with him.”
For women of the 1950s, a husband who could stand on their own two feet was highly sought after. While she was most likely expected to cook and for him, a girl valued a man with independence. Perhaps if the man of the house could think for himself it was one less thing for the woman to think about.
23 years of age
In 1956 Life magazine published the findings of a survey it had asked the National Field Service to complete. In it, they asked young females about their desired qualities in a spouse. And when the results came in, it seemed that 23 was deemed the ideal age of a potential suitor.
Men who were bossy were seemingly a big turn off for women 60 years ago. While popular TV shows of the day may have dictated that “Father Knows Best,” women didn’t like being told what to do by their husbands. With that in mind, maybe wives of the 1950s weren’t as subservient as small-screen stereotypes of the time would have us believe.
Values their opinion
While women valued men who were independent, they still wanted to have their say on important household decisions. As a result, girls wanted to marry a man who would value their opinion, or at least consult them before reaching an outcome. That way, married couples could figure things out together.
Another celebrity heartthrob of the era was Rock Hudson, and many women considered him to be perfect husband material. Handsome Hudson starred in a number of popular movies including Giant and All That Heaven Allows. But at the time his dedicated female following were unaware of the fact that he was actually gay.
Handy at repairs
While the home may have been considered a woman’s domain in the 1950s, wives nonetheless wanted their husbands to be of some use around the house. In particular, a man should be good at repairing things. Being adept at making stuff was also considered a plus, with woodworking cited as the respondents’ preferred hobby for their hubbies in the Life poll.
According to the 1956 Life article, “A basic occupation of virtually every woman is choosing a man to marry.” And in what was perhaps a sign of changing gender roles in the ’50s, girls didn’t want their husbands to treat them as if they were simply another possession. With that in mind, controlling men weren’t deemed to be attractive.
According to a survey carried out by dating site Elite Singles, reading is considered an attractive attribute. And that’s something women in the ’50s already knew. They desired a partner who was well-read. However, they didn’t want their men to get so lost in a book that they refused to help out.
By the late 1950s Elvis Presley had risen out of poverty to become one of the world’s biggest superstars. What’s more, his iconic good looks made him one of the era’s most enduring sex symbols. With that in mind, it’s little wonder that many women dreamed of becoming Presley’s wife.
The perfect date night during the 1950s almost certainly involved dancing. Women of the day loved the pastime, in fact, and they expected their husbands to be willing partners. But according to the Life poll, two-thirds of women were willing to put up with a man with no rhythm. As the article stated, “All she requires is that he try”
Indeed, women of the 1950s wanted their husbands to be sociable in general. Men who were unwilling to spend time with friends and family were considered a turn-off. However, conflicting marriage advice from the decade – as quoted by the Daily Mail advised wives to “make the evening his” and never resort to “complaining if he does not take you out.”
One of the more unusual attributes outlined in the Life article required men to be involved in civic matters. It was unclear what this meant exactly, but it perhaps suggested that women liked their men to take an interest in politics or helping out in the community. In general, then, it seems that husbands should have been model citizens.
Another public figure who women felt would make the ideal husband was Marlon Brando. Thanks in part to his roles in films including Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and The Wild One, the actor had somewhat of a bad boy image. And it seems the ladies couldn’t resist his rebellious charm.
Arrogance was considered a major turn-off for women in the ’50s. Instead, they wanted their future husband to have an air of modesty. And it seems that not much has changed in 60 years. Indeed, according to a Facebook post by True Love Dates, many women still find cockiness an unattractive characteristic in men today.
With that in mind, men with good manners were also appreciated by women of the 1950s. A rude husband was a big no-no. And it seems that dating was the perfect opportunity for males to prove their good etiquette, as it was considered proper for a man to ask his crush out, collect her at her door and ultimately foot the bill.
James Dean was yet another celebrity whom women found themselves daydreaming about in the 1950s. During his short-lived career, Dean acquired sex symbol status thanks to his cool demeanor. But, sadly, he wouldn’t see the decade out. He died aged 24 in an automobile accident in 1955.
Despite the pressures men had bear in providing for their families in the ’50s, girls still didn’t want their husbands to take life too seriously. Instead, they dreamed of sharing life with a jolly man. And in general, the decade offered people lots of things to smile about. For example, average incomes were on the rise and a new generation of household appliances were making life easier than ever before.
While women were expected to let their husbands take the lead in family business as head of the house, they didn’t want to share their life with tyrants. Consequently, being controlling was cited as a negative attribute by the girls who took part in the Life poll. Instead, wives expected a certain level of freedom.
It will probably come as no surprise to find that women of the 1950s expected their husbands to be honest. Being truthful is still considered an important component of a successful relationship today, of course. As a result, honesty remains high on the list of attributes people look for in their future spouse.
While he wouldn’t become president until 1961, during the 1950s John F. Kennedy made a name for himself as a handsome young senator. And while he was careful to show himself as a devoted family man, he also had a reputation as a womanizer. Nevertheless, ladies loved him, probably on account of his dashing good looks and undeniable charisma.
In the 1950s women wanted husbands who knew how to have a good time. And while plenty of difficult social issues were being tackled during the era, in general fun was easy to come by. For example, televisions were just beginning to take off and many families entertained themselves by crowding around their favorite shows.
While women were expected to look after matters in the home, having a man who could attend to the garden was definitely seen as a plus. Back then, one of the fashions was to fill your yard with quirky ornaments. So it may also have been beneficial for a man to have a good taste in gnomes.
The ideal husband should have a good education, according to the women who took part in the Life poll. Being learned was a highly-prized asset, so much so that some females enrolled in college simply to find the perfect man. As a result, some girls jokingly claimed they were “seeking an M.R.S. degree.”
Having a touch of the green-eyed monster wasn’t something that women of the time wanted from their potential husbands. Jealousy was considered an unattractive attribute by the women polled for the Life magazine article. Clearly, they wanted a man who was sure enough in himself not to have feelings of envy.
Another political figure women believed was good husband material in the 1950s was Dwight Eisenhower. The 34th President of the United States took office at the start of 1953 and would remain in power for the rest of the decade. A former Army general, he was responsible for the successful invasions in North Africa and Normandy during World War Two. And as president, he helped to bring peace to Korea.
In many ways, dating as we know it today was invented in the 1950s. And women of the day didn’t want the evenings out to stop when they finally found their perfect men. As a result, they hoped their husbands would take them out on the town, if not dancing then at least to dinner or the movies.
In keeping with their desire for an honest man, women of the 1950s didn’t want their husbands to be secretive. They much preferred full disclosure in their marriage, with their man laying it all out on the table. So while she was often left at home, she clearly expected her husband to fill her in with all the significant happenings of his day.
Women wanted their husbands to be chatty as well. Being talkative was cited as a plus in the Life poll. In fact, two-thirds of the girls who took part in the survey said that they would prefer a talker to a listener, but they themselves didn’t promise to be a good listener either.
While his reputation may have waned since, back in the ’50s Richard Nixon was considered a catch. Nixon would become president in 1969, but for much of the 1950s, he served under Dwight Eisenhower. And it appears that both men had quite a female following at the time.
Another asset on women’s checklists was someone with a cheerful disposition. A moody man simply wouldn’t do for many of the ladies quizzed by Life. So while the saying goes “happy wife, happy life,” it seems that a merry husband is just as essential to household harmony.
Future wives of the 1950s hoped for a husband who was clever. So intelligence was seen as a definite plus in a partner. However, the same cannot be said for the men of today. According to research by the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland, males aren’t attracted to bright women, unless they happen to be beautiful as well.
According to the Life survey respondents, the man who most resembled the ideal husband of the 1950s was Perry Como. However, the entertainer was seemingly far from perfect. An extract from the article read, “Como was chosen in spite of the fact that he does not fit all of the requirements nor all of the personal characteristics girls rate high. He is five feet nine-and-a-half inches tall instead of six feet. His eyes are brown instead of blue and he is not 23. He almost never washes dishes.”