Good etiquette is something that society has nearly always strived for. This set of rules guides everyone on how to act in a social setting, eliminating awkward interactions and avoiding embarrassment (for the most part). But as the world changes, so do the rules and how we expect each other to act. These outdated etiquette rules provide a fascinating glimpse into our cultural history...
Weird & Forgotten Etiquette Rules That You Don’t Hear Of TodayPublished 2 months ago
In a 1938 issue of the Mademoiselle magazine, an article outlined a number of ways that young college-bound women could attract potential male suitors. One of these was to have flowers delivered to their dorms (sent by their moms, of course).
It was thought that this would make the ladies seem like they were ‘in demand’ and the young men around them would become more interested and motivated to make their move. The magazine also suggested that girls turn off the lights in their rooms so it would look like they were out at night — even if they were actually home.
During the Victorian times, couples who were engaged to be married had a long list of rules they were expected to follow in their relationship — some of which would be laughed at today. It was important to those of good social standing that their reputations remained intact at all times.
This meant that to be engaged, the gentleman first had to ensure that his bride-to-be and her father approved of the marriage. And then, up until they finally tied the knot, the couple were expected to observe ‘rules of decency’ which meant they could not be out in public together without a chaperone. They also were not to whisper to each other or even squeeze the hand of their beloved.
During the late nineteenth century, in numerous countries, a prevailing belief emerged that a woman's physique required extra reinforcement. Adhering to the stringent standards of etiquette, it was deemed imperative for a lady to maintain a perpetually erect posture, whether seated or standing.
This practice was rooted in the conviction that without such support, the internal organs of a woman would be incapable of withstanding the pressures of daily life. Women were expected to don a corset at nearly all times, removing it just once a week or when they slept. It's hard to imagine they got much sleep...
Back in the 1960s, practically everyone was a cigarette smoker. Even if you were a man who chose not to smoke, it was quite normal (and expected) to keep a pack of cigarettes handy because it was seen as a gentlemanly gesture. If you found yourself in the company of a lady who was lighting up, it was considered impolite not to offer her a light.
This period was defined by a widespread culture of smoking, where cigarettes weren't just a personal habit but also a social accessory and a way to show courtesy and camaraderie. It was a time when the act of sharing a smoke could bring people together and foster a sense of connection.
In the 19th century, if you, as a lady, were seen adjusting your outfit in any way, those who caught you in the act would consider you improper, and see it as a sign of ill-breeding. This included simply putting your gloves on outside.
Ladies were meant to be completely dressed and ready before they left the house, and most etiquette books would recommend that you double- and triple-check yourself, your gloves, hat, etc. before you embarked on any type of social travels to avoid embarrassment and possible shaming
You may have seen many eighteenth-century with high-society and famous personalities hiding one hand inside their coat. But this pose actually came from a Greek etiquette rule in the sixth century BCE. It was considered rude to speak to anyone with your hands outside your clothing.
This led to many Greek statues being made with at least one hand hidden under their cloaks. Eventually, the rule was forgotten and people were free to leave their hands anywhere, but in the eighteenth century, portrait painters would often request this pose as it looked ‘proper.’
Sometimes society's rules are a little confusing, and we wonder who on earth came up with such things. At times, it really is just the opinion of a handful of influential people. This seems the case for advice given to young ladies of the Victorian era about their hair.
In books written for these young girls, it was suggested that hairstyle experiments take place, but that the ladies focus on hairstyles according to their appearance, specifically their hair color. For example, light hair looked best in curls, but dark hair ringlets looked less pleasing.
This rule seems like a choking hazard, and it’s definitely not one that would go down well in today’s world. Back in ancient Greek times, it was quite acceptable to see people lying down at the dinner table — but only if they were of a high class!
In fact, this act helped divide the poor from the rich and demonstrated both power and a luxurious lifestyle. Everyone else was forced to sit upright during dinner, which was honestly probably best for them anyway. We're sure some severe indigestion was endured...
When examining vintage photographs, a common observation is the absence of smiles. Historians have offered various explanations for this phenomenon, with one pointing to dental health as a contributing factor. Many people grappled with subpar or even missing teeth, discouraging them from smiling for the camera.
Another intriguing theory touches upon the societal norms and etiquette of the time. It suggests that beaming, wide smiles were associated with madness or deemed indecent. The prevailing decorum dictated that a more reserved and composed countenance was the appropriate photographic pose. Today, we’re glad the rule is to smile big and shout “CHEESE.”
At the height of proper society, it was believed that your right hand was for socializing (shaking hands, etc.) and your left hand was for everything else. This meant that if you were holding a drink or your bag at a party, it should only ever be in your left hand.
The same went for sneezing and coughing — this was never to be done in your right hand, for obvious hygienic reasons. We still shake hands with our right hand for the most part so this isn’t a bad rule to bring back (especially the hygienic one).
Ever wondered why we give flowers for special occasions? It all began in the 18th century with Charles II of Sweden who introduced this custom to Europe after seeing roses being exchanged as an act of love in Persia. But as the trend caught on, the types of flowers were given specific meanings too. It's amusing to recall that flowers initially served as odor masks for ancient Egyptians and Greeks...
By the mid-1900s it was essential to ensure that you were sending the right kind and color of flowers. The image shows an example of a comprehensive guide— and many of these rules are still followed today. This includes red roses for romance, white for condolences/sympathy, and yellow for friendship.
Back in the 1940s, speaking on a telephone was still a new concept — think about when you first began texting or posting on a new social media platform. So it was important to establish some politeness and grace while you were handling any kind of business on the phone.
An expert named Bernice Morgan Bryant came to the rescue and established a few ground rules. She stated that you should "never bark into the phone" with phrases like "Who is it?" or "Whadja want?" And that you should speak clearly, with a smile, so that you sound friendly. No bad moods in the old days...
Attending a dinner party in the swinging 1960s required a bit of verbal finesse. Whether it was a sincere thank-you or a delightful limerick, having a few words ready in your conversational arsenal was essential. The Calvert Party Encyclopediaemphasized that the content of your words wasn't the primary concern.
What truly mattered was avoiding the awkward silence that might arise if your tongue suddenly decided to go on strike. In those days, it was considered a significant faux pas to be rendered speechless at a gathering, highlighting the importance of keeping the conversation flowing and the good times rolling.
In the fascinating era of the Tudors in England (16th century), a curious dining tradition required dinner guests to bring their own personal knife and spoon to the dining table. Barely anyone would be using a fork, since spoons do the job of both these tools.
We supposed this was due to the homes not having enough, or perhaps people just didn’t want to share theirs. Forks at that time were considered a fancy and foreign notion... The only time you’d have cutlery offered to you by hosts was in the richer homes, but even then it wasn’t guaranteed.
Even today, we’d never be caught talking with our mouths full of food. But in 1947, the etiquette rules around talking at meal times were even stricter — and a little bizarre, if you think about it. The best thing to do was avoid all talking while eating.
It is suggested that people eat in as quiet a setting as possible and not even take a drink while eating. That’s not to say there would have been no talking at all at the table, but silence at each course was important, and chatter could be in between these courses.
Today’s world is a lot more equal for men and women, but back when men were the majority of the workforce, much of the financial burden fell on them. This included paying the bill at a restaurant — whether on a date, with their wife, or even with their sister.
This was a big indicator to a woman whether or not the man she was courting was worth her time. If he so much as hesitated to pay, she knew he wasn’t a man to marry. Of course, now that men and women both work and have a chance at somewhat equal income, this has changed, and become less of a hard rule and more of a personal preference.
In the 60s, etiquette really was the talk of the town. You could find books and notes in every library and bookstore, even some magazines and newspapers. So there was no excuse to not know that if you were to approach a man and a woman together, you always address the woman first.
This hasn’t changed too much over the years, as many will still follow this rule even without thinking. It’s amazing what gets passed down from generation to generation naturally. The only difference is that you won’t be ostracised now if you were to forget this rule.
Not something you’ll be asked to do (or even allowed to do) at a dinner party today. But in an era devoid of napkins, individuals resorted to using their clothing to wipe their mouths and hands after dining. A shift occurred during the Middle Ages when the practice of adorning tables with tablecloths emerged.
Initially, these tablecloths were primarily ornamental and reserved for more upscale gatherings. As time progressed, tablecloths evolved to offer practical advantages, doubling as a communal napkin for all those seated at the table. This transformation not only elevated the aesthetic appeal of dining but also introduced a more hygienic and convenient means of post-meal cleanup for diners.
Typical etiquette still says that gentlemen hold doors open for ladies so that they can enter the room first. But this rule often changed when it came to entering a dark room. If this were the case, then it was expected that the man would enter first.
Logically, this did make sense, since you couldn’t see that the room was safe if it was in complete darkness, and men were the protectors (and often still are). This isn’t a hard rule anymore, but we’re sure ladies would appreciate the act anyway.
Table etiquette is still something considered important in today’s world, but in the 50s it was even more crucial to know the rules and follow them well. This is why there were several books published on this exact subject — and they all agreed on at least one thing.
This was that you should never struggle with food in your mouth. The smaller the bite, the easier it is to chew and swallow — and woe to the person who tries to take in two or three bites of food at the same time! You can be sure they’d never be invited to dinner again.
Being a Lady in the 1960s and 70s was an accomplishment to many, but there were so many rules and regulations that it didn’t come easy to all. And so to help young girls on their way to a life of ladylikeness, places like Sears Discovery Charm School were born.
These charm schools would teach girls how to speak, to take care of their skin, proper diet and exercise, and makeup, as well as some modeling lessons. It was considered crucial for any real soon-to-be lady to attend one of these schools.
Contrary to the advice, this has nothing to do with fish. Rather, this comes from the 1950s and 1960s, when there were numerous guidelines and rules for women to adhere to, encompassing various aspects of etiquette and appearance, including the positioning of their arms.
In one such instructional guide from the era, women were cautioned against allowing their hands to hang straight at their sides, as it was believed to diminish the elegance of their silhouette. Today there are definitely good and bad poses for photographs, but unless you’re a professional model, you probably won’t be pestered about how you stand.
Once society changed from “a lady never pays” to “women may pay if they choose to,” the etiquette behind paying a food bill became a little more complicated. In the late 60s and further into the 70s, women were working more and earning their own money. So they could pay for their own food.
But men were so used to being the financial providers that this was sometimes seen as a way to emasculate the man. Notable etiquette writers explained the best way to handle this was for the couple to discuss this before they began the meal. This way, they knew who was paying what and there was no awkwardness when the bill came.
This rule very much contradicts anything you will hear in the 2020s — which is an era of gentle parenting and loving your child as much as possible. Right up until the mid-twentieth century, parenting books gave the advice to ignore your crying babies and children.
It was believed that if you hugged or kissed or cuddled your children too much, it would spoil them. And that you should teach them that crying will only cause them to be ignored. It was also believed useless to play with your babies before they reached six months.
The 1980s ushered in a groundbreaking era of technology with the introduction of cell phones, which also brought about a whole new set of social norms and etiquette dilemmas. One puzzling question that seemed to occupy everyone's thoughts was whether it was acceptable to answer the phone while taking a shower.
According to a noteworthy New York Times piece of the time, the resounding consensus was a firm "no." The weird part of this etiquette was more the question than the rule — it’s still considered strange for anyone to try and answer the cellphone in the bathroom.
When was the last time you saw an advertisement that made you cringe? Well, Some of the ads you'll be seeing here would never have been approved in this day and age. So, if you think that ads these days are nothing to write home about, brace yourselves, as next up we take a look at some old-fashioned ads that will make your skin crawl!
If there was ever an ad that exemplified misogynistic thinking, this would be it. The theory behind this ad was to probably show a woman who was so impressed by the man’s choice of shoe that she could not take her eyes off of it. While that is all fine and good (although it also shows a lack of creativity), the tagline is blatantly sexist.
The tagline “Keep her where she belongs” has absolutely nothing to do with selling the product so one can only assume that it was added to imply that women should always be at a man’s feet. Though we have certainly come a long way since these types of ads were commonplace, we still have a long way to go.
Did I really just read that?! The advertising world was dominated by men so much that they never knew how to really sell. They were great at bouncing off ideas from each other, but that's it. An ad for Kenwood Chef food processor from the 1950s.
This image is one of many illustrations done by Gil Elvgren. He was known not for his arts, but for his pin-up creations. He could paint a pin-up of women in everyday situations, and make them look "inviting".
It's obvious that Elvgrens' works would never have been accepted these days, as they were all done for men's pleasure. We don't know if he ever regretted being famous for this and not for his art, but what's done is done.
This ad was okay but for one major flaw; the kid's expression. You can say it is sinister, the young boy looks like the kind of person to sneak up when you’re sleeping and do something evil. This looks like a subtle threat that tells you “fail to buy Stokely’s Van Camp’s pork and beans and see what happens to you.”
Well, we might stretch it to say it’s a veiled threat. However, the artist messed this drawing with that cold expression on the boy’s face, though it’s likely they did not mean to create a chilling effect on the picture.
We've already seen in other ads that values back in the day were somewhat questionable, to say the least. However, this ad is definitely on the run for 'Most Sleazy in History', and might just take first prize.
Are you cheating on multiple women simultaneously? Apparently, back then Delta was willing to use that as leverage to increase sales, all the while featuring the person's hypothetical women like they were up for display, from the 'Dallas Darling' to the 'Maimi Minx'. All that's left for us to do is roll our eyes.
As you can see, many of the advertisements during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s were geared towards women in hopes that their scare tactics would increase sales. This vintage ad doesn’t mince words when it comes to their opinion of women and their level of intelligence.
The deodorant ad is basically saying that this beauty is too stupid to realize that she should use their product, implying that anyone who does use it has to be more intelligent. In all actuality, the statement “Beautiful but dumb” is an underlying way of saying that women, in general, are too dumb to think for themselves and will buy whatever they are told to.
Seriously? Okay, maybe we don't know what we're talking about and these advertisements worked. Tiparillo created ads for young smokers and women smokers. Their main tagline was "Should a gentleman offer a lady a Tiparillo?"
And they used that tagline in almost every profession that women can be found in. The problem was that they showed the women, as you can see, hot and sexy - in every profession.
The most successful advertising campaigns usually involve a slogan that is easy for consumers to remember. This company tweaked the saying “the best things in life are free” to read “the best things in life come in Cellophane”. Kudos to them for being creative, right? Well, the creativity went a bit too far.
Instead of using their product to wrap a lovely gift basket or a box of chocolates, they decided that wrapping a baby, in plastic mind you, would be a huge hit. While the stork is a cute touch it seems as though the ad should have a disclaimer that reads “This product is not intended for the wrapping of humans.”
People back in the '50s and '60s really didn't have a clue, did they... I could understand the original thought behind this weird ad, but still, people.... there is no way this ad could ever pass through today.
I wonder where these kids are today, and if they ever look back in horror on this image. On the other hand, they could have it enlarged and on canvas in the middle of their living room.
This image was inspired by the trend in the 1950s. Men could spank their wives and an opinion column in the dailymail.co.uk website showed how common this was. Four men who interviewed for the piece all agree that it was okay to beat wives when they make mistakes.
In this picture, the husband is spanking his wife because she bought stale coffee. This ad plays to the narration of the time that women are second-class citizens.
Believe it or not, there was a time cocaine was advertised for toothache. The use of the drug was widespread and perfectly legal for everyday use. Cocaine was a popular ingredient in the coca wine which evolved into Coca-Cola. The world’s most popular soda today certainly had unlikely beginnings.
It was in the 1880s that the medicinal qualities of cocaine were discovered. As the 19th century wound down, cocaine became a major ingredient in many pain relief tonics such as toothache drops.
Once upon a time, smoking was the height of sophistication, and who better to promote it than the Chairman of the Board, Frank Sinatra? In a vintage ad, Sinatra can be seen lighting up a Chesterfield "man-sized" cigarette with a debonair smile. But today, the very idea of using a celebrity to promote smoking would be met with a chorus of disapproval.
Sinatra would probably be turning in his grave (if he weren't too busy crooning and being cool, of course). The ad would never make it past the approval stage and would be met with a collective "you've got to be kidding me!" from the public. So, let's all be grateful that we live in a world where smoking is widely discouraged and Sinatra can be remembered for his legendary music and not his endorsement of a dangerous habit.
Tennis balls people!! You would think this is an ad for a naughty club, or maybe a "all-nude-tennis" game. But no! It's an ad for a computer game. A computer game that is a tennis game. A tennis game. In a computer. In the 1980's.
What should one expect when he starts playing this game with 1980's graphic capabilities? Why would you use this image to promote a tennis computer game?
It's safe to say that this beverage is one of the most popular in the world when it comes to soft drinks, however, that doesn’t mean that it's the healthiest of choices. Between the high content of sugar and the caffeine, nutritionists agree that Coke and other sodas should not be consumed on a regular basis.
In this vintage ad, it would seem that the company is trying to convince parents to offer their product to their children during their “early formative years” to ensure they have a better start in life. Essentially saying in order for your child to be their best, they need to consume Coca-Cola.
Kentucky Fried Chicken opened their doors back in the day when women were expected to stay home, take care of the family, and have a hot homemade dinner on the table when their husbands came home from work. Because fast food was a relatively new concept, KFC targeted their advertising campaign towards exhausted housewives.
Though the ad does play into the stereotype that women should be providing a meal for their men, the copy does seem to sympathize with the difficulty of their role in the household. Saying that Colonel Sanders is a “woman’s best friend” and mentioning “weary wives and working women” suggests that he understands their circumstances and wants to help. It must have worked because KFC has been extremely successful since its inception.
This is the Russian version of pinup-girls posters. These posters were issued by the central government local party representative. And they were issued to garages and other places Americans would put pinup girls.
The difference is, obviously, that these are not photographs, but illustrations. And when in Soviet Russia, always connect everything with industry workers. Even pinup girls.
OMG! This is sooo wrong on so many levels. The ad copy implies that the pants were so hot, they floored a tiger lady. The graphically violent ad sends the wrong message about what is acceptable in society.
See the miserable, glaring face of tiger lady. How does a consumer connect that with slacks? They wanted to create a lady killer type of ad but this is more on the violence against women category. Considering that the 60s was a time when women were fighting for their rights, this ad even seems to tell men that Mr. Leggs pants would help keep the woman down. Gross.
No one likes to smell bad so it is a safe assumption that the majority of the population wears deodorant. And because deodorant is one of those products where you become loyal to a brand when you find what works, those companies thrive on repeat customers. Executives have come to realize this over the last few decades and have found that they can cut their advertising budget. Now, back in the day, deodorant was a competitive market so things were done a bit differently.
Because of the steep competition, deodorant companies chose tactics in their advertising that targeted women and bolstered their insecurities. In this ad, they are sure to point out that no matter how beautiful and charming you were, if you did not smell nice you were out of the running.
Everyone loves candy, however, we can all agree that it should be eaten in moderation. Parents are acutely aware of the adverse side effects their children experience when on a sugar high. While sugar is a tasty treat, when young children consume it, they experience a huge spike in energy followed by a sudden crash.
It is apparent from this ad that the company was well aware of the energy boost candy provides as well. Instead of hiding it from consumers, they capitalized on it by making mothers feel as though they needed to feed their children sweets to give them more energy. They even went so far as to point out that a “smart mother” would buy this product.
Like appliances, cars are also a product that is advertised to both men and women in completely different ways. Traditionally, men would be the decision-maker when the family purchased a new vehicle, even so, women had certain requirements to make their lives easier. Trunk space for groceries, spacious and safe for the children, and, of course, gas mileage to adhere to the family budget.
By the 1960s, women were becoming more independent and many households were choosing to have two cars. This ad for the Mini automatic, though it looks to be geared towards women, is actually geared towards their husbands. By showing a woman who looks nervous and then stating the car is simple to use, men would be more likely to be concerned that their wives couldn’t handle a normal-sized car.