The flight from cool: American men and romantic love in the 1950s

Jonathan Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article uses love letters to re-analyze current notions about men and romantic love in the 1950s. Examining advice literature as well as evidence from fiction and film, European and American historians generally describe the 1950s as an era of emotional "formalization" or suppression. A newly analyzed set of 300 love letters by over a dozen American men suggests a much more nuanced view. Some of their letters support scholarly accounts of "remasculinization" in the 1950s, displaying a hard-boiled, tough-guy quality to compensate for challenges to men's roles in the workplace and family. Other men, however, openly expressed their passions, fears, and other feelings. Since these letters were written to the author's mother, they also suggest new potentials and opportunities for "personal" research. Given the paucity of love correspondence in postwar archives, professional historians might find personal collections useful evidence to study the character and dilemmas of modern romance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-47
Number of pages17
JournalHistory of the Family
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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