By Jessica Ellen Sewell
The mid-1950s saw the invention of a new, highly mythologized housing type, the bachelor pad, articulated most fully in the pages of Playboy and in films. The bachelor pad is an apartment for a single professional man, organized for entertaining and pleasure, and displaying tasteful consumption. The bachelor pad was culturally salient at this particular historical moment because it linked a culture increasingly focused on consumption and what sociologists and cultural commentators in the late 1950s argued was a “crisis in masculinity.” The bachelor pad provided a compelling fantasy of individual consumption and economic and sexual power to counter that crisis, but at the same time, helped to produce the masculinity crisis by problematizing straight male domesticity.
As described in Playboy, the pad “is, or should be, the outward reflection of his [the bachelor’s] inner self—a comfortable, livable, and yet exciting expression of the person he is and the life he leads.”1 It is precisely this inner self that was seen to be in crisis in the late 1950s: men’s sense of themselves as individuals had been stripped away, a state that was blamed partly on the conformity of corporate America and partly on women.