Cold War: Gas Mask Fashion

Posted: February 28, 2008 in History, Life, War, War Documentary

Experience You Don’t Forget

Those of you who remember the "hottest" days of the Cold War
(Cuban Missile Crisis, Brezhnev’s Fight with Imperialism, etc)
will know more about gas masks than modern generation.
Wear it once, get scarred for life. Here are some ultimately
creepy shots from "gas mask" nuclear defense craze in the 50s and 60s:

History, Culture, Fashion

History, Culture, Fashion

History, Culture, Fashion

History, Culture, Fashion

History, Culture, Fashion

History, Culture, Fashion

History, Culture, Fashion
(Source: Vintage Photo)

Threat of nuclear destruction was very tangible then
(some argue, even as it is now).
Have a look at this comparison of nuclear bombs,
starting with the "microscopic" Hiroshima bomb:

History, Culture, Fashion

To scare yourself even more, read this excellent list of
Close Calls in the Nuclear Age.

October 25, 1962 (during the Cuban Missile Crisis)
a security guard at an air base in Duluth, Minnesota,
saw a shadowy figure scaling one of the fences enclosing the base.
He shot at the intruder and activated an intruder alarm,
automatically setting off intruder alarms at neighboring bases.

However, at the Volk Field air base in Wisconsin,
the Klaxon loudspeaker had been wired incorrectly,
and instead sounded an alarm ordering F-106A interceptors armed
with nuclear missiles to take off. The pilots assumed that a full-scale
nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union had begun, and the planes
were about to take off when a car from the air traffic control tower
raced down the tarmac and signaled the planes to stop.
The intruder in Duluth had finally been identified: it was a bear."

"Bomb Paranoia" starts early: marvel at Hitler’s plans to bomb America in 1946:

History, Culture, Fashion
(Source: Modern Mechanix)

The "End of the World" as we know it:
This fascinating chart details the time-line of complete disappearance
of any trace of human civilization from Earth, in case of an "extinction
event": asteroid strike, or all-out nuclear war. After the humans are gone:

History, Culture, Fashion

– in 50 years all cities are overgrown with vegetation.
– in 1000 years most brick, concrete and stone buildings are gone.
– in 50,000 years all glass and plastics disappear.
– nuclear waste remains deadly for 2 million years.

History, Culture, Fashion

How much fun can you have with a gas mask on your face?
None whatsoever.

yet multitudes of people of various age and
occupation donned these rubber/plastic stifling contraptions,
most as an entirely justifiable part of the Cold War civil defense exercises,
but some – well, see for yourself. Could there be a type
of people who would adopt "gas mask fashion" for no apparent reason? –

History wears a gas mask

Weirdest faces in masks, from history’s worst nightmares:

One of the first gas masks (Zelinsky model) from 1913:

Panzer driver protective mask, 1917:

Red Army Chemical Weapons Protective Suit, 1930:

Gas masks apparently refuse to protect capitalists:

This could easily be a shot from apocalyptic movie
(the sign says "contaminated") –

The evolution of female beauty:

You don’t want even to touch these rats:

Early gas masks for horses:

Dogs did not escape this fate, either:
(See complete history of gas mask equipment for dogs here)

Pretending to be a mushroom does not help,
but wearing this full-body suit (Red Army, 1940) certainly does:

historic examples: vintage photography of people in masks,
impersonal face asking a silent question: "Why?",
"What did I do to deserve this?" and "How long will this go on?"

Nurses wearing masks, 1942:

This mysterious banquet occurs under very portentious slogan:
"Why wait until 1955? We might not even be alive!"

Considering this poster of atomic weather and back-then political situation,
they could have been right:

And looking at the next posters, I’d say these soldiers should don their masks,
and quickly:

This picture supposed to show the actual nuclear detonation as part
of Soviet war games in the 50s in Semipalatinsk:
(many soldiers perished as a result) –

This is THE first Soviet atomic bomb: RDS-1 from 1949:

Later model bomb (smaller and more lethal, of course):

Some of the Soviet machinery of that period looked positively weird:
this one TM-59 was supposed to clean up airstrips after contamination:

These girls are not in the masks yet, but soon will be:

Closer to our times:

"Pop!" goes the pop art

Modern pop art makes a good use of gas masks, making them a symbol of…
well, holistic wickedness? wicked innocence? Who knows:

(vector art by se7en)

Gas masks end up on customized bikes:

… in the bathroom:

… all over the street:

or at "Burning Man" avant-garde art competitions:

And we’ll close with the most emphatic image of all:
(nuclear fallout shelter? I only hope this is just a piece of art)

  1. Cora says:

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