I have always been fascinated by the 1920s and 1930s – I have no idea where this came from but as one of my old school friends recently remarked: “You have always been like that, dressed in sailor dresses and such”. In my memory I can pinpoint my first encounter with the novels and short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald as one of the catalysts. I had read “Tender is the Night” which is still my favourite book of all time and the one I re-read most often.
I love the music, movies, clothes and design from that time, although I wouldn’t want to do without such modern items as washing machines or vacuum cleaners!
For New Year’s Eve I went to a 1920s themed party and when the conferencier welcomed us all to the year 1924, it really was like travelling back in time. Of course, 1923 saw the biggest hyper inflation Germany had ever seen and from November 1923 the so-called Rentenmark replaced the worthless Reichsmark. It proved to be a fairly stable currency, ending the madness of almost hourly price rises that had come before.
Someone asked me recently how I could be so fascinated by a time and generation whose apathy and living like there was no tomorrow brought about the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century. Germany, especially in the 1920s, was a country ruined by World War I and politically unstable through many localised revolutions and uprisings, industrially crippled by reparations. The slaughter of the Great War had decimated the male populations of Europe and I guess there really was a devil-may-care attitude to many of the young people. Dancing, drugs, nightlife and easy sex became the bywords of the Weimar Republic that are still attached to this time today. One of my grandmas would have been in her early 20s in the 1920s but, unfortunately, I never asked her about that time. I have some photos of her as a young and seemingly fashionably dressed young woman but I can only make up stories in my mind about what she and her life may have been like.
Admittedly, my own fascination has always been more with the American side of things through my love of Fitzgerald. His “Lost Generation” was not dissimilar in their attitude to life than their European counterparts, albeit with more money – at least until the Wall Street Crash of 1929. I immersed myself in tales of young flappers who holiday on the French Riviera and sip cocktails with Hemingway in Paris. It seemed to me incredibly free, sophisticated, glamorous and fun. Women were gaining the vote, started to have careers in their own right and could drive cars. Leisure time and holidays were coming into the reach of more people.
I got the point, though: it was a generation who didn’t care much about tomorrow and let things happen that led the world into an even bigger abyss than World War I had already done. Nevertheless, my fascination holds and my travels back in time continue through parties, the music I listen to, the movies I enjoy and the clothes I wear. I am, however, also politically aware and cherish my right to vote but the apathy I see around me is eerily reminiscent of earlier times.