The Seamy Side of Life

Most of my friends are conservationists at heart.

Not conservationists of the tree-hugging variety, but preservationists of the way we lived. Our mania manifests itself mainly in stuff because stuff is easy to define: hot rods and custom cars, vintage clothes (gab shirts, wide-legged slacks, angora sweaters), and houses (Craftsman-era or postwar bungalows). But it's also apparent in attitude, especially our treatment of women's legs. We're in favor of them. A lot.

Women's legs are overlooked these days—mainly because they're so on display that our jaded eyes have moved on to X-ray such still-forbidden zones as the bosom. But in the hot-rod culture particularly, legs still have cult status.

Our corner of the hot-rod culture tends to be stuck somewhere in 1955 Southern California—right around the time leg idolatry was segueing into the deification of the breast. This means we think boobs look best encased in rocket-shaped brassieres straight outta Skunk Works, that legs look best in seamed stockings and those high-waisted, cuffed, fitted shorts that women wore as long as Busby Berkeley made movies. They put legs in the spotlight, but not entirely on display—the difference between, say, Betty Grable and Paris Hilton.

Two magazines, so far, have successfully exploited the angst in our minds and our pants: Garage magazine—available quarterly at the Lab in Costa Mesa and featuring the work of photographer David Perry—and its older-brother-still-living-at-home-in-the-basement Car Kulture Deluxe. They're like Maxim for people who like Royal Crown swing and pomade. In every issue, guys like us can feast our eyes on women in either a pair of those shorts or a full-pleated calf-length circle skirt. And, in either case, stockings.

We collectively have rescued stockings from history's ash heap—why? Because a work of art like a woman's legs deserves a good frame. The stockings are the frame, and fishnets are fine, but the meat of Garage—and Car Kulture Deluxe—is women's legs in seamed stockings.

Seamed stockings had that line down the back—and it had to be perfectly straight at all times. When they were in short supply during World War II, women used leg makeup and eyebrow pencils to draw the seam in—on each other, we hope. Hot.Betty-Grable-with-her-hand-on-her-hips hot. Cyd Charisse hot. Gil Elvgren, V.O. Munson and Earl Moran pinup hot.

The hottest of all, of course, is the woman we don't know. She was in an early issue of Car Kulture Deluxe that I sold on eBay in a fit of pique over its—pick one—poor writing, bad layout, lack of spelling and paucity of punctuation. She was leaning over a chopped and channeled Ford coupe—ohhh, yeah, baby, chopped and channeled. She had her hand on her hips and wore plenty of lipstick. A gingham blouse was knotted below her chest, I think. And those shorts, stopping just past the butt, showing off the seams.

She had stocking seams, all right—but they were tattooed on, stopping just below the shorts and leaving just enough room between tattoo and cuff for a teeny pair of tattooed cherries on the back of each upper thigh. That's all I remember; that's all any of us remember. That's all we needed to see.

The issue number doesn't matter.


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