It became like Sinatra headlining in Vegas. On April 21, 1959 — 60 years in the past this Sunday — heaps of adoring New Yorkers gave a tumultuous welcome to a young celebrity rising from Penn Station: Fidel Castro, chief of the Cuban guerrillas.
Less than four months in advance, he had overthrown a vicious navy dictatorship after an in opposition to-all-odds campaign, and he was wildly famous in the city, drawing crowds more significant than any foreign chief in its records. As throngs chanted “Fi-del, Fid-el, Fi-del,” Castro burst via police lines and began shaking arms, as though he has been jogging for the workplace.
It became the opening public-family members volley of a 4-day victory lap that captivated New York, and it turned into a milestone within the records of style. According to Sonya Abrego, a historian of men’s fashion inside the 20th century, this became the instant when what later became known as radical elegant (the once-provocative use of visible markers associated with militant reasons that still affects what we put on these days) was virtually born.
When Castro’s image regarded on the front page of The New York Times after his arrival, it hardly needed a caption: He turned into instantly recognizable for his unique sartorial style, combining army fatigues, forage cap, and an unkempt beard.
His 70-robust entourage turned into full of khaki-clad ex-guerrillas, whose raffish facial hair had come to be such an effective image in Cuba that they were known without a doubt as “Los Barbados” (“the bearded ones”).
“In a way, Fidel, Che, and Barbados had been the primary hippies,” said Jon Lee Anderson, the writer of “Che: A Revolutionary Life” and a drawing close biography of Castro. “They burst onto the scene at the dawn of the TV age as the final attractive rebels. The total of their ‘appearance,’ with lengthy hair and beards and berets, was amazing, and it played into the cultural zeitgeist.”
At the time, many young Americans were showing the first signs of disenchantment with what they saw because of the leaden conformity of the Cold War era. Allen Ginsberg’s paean to freedom, “Howl,” was posted in 1956; Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” in 1957. “The Second Sex,” using Simone de Beauvoir, became in translation, and the civil rights motion changed into gaining pace.
The Cubans shaped a stylistic bridge among the Beats and the Nineteen Sixties counterculture, Dr. Abrego said.
“The history of fashion isn’t linear,” she stated. “There could have effortlessly been longhaired hippies without Che. But the impact the Cubans made at the sartorial panorama is actual.” Their revolution was the most photogenic one, and the Cubans’ rebellious style infiltrated America.
Designing the Look
The beards had been born of necessity. Castro and a band of a few 20 fellow survivors from his amphibious touchdown in Japanese Cuba in December 1956 had no razors.
But their blossoming facial topiary had quickly become a “badge of identity,” the leader later explained to the Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, whose interviews with Castro are gathered in “Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography.” The unintended style becomes made permanent “to maintain the symbolism.”
Other elements of the innovative appearance came together at some point of the campaign, lovingly cataloged with the aid of sleek magazines. In 1958, Fidel’s more youthful brother Raúl became photographed via Life sporting shoulder-period hair and a jaunty cowboy hat.
Photos of the mysterious, good-looking Argentine-born medic Ernesto Guevara, referred to as Che, showed that he, too, became developing his hair lengthy and modeling a quickly-to-be-well-known black beret.
And it wasn’t handiest guys. In early 1958, a Spanish photographer traveled to the Sierra Maestra for Paris Match and came again with images that included a top guerrilla chief, the M.I.T.-knowledgeable Vilma Espín, with a white mariposa bloom in the back of her ear, searching like a prototype flower baby.
[See more photos from Castro’s visit here.]
Also featured turned into Celia Sánchez, the rebels’ key organizer, who had designed her own uniform with green twill tapered slacks and V-neck overblouse (in step with Dickie Chapelle, one of the first American battle photographers, who traveled with them).
In July 1958, Espín appeared in Life toting a rifle on her hips like Cuba’s solution to Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde repute. In a Doris Day global at the cusp of the feminist movement, the semiotics were subversive.
Before Castro’s 1959 go to to the United States, the Cubans had hired a Madison Avenue P.R. Agent, Bernard Rellin, for a princely $6,000 a month, to advocate their chief on the way to enchantment to Americans.