Fun, Sun and Summer Flings

07 September 2015

Cultural Studies | Gender and Sexuality | History

Summer in the northern hemisphere is drawing to a close and with it, peak holiday season. ‘Back to School’ advertisements and darker evenings remind us that the summer holiday is over, but it won’t be long until travel agents are persuading us to book next year’s dream getaway. To cheer myself up in the meantime I’ve been browsing holiday and tourism paraphernalia from the 1950s and 60s and dreaming of vacationing in a more glamorous age. These can be found in the American Consumer Culture 1935-1965 resource in the papers of Ernest Dichter, the ‘father of motivational research’.


Fun, sun, and BEA, 1960s, © The Advertising Archives. Further reproduction prohibited without permission

Dichter’s team conducted ‘motivational research studies’ for a huge number of industries from automobiles and technology to clothing, beauty and motion pictures. The innovative studies were designed to get under the skin of what your customer really thinks and feels and Dichter channeled these insights into more persuasive advertising. I was intrigued to come across one market research report from 1958, exploring what appeals most to British tourists about holidaying abroad and how British European Airways could attract more customers through their package holiday brochures.

Brochures and holiday travel/A report on a motivational research study, Jun 1958, © Hagley Museum and Library.Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 

Dichter found one of the biggest motivations for an overseas vacation was being able to let your hair down and have a bit more fun on the continent than at home. He reported that this sentiment was particularly strong in young women, noting that 45.7% of one group of female respondents expressed ‘freedom from inhibitions’ as one of the most desirable features of a holiday abroad.

“I think it is nice to have a fling in every sense, then when you come back to England you can a least appreciate the fact that you have been able to let your hair down and enjoy yourself…”


“I eat more and let my hair down at dances. Everybody abroad seems to have a good time... Sometimes I have tried to flirt with the local boys, just for a bit of fun, but at home I have a boyfriend and don’t go in for flirting.”

Brochures and holiday travel/A report on a motivational research study, Jun 1958, © Hagley Museum and Library.Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 

There has been much talk in the media about the behaviour of Brits abroad, particularly in party resorts such as Ibiza and Magaluf where unfortunately young tourists have a rather bad reputation. British police have even been sent out to patrol the sunny Spanish streets and help remind the young folk that just because they are on holiday, basic rules of decency still apply! The tourists that descend on these European islands also seem to be looking for somewhere to let their hair down, get away from normal life and relax their inhibitions, just like the young people interviewed by Dichter’s team 50 years ago. 

The report concludes by recommending that BEA emphasise the following benefits of a continental package holiday in their next brochure, being the most important factors to holiday-makers when planning vacations;

- Guaranteed sunshine and exotic food you won’t find at home

- Letting your hair down, loosening inhibitions and relaxing, the ‘continental way'

- Holiday-envy! Avoiding the jealousy caused by friends and co-workers bragging about their vacations and ensuring you have your own envy-inducing stories and photos to share next summer

I empathise with the last point in particular, and will be avoiding the Facebook and Instagram accounts of anyone going on fabulous holidays for the next few months whilst the rest of us wrap up for autumn.


These documents and more can be found  in the American Consumer Culture 1935-1965 resource - Register for your free trial now

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About the Author

Ellie Davey Corrigan

I am a Development Editor at Adam Matthew, having joined the team in 2015. My academic background lies in Classical History and Languages but as an editor in academic publishing I have worked across a variety of subjects from Business, Marketing and Gender Studies to International Relations. I am enjoying getting back to my historical roots working on a wide range of new projects at Adam Matthew.