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Bomber Girls

As well as pinup photos, the US Army Air Force also unof-

ficially permitted ‘nose art’, drawings of scantily-clad women

on the fuselage of bombers and fighter planes, as a way of

boosting pilot morale. Artists, often servicemen themselves,

drew their inspiration from men’s magazines, popular actress-

es, and real-life models.

Unlike many pinups, bomber girls weren’t just about pictures

of attractive women: the female figures were often regarded as

mascots or lucky talismans that would ensure the plane’s safe

return home. Sociologists have linked airplane nose art to the

carved figureheads once found on the bows of ships, which su-

perstitious sailors regarded as a type of good luck charm. The

art form saw a resurgence in the US military during the first

Gulf War, but was officially banned in 1992 after complaints

from feminist groups.

Bettie Page

Bettie Page rose to pinup fame only during the 1950s, later

than the other models on this list. Although her entire mod-

eling career lasted only seven years, she’s probably the most

enduringly popular and recognizable pinup model today. Her

distinctive bangs (a photographer thought them up to hide her

high forehead) are still copied by young women. According

to her fans, Page’s unique appeal lies in her natural smile and

joyful appearance. Instead of pouting, she made sexiness seem


After her retirement from modeling, her work lay forgotten for

decades but resurged in the 1980s. Since then, public-domain

images of Page have found their way onto merchandise, com-

ics, and posters. A Seattle homeowner even painted a two-

story version of Page on the side of his house she is cleverly

covered up by the building’s eaves). Shortly after her death in

2008, Reason magazine called her pinup work “one of Ameri-

ca’s most enduring brands.”

Veronica Lake