Fashion, Winglets, and Bullshots
When did TV broadcasting start?
A typical answer might be that it started in Los Angeles just after World War II.
A good guess, but the correct answer is that the first regular television service was broadcast from Wheaton, Maryland, just outside Washington DC on July 2, 1928. Still, it was hardly television as we know it. The image was poor and sometimes made up of still shots rather than moving images. The first modern commercialized television schedule that was broadcast seven-days-a-week started on July 1, 1941 from New York City.
Because of the early proliferation of television in the Unites States, one might err in thinking that the US was the only country that had the technology. Not so, TV was international. The 1930s saw TV broadcasts from Germany, Italy, as well as the Soviet Union.
In England, broadcasts were transmitted by the BBC from London four hours a day starting in 1936. There were at least 9,000 receivers at the time. Whether those early viewers were considered “daring” is debatable. Television, although not widespread, was immensely popular. A televised sporting event could draw an overflow crowd to any restaurant that had a TV set.1
The BBC also had regular cultural programming even then.
In 1937 you might have caught a six Part series called Clothes-Line about the history of fashion. It was co-presented by an Englishman by the name of James Laver who published “Laver’s Law” in the 1937 edition of Taste and Fashion. Here he attempted to compress the cycle of fashion attitudes into a timeline.
Briefly it goes:
|Indecent||10 years before its time|
|Shameless||5 years before its time|
|Outré (Daring)||1 year before its time|
|Dowdy||1 year after its time|
|Hideous||10 years after its time|
|Ridiculous||20 years after its time|
|Amusing||30 years after its time|
|Quaint||50 years after its time|
|Charming||70 years after its time|
This cycle2 is quite versatile and can be applied with some imagination to just about anything; for example: aircraft design.
Over the last few years frequent flyers have noticed that many new jets have wings that curve up at the ends. These are called winglets and have become the fashion in almost all types of commercial aircraft. How they were developed and became so widespread is not just a story of practical engineering but a combination of aeronautics and marketing.
Winglets are not new. If one travelled to Australia, or the Far East in 1988, one saw them on the wings of the new Boeing 747-400 series that had just gone into service, but the technology is older still. It was developed by Richard Whitcomb at NASA in response to fuel prices that skyrocketed as a result of the 1973 oil crisis.3
In the parlance of fashion, a few wide-bodied aircraft that travel overseas does not an “Indecent” winglet movement make.
This had to wait until 1991 when a group of retired Lockheed and Boeing engineers formed Aviation Partners. Dennis Washington, one of the founders and a successful businessman, was annoyed that his Gulfstream could not fly coast to coast without stopping to refuel. He contacted a friend of his, Joe Clark, who together with a team of engineers worked out a winglet that would increase his performance. These were fitted to his jet with the manufacturer’s permission and demonstrated a 4-5% increase in fuel economy. More importantly this fuel savings translated into increased range such that transcontinental refueling stops became unnecessary for the well-heeled business traveler with the means to fly by private jet.
In 1997 they formed an additional company to fit the winglets on Boeing aircraft, particularly 737s, and the rest is history4. These “shameless” winglets started popping up everywhere.
There is method to the madness. Winglets increase performance by creating additional forward thrust due to their design.
When a wing is generating lift, each wingtip creates a vortex. A vortex is a whirling mass of air similar to a whirlpool. During days of high humidity these look like two small cyclones streaming behind a large aircraft when it lands. The amount of turbulent force generated by them can be very strong. They will flip a smaller aircraft that is following too close behind, particularly on takeoffs and landing.
Winglets work well above 39,000 feet but require slower climbing speeds in order to realize the fuel savings. Climb too fast, and the fuel savings not only disappear but turn negative. Be assigned a lower altitude and once again the savings start to erode as is the case with short regional hops. These flights rarely travel above 27,000 feet because of the time required to climb and descend.
Another negative is that because winglets create additional lift, flight characteristics are changed when landing. The result is longer landing distances and higher landing speeds, which is not a problem under normal conditions but can increase the chance of an overrun when it is wet and icy.
In short, winglets improve aircraft performance for long hauls but can actually impede fuel economy on shorter flights.
Why the proliferation of winglets?
Marketing is a factor.5
They do look cool and the public feels more comfortable when they look out the window and see winglets because they know they are on one of the newer jets and likely it is safer.
In the parlance of fashion: the aircraft with winglets look “smart”.
But alas, even winglets are destined to look “dowdy” and pass into history perhaps to be revived at a later date due to the latest in aeronautical design: the raked wingtip. Raked wingtips can be seen on the new 787 except for the 787-3 which resorted to winglets in order to keep the wingspan smaller.6 Whether this variant will look “hideous” compared to its siblings, time will tell.
But that is not all. The Laver fashion cycle works not only in engineering but also in the field of mixology.
During the 1970s when winglets were being developed, the drink du jour that circulated amongst the smart set in New York City, especially willowy fashion models, was the Bullshot. It is a variation of the Bloody Mary and substitutes beef-broth or consommé for tomato juice.
It is not clear who was bold enough to create a cocktail made out of beef-broth, but its origins have been traced to 1950s Detroit. From there it travelled to Los Angeles and New York where it became a favorite of celebrities.
I remember the Bullshot growing up in the 1970s. Our bar at home always had two cans of Bullshot mix in the small refrigerator. Today there is not a Bullshot mixer anywhere in sight; not for love or money. Even the Internet is silent. It has gone the way of padded shoulders, platform shoes, and those grotesque five-inch sideburns.
The Bullshot was a fashion and like all fashions: one day it is “smart”, the next it is “hideous”, and then “ridiculous”. If truth be told, not everyone liked them even at their height of popularity. Marilyn Monroe is supposed to have had grave doubts about the cocktail by commenting “what a horrible thing to do to vodka.”
I was the only one other than my parents who liked Bullshots. Everyone else would not even attempt to drink one and would run in the opposite direction. This, I believe, was a failure of nerve.
I always associated Bullshots with happy thoughts so it was last Saturday, to forward research concerning Laver’s Law of fashion attitudes, to say nothing of overcoming a slightly sluggish feeling, that I managed to mix one — my first in almost forty years.
The results, even to a special somebody who had serious doubts, were nothing short of sensational. One Bullshot followed another.
Therefore, in the interests of détente, renewed discovery, a spirit of revival, and the cycle of fashion I give you the following recipe:
1½ oz vodka
2½ oz Campbell’s beef broth (canned beef broth is traditional here)
Juice of 1 lemon wedge
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes Tabasco sauce
Shake all ingredients well with ice, then strain into an Old-Fashioned glass full of fresh ice. Grate a little black pepper on top.7
You will find the concoction “amusing” if not “charming”.
- Mason & Assoc. (N.D.), Television History – A Timeline, Tarlton law Library, University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/exhibits/mason_&_associates/documents/timeline.pdf.
- Thomas, P. (N.D.), James Laver and the Laws on the Timeline of Style. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://www.fashion-era.com/lavers_law.htm.
- Larson, G. (2001), How Things Work: Winglets, Air & Space Magazine, September. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/how-things-work-winglets-2468375/?no-ist.
- Aviation Partners, Inc., Explore our Timeline. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://www.aviationpartners.com/timeline.html.
- Arvai, E. S. (2012) Winglets – A Triumph of Marketing over Reality, AirInsight. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://airinsight.com/2012/04/10/winglets-a-triumph-of-marketing-over-reality/.
- 787 Dreamliner, Boeing, Inc. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://www.boeing.com/boeing/commercial/787family/index.page.
- Wondrich, D. (2011) Bullshot, The Rise and Fall of the beef-broth cocktail, edible Manhattan. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://www.ediblemanhattan.com/recipes/bullshot-david-wondrich-on-the-rise-and-fall-of-the-beef-broth-cocktail/.
For more of Ivan’s writings, please visit his author blog.
Interested in reprinting our articles? Please see our reprint requirements.
© 2014 Ivan Obolensky. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced without the written permission from the author.