Suppose again to the cabins of the land yachts that plied American highways from the Nineteen Seventies and you’ll little question bring to mind the phrase, “wealthy, Corinthian leather-based,” made well-known by the charismatically-accented Ricardo Montalban as he smiled at digital camera from someplace within the neighborhood of a mid-decade Chrysler Cordoba. Nonetheless, a extra complete view of the market again then reveals an infinite wave of an artificial materials each bit as heat and luxurious as Montalbán’s dulcet tones—velour. For a stretch of 15 or so years, it was practically not possible to order a Detroit-built barge that did not characteristic floor-to-ceiling wannabe-velvet as its inside pièce de résistance.
Velour’s dominant flip on the tiller of automotive styling was in line with the style and design traits of the day, reflecting the deep-pile carpets, upscale throwback upholstery, and naturally the total velvet fits dominating each nightlife and the health club because the world reveled in a brand new polyester paradise.
On the similar time, it presided during the last hurrah for what may very well be thought of adult-oriented automotive promoting, the tail-end of TV and print campaigns that focused a extra mature viewers—reasonably than pandering to the approaching swell of youthful yuppies that have been poised to take over the buyer mainstream with their infinite quantities of disposable revenue.
Science Brings Luxurious to the Lots
Versus the ‘authenticity’ identifier that defines trendy advertising and marketing, the explosion of synthetic materials on the finish of the Sixties was cheered on as proof constructive that scientific advances have been bettering American life for the higher. Boring outdated cotton-based velour had all the time been a presence in textile design, however the polyester revolution actually pushed this tremendous mushy analog for conventional silk-derived velvet to the forefront.
After making the leap from its conventional furnishings area to the world of tracksuits and rock star-appropriate stage-wear, it wasn’t lengthy earlier than automakers started to include velour into inside design. Though its reputation within the garment business might be straight tied to its prominence within the wardrobes of well-liked entertainers, automotive corporations took a unique tack when making use of and advertising and marketing the fabric.
As a substitute of leaning into the youth motion, thought of on the time to be of doubtful monetary means, luxurious manufacturers like Lincoln, Imperial, and Cadillac started to sketch out velour-draped passenger compartments. These tried to stability out the deep, wealthy colours of the rock ‘n roll panorama with a pillow-top perspective borrowed from velour’s furnishings basis. Offered to a deep-pocketed clientele, the material rapidly turned a signifier of each decadence and sophistication, phrases that had been nearly mutually unique till their marriage beneath the synthetic polymer solar.
In comparison with leather-based, velour supplied a depth to automotive interiors that had beforehand been missing, with its crushed, textured look amenable to pleats, stitching, and all method of over-stuffed equipment. Seats, door panels, and headliners have been all of the sudden slathered with the stuff, that includes particulars within the type of recessed buttons, snaps, leather-based handles, and naturally the occasional chrome accent. With all of the assist of a waterbed and the easy-to-clean character of corduroy, velour upholstery may not have been sensible, however for a glimmering window of time it actually screamed “cash. “
Adverts For Mother and Dad(dy)
This difficult lean into velour as a fabric worthy of aristocracy is evidenced by the promoting of the period. Attractive, hand-drawn advertisements have been nonetheless coin of the print realm. Pictures of tuxedo-clad males flanked by girls in elaborate night gown, or vaguely mystical summer season celebration tableaus poured from the pens of illustrators, with the automobiles shoehorned in nevertheless attainable. These have been adopted intently by heavily-airbrushed formal images additionally seemingly taken from the nice and cozy haze of the spirit realm, with severe faces floating in to border whereas burgundy, ivy, and cerulean blue velour did the heavy lifting within the foreground.
The message was clear: should you fancied the equestrian arts, had a field seat subscription to the opera, or have been a captain of business, nothing lower than velour would do. There was no try and tie-in to the disco zeitgeist or enchantment to a youthful buyer not already 25 years deep into a company profession. This marked the final time American advert corporations went after what was perceived as a deep pool of largely stagnant money, parked peacefully in bonds awaiting the retirement faucet.
Promoting departments got here up with a wholly new lexicon to explain these faux-velvet habitats, too. Phrases like Brougham, Monticello, Minoa, and Medici have been adopted as callbacks to Previous World European upholsterers, which felt in-step with the rising hole between Detroit premium and the long run course of automotive luxurious. Main trend homes, not eager to be unnoticed of the sport, additionally lent their names to more and more velour-intensive interiors. Luminaries comparable to Cartier, Givenchy, and Invoice Blass particularly stuffed Lincoln showrooms with the softest of passenger compartments.
Out With the Softest of Whimpers
As with most automotive design traits, there was no clear-cut finish to the velour period. Because the ’80s started, the fabric trickled down right into a wider vary of fashions. The fabric nonetheless denoted a premium remedy reserved for the higher echelons of the construct sheet, however was now not fenced from down-market by the tightly-patrolled model bosses at Cadillac and its contemporaries. The fabric started to colonize lower-buck Buicks, Fords, and Chryslers at a speedy fee, with even Ricardo Montalbán hawking material over cowhides within the Fifth Avenue.
The shifting winds of trend started to billow the sails of much less overwrought, extra leather-friendly interiors imported from European homes comparable to BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Velour remained on the menu in Detroit till the early Nineteen Nineties, however its heyday was carried out. With it went the class-conscious promoting imagery that had restricted its charms as premium manufacturers started their sophisticated, and infrequently tortured relationship with excessive efficiency that ultimately jettisoned conventional luxurious liner dynamics and designs.
Driving an costly automotive now meant having fun with the expertise at a visceral stage, reasonably than merely sitting again on a cellular sofa cushion and watching the world slip by behind a gauzy lens—or no less than, that is what the Madison Avenue advertisers got down to persuade the shopping for public. A extra relaxed materials from a much less aggressive time, velour’s key-party and nation home signifiers have been no match for the coked-up conspicuous consumption of the ’80s and ’90s.