Swinging 70s

I recently came across an article about a 1943 exhibition of Alexander Calder‘s work at MoMA that jumpstarted his career and had a massive impact on the America art scene. 

If you’re not familiar with Calder, you’ve probably seen some of his well-known work throughout the years without even knowing it, such as in the parade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which features his 1974 sculpture, Flamingo:


*note to whoever posted this video: it’s “Bueller”, not “Buller”. Also, the apostrophe is unnecessary

This reminded me of long-gone Dallas-based airline Braniff International Airways.

The connection probably sounds tenuous at best, but that’s probably because Braniff has long-since-faded from your memory (or, if you’re on the younger-side, you’ve never even heard of it). But the connection is real.

In the mid-60s, Braniff began to undertake a decade-long rebranding, embracing the spirit of the times (space age, swinging, cocaine) and commissioned a few well-known designers to bring their image out of the staid 50s and into the modern era. 

Fashion designer Emilio Pucci was hired to design new uniforms for the flight crews:

Space Age Helmet Mod! Both Groovy and Far Out!

And the (in retrospect, sexist) AirStrip was introduced, in which flight attendants (or, in keeping with the times, “stewardesses”) would, over the course of the flight, remove their Pucci uniforms in favor of something more-comfortable.



In addition, Braniff built a swanky “Hostess College” adjacent to their home airport, Dallas’ Love Field.

Braniff Hostess College

It featured this of-the-times conversation pit:


Noted architect and designer Alexander Girard was hired to completely rebrand the airline, from sugar packets, to airport gates to jet interiors, as part of the “End of the Plain Plane” campaign.

Colors of the 60s

Too bright!

And, finally, getting back to Calder, he was invited to use Braniff jets as giant canvasses for his art, resulting in some of the most bold, exciting jet liveries to ever grace the sky:

Boeing 707

Boeing 727

Boeing 727

Unfortunately for Braniff, these undertakings were not enough to keep the airline alive. Due to mounting debt and a threatened pilots strike, the airline ceased operations on May 12, 1982. The daily nonstop from Honolulu to DFW, was the airline’s last flight, undertaken by the 747SP named “747 Braniff Place”, but more affectionately-known as “Big Orange”:

Flying Pumpkin - Boeing 747SP

The designs of the 60s and 70s had a certain optimism to them, no doubt inspired by unease over the Vietnam War and the Cold War, and percolated by men walking on the Moon, that it gives me hope that great art will emerge from the current coronavirus-stricken world. 

Questions? Comments? Concerns?