We’re going to go ahead and guess that along with your new FitBit, Santa may have brought you a coloring book this year. Throughout 2015, coloring for adults has transitioned from being a budding trend to a full-fledged phenomenon. Currently, half of the ten best-selling books on Amazon are coloring books. Until recently, it has appeared as though the shift in coloring books’ demographic was something new, but it seems like this actually isn’t the first time coloring books have moved into the grown-up realm.
A similar trend took off in the ’60s. The first adult coloring book was published in late 1961 and titled the Executive Coloring Book. Unlike the soothing, meditative designs that often fill up pages today, this book was created by three men in advertising in Chicago shortly and not-so-subtly mocked the conformism that dominated the post-war corporate workplace.
Throughout the book, you’ll find illustrations of a businessman as he moves through the various stage in his day, each accompanied by a caption. Below a drawing of a man getting dressed you’ll find text that reads, “This is me. I am an executive. Executives are important. They go to important offices and do important things. Color my underwear important.” A few of the other pages come with more specific directions. In one drawing in which the man is wearing his suit the caption reads, “This is my suit. Color it gray or I will lose my job.”
This new satirical medium didn’t stop after the Executive Coloring Book. In fact, quite the contrary. After that first adult coloring book was published, similarly styled books began to pop up. In Joe B. Nation’s New Frontier Coloring Book (published in 1962), there is an illustration of a rocking chair accompanied by the caption, “This is the symbol of the New Frontier. It gives a feeling of motion without getting us anywhere.” The books went on to mock the hipster community, communists and pretty much everything in between.
These are drastically different to the serene coloring books dominating the best selling list today, but we have to admit this snarky alternative is sort of refreshing. They’re not meditative in the “om” sort of way but the hilariously sarcastic commentary that still rings true more than 50 years later is definitely therapeutic in its own right.
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