New York City has always been one of the world’s biggest icons and favorite cities in the world. From TV shows to iconic buildings, we all know and recognize the streets of NYC, and some of us haven’t ever even been there. This obsession goes back decades, and this vintage series will give you the taste you were looking for.
New York does ‘street’ better than anywhere else. It is one of the centers for fashion in the world, as well as food and culture. The city has always had such a rich history across so many cultures and therefore has had many important parts of history stamped into it. We are talking about movies and music too, you name it, New York was there for it.
Ladies Who Lunch
Whether it’s the ladies walking down the street dressed in their fabulous coats and small beehive hair-dos, or the Metropole Cafe, we’re feeling very 1960s. The Metropole Cafe was a jazz club from the mid-50s to the late 60s. Later it became a venue for rock bands, and eventually a home of desired women.
It almost seems like a middle-aged version of Sex and the City. We can only guess that these women are catching up, and probably complaining about their husbands and children. The only thing they’re missing is a dirty martini.
Times Square is one of the most iconic tourist destinations in New York City. It is weird to imagine, but it wasn’t always this way. Times Square as we know it only dates back to the late 90s. Before this time, it was known as one of the seediest, crime-ridden places in New York City. We don’t know if it was the bright lights and billboards that made the difference, but it is now full of families and tourists from all over the world.
It may be controversial to admit, but we think Times Square looks even cooler without the iconic bright lights that almost blind you as you walk through. The 80s version may have been more dangerous but the streets are much clearer. When adding that fresh blanket of snow in the winter months, it made for a pretty magical scene!
New York Slice
We don’t know when New York became a city known for its food but the reputation is well deserved even if it is just referring to pizza slices. The New York-style pizza grew out of the Italian immigrant community that brought pizza to NYC, and the rest of America in the early 1900s. Slices have typically been sold by the slice, often with each slice larger than your head, between 10-24 inches per slice!
Pizza shops started popping up in every corner and remain all over the city to this day. Slices have become even more iconic, and are definitely a quick cheap meal option when you’re on the go. Stromboli Pizza only recently closed down but had been a local spot for many since the 70s, serving up some of New York’s finest slices.
If there was going to be something more iconic than New York City, it might only be Meryl Streep. A very young Meryl Streep moved to the big apple in 1975. It is hard to imagine Meryl before she was the huge hit that she is today, but here she is riding a subway, still looking absolutely gorgeous.
New York, much like Los Angeles, has always been a spot for aspiring actors or musicians to try and make it big. Most of our favorite actors like Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon grew up and lived in New York City through the 70s and 80s. Even Joan Rivers was born and raised in Brooklyn.
The Guardian Angels are an icon of safety and a reminder of the violence and crime of the 70s and 80s. They were founded in 1979 so civilians could be more prepared for the violence that was happening on the New York City subway. And let’s be honest, they look great too…
What started off as a small non-profit organization in New York, later spread to over 130 cities and 13 countries all over the world. They trained members to make citizen arrests for violent crimes, as well as patrol streets, and provide educational programs and workshops in schools.
New York Minute
This image seems to capture so much of what we have always loved about New York. You can almost hear the noises and rush of the city in the image, as well as the smells from around the streets and the subway. These two young girls just caught in a New York minute…
Unfortunately, on most corners now there sits a large chain, either McDonalds or Starbucks. These chains have since tainted the authentic streetscape of New York, how true New Yorkers remember it in the golden days of the 80s. These two girls stand on the corner of Bleeker Street, one of the main streets in Manhattan.
Return of the Jedi
The 1983 opening of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had the New York City streets full of Treckies waiting to see the next installment. It was a time we can’t even remember before Netflix and online streaming. People were so excited and even got dressed up to see it.
Loews Astor Plaza was the bottom level of the now known One Astor Plaza. At the time, Loews was the largest capacity cinema with 1,440 seats. It only had a single screen and drew huge crowds for opening nights, just like this one. Sadly, it closed in 2004, but this photo definitely captures the history and hype of the theatre.
Infamous Studio 54
If there was one place we wish we were lucky enough to party at, it is without a doubt Studio 54. In the late 70s at the peak of the disco era, located in Manhattan on W54th Street, was one of the most famous night clubs in the world. Studio 54 drew in crowds including many of the world’s most famous celebrities. Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Brooke Shields, Drew Barrymore, David Bowie, Cher, and Michael Jackson… Just to name a few.
Because of the reputation that the nightclub earned itself, not only were celebrities in attendance, but also as performers. Madonna, Wham!, Cydni Lauper, Kiss, and many more musicians, all played performances at Studio 54. It was without a doubt the place to see and be seen. We have FOMO and wish it was still open for us to check out!
John and Yoko in NYC
New York City, being the place that it is, is full of opinions and controversy. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s song “Happy Xmas, War is Over,” released in 1971 as a protest song against the Vietnam War. It was billboarded all over New York City after it was released and recorded on W44th Street.
The song was written and sung by Lennon and Yoko, and the Harlem Community Choir. The song was a part of their Peace Campaign and the billboards were put up in 12 major cities around the world, starting with New York City. It was such an iconic time in history, the billboard says it all.
Not Your Average City Girl
When we think of Marilyn Monroe in New York City, we think of her standing over the subway grate and her dress flying about. The photo itself is an icon of vintage New York fame and glamour. Monroe was also just an average girl, as they tried to show her, just taking the subway.
She actually got married in New York to playwright Arthur Miller in 1956. Years later in 1962, at Madison Square Garden, Monroe performed the infamous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” on stage at President John F Kennedy’s birthday celebration. She is an icon of the 60s and 70s, and she has come to symbolize New York city life.
Lower East Side
Orchard Street, central to the Lower East Side, was the center of job opportunities in the garment industry. Small garment shops lined the street, owned by immigrants who held jobs in the shops and production factories. For anyone who needed to shop undergarments, new suits or shoes, it was the go-to place.
The Lower East Side or as many people know it as just LES, has a history of many different ethnic groups. It was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the world around the early 1900s, and more recently home to Latinos and Asians. Today it is a magnet for cool young people from all over the world.
Centre of Broadcasting
It’s not a big surprise that the CBS production company was located in the heart of Manhattan, opening in the 1950s. As we know, today most of the production is done in Los Angeles, but the New York location is now the headquarters. CBS was the home to classic oldie soap operas like As the World Turns and Guiding Light starring Kim Zimmer.
Nowadays, although L.A holds a big part in the production, CBS still has a couple of large studios in New York. When we think of The Late Night Show, we think of New York. Thankfully, it is still produced in New York and hasn’t been sent off to production in L.A like so many other TV shows and movies.
Cute Kid on the Block
The streets of New York have always been like a playground to people, both kids, and adults. Maybe it was a different kind of a playground, perhaps more literal for kids. Taken in Harlem, a neighborhood in the northern section of Manhattan. Harlem was notorious for crime in the 70s and 80s, and to this day hasn’t lost its reputation completely.
Taken in 1988, the kid is playing on the street pipes. Although most people might think it is a bit dirty, this is what growing up on the block looks like. Kids back in the 80s didn’t have their Ipads to play on, they were out on the streets playing with their local neighbors on the block.
Summer in Central Park
Parks have always been a huge part of the New York landscape and culture. Maybe it is because the city is so dense with high rise buildings and apartment blocks, but there are so many small parks all over the city. That doesn’t even include Central Park, which if you didn’t realize, takes up almost 10% of Manhattan.
For decades, people have come to the parks to play, lie in the sun, read books, relax and socialize. Individuals from all different walks of life have found themselves crossing paths within these parks. The 70s and 80s were full of kids playing in the fountains and climbing trees, taking a break from the city skyscrapers if only for a little while.
House of Rock
Even if you didn’t know exactly what CBGB was, or stood for, you’ve definitely heard the name before. CBGB (Country, BlueGrass, and Blues) was one of the most famous New York City music clubs. It hosted some of the world’s best musicians including names like The Ramones, The Police, Elvis Costello and The Patti Smith Group.
CBGB opened in 1973 in Manhattan’s East Village. It was a biker bar, and also a dive bar before turning into the iconic house of music. Although the owner originally wanted it to be country and blues music, it quickly became the go-to place for punk rock and hardcore punk… a little heavier than blues.
80s Couple Goals
New York City in the 80s wouldn’t be the same without the iconic couple, Madonna and Sean Penn. Although they were only married for a few years, they became a part of the city’s streetscape. They were spotted constantly together within those years, walking around the city where they lived together.
Neither Penn or Madonna grew up in New York, but like others in the industry, they moved to the Big Apple to pursue careers in the entertainment industry in the late 70s. They were almost equally famous, and as a power couple, they were definitely front and center.
The Morning News
So this is what the morning commute looked like before we all just sat scrolling on our iPhones. The trains were mainly filled with businessmen on their morning ride to work, reading the newspapers to catch their daily news. It is definitely a very 1960s New Yorker moment.
Even the fashion and facial expressions seem more serious, almost as if they belong in the 60s. We can imagine they get off the train and walk straight into an episode of Mad Men. There are so many types of ‘New Yorkers,” but the 60s businessman will forever be the iconic one.
City of Misfits
Ironically, the name Misfits which belongs to the American Punk Rock band of the 70s also applies to many of the people who have lived in New York. New York has always been such a melting pot of different people, many who are just looking for a new place or scene.
The city has always had a vibe of freedom to self-expression. We think that is why so many people, especially creatives, have been drawn to it for decades. You can see this across the fashion, as well as music and art culture within the city.
Keeping the Streets Safe
When we think of the 70s and 80s in America, we do definitely think of hippy pants and kaftans. This goes hand in hand with some political rallies during that time that helped shape the world as we know it. This photo marks a big day in New York history, the largest political demonstration in American History at the time.
It was on June 12th in 1982, over one million people gathered in central park for the Great Anti-Nuclear March. The rally included an afternoon of speeches, entertainment, music and rallying on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The rally must have been fairly calm considering how relaxed these cops look having a little snack and break.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade started in 1924 and is the world’s largest parade. It has definitely won itself iconic status, it is even referenced in episodes of Friends! The parade has always run from Central Park to Macy’s in Herald Square. Each year there are different floats and different performances.
This float of Tom Turkey dates back to 1978. Tom Turkey is the most recurring and most famous float in the parade’s history. Lining the streets of New York, the parade seems like something we all need to see one day. Maybe we will get to see Tom Turkey floating his way down 6th Avenue.
Fast Food Forever
We have had a love for fast food for as long as we can remember. Can you believe our favorite ones only started popping up around the 50s? We can’t even imagine what people were eating as a hungover snack before then. This 70s retro Burger King is goals on so many levels, not just fast food joints.
The design of the fast-food chain, as well as the staff uniforms, fits in line with how we picture the groovy 70s. Matching the stripey exterior, each location was fitted out with bold and colorful features. Later Burger King moved to a solid blue aesthetic so this definitely shows us the era!
For anyone who has been to New York, you’ve experienced the love and hate relationship with the subway. It is definitely the easiest and quickest way to get around the city and between the burrows, it is pretty amazing.. everything is connected! The subway is notoriously always full of commuters, questionable smells, and entertaining street perofrmers.
The subway has also always been a really cool place to see the diversity and culture of New York. Walking from the entrance through to the platform and onto the carriage has always been a walkway of fashion, culture, pets in bags and people of all ages going about their day.
One of our favorite New York past times is the diner scene. Maybe it’s our Seinfeld nostalgia kicking in but there is something about an 80s diner that we just love. Diners were one of the first places doing the whole breakfast-for-dinner thing, most of them serving past midnight.
There are plenty of old diners scattered around New York still, but there are also places that try and recreate the original 70s diner with an ‘old-school’ look. In our mind, living in New York at this time was just about eating fries, sandwiches, and drinking coffee on the local corner.
Cops Stand Guard
During the 80s when the streets weren’t as safe, the Police helped safeguard on public transport. You can even get a sense from the graffiti-covered carriage. It definitely still exists today, but nowhere near as much as you can see in this image. New York was yet to experience its wave of gentrification that we know today.
This image gives a better understanding and closer look at what the 80s were like, disco and fashion aside. Parts of New York were a lot sketchier at the time, probably a lot more fascinating and gritty than the city we know today. That’s also why the Guardian Angels existed, safety first!