Forty-nine years; that’s how long A Charlie Brown Christmas has been kicking around. But the network had little to no faith at all in the tv special when it premiered on December 9, 1965.
With it’s anti-consumerist message, jazz score by the Vince Guaraldi trio, and the absence of a laugh track, CBS thought the Peanuts gang was too obtuse for television audiences. Little did they know it would become a Yuletide standby for the next five decades.
In the special, Charlie Brown is depressed by the over-commercialization of Christmas and has no idea what the holiday is really about. He organizes the rest of the gang into a producing a Christmas play to help suss out some meaning, but they only mock him and his naive ideas of love and good will. Fed up, Charlie and Linus set out to buy a tree for the play, and well, you probably know the rest.
If not, you can catch the whole thing on Hulu:
The anti-consumerist message resonated for a reason. The early 1960s were a time of nearly boundless economic prosperity in the United States as every industry grew to match the Soviets in the still developing Cold War. 1965, however, saw the first real escalation of the Vietnam War and the US economy began to falter because of it.
Inflation and unemployment rose as wages and GDP plummeted for the first time since the end of WWII. Many Americans had to reconcile that they simply couldn’t couldn’t afford all the presents under the tree for Christmas 1965, maybe even the tree itself. Charlie Brown’s return to human values and away from spending spoke to those who felt the crunch.
Charlie’s outfit works to convey that same message. Chuck is out of his iconic yellow and black shirt for the majority of the show. He instead wears a sack red bomber jacket, winter hunting cap, black pants, and a squiggle of brown lines on his feet.
Part Elmer Fudd, part mid-century, and all middle American workwear. He looks more like a dockworker in On The Waterfront than an elementary school student.
Schultz’s comic style reduced each piece of the children’s outfits reduced to a few scant lines. Stocking caps, saddle shoes, and winter coats only show up as minimalist ideals, but for the real life version of Charlie’s outfit, we’ve done our best below:
Stormy Kromer Classic Cap
$40 at Stormy Kromer
Vintage Woolrich Wool Bomber Jacket
$50 at Epitome Clothers (there’s only one for sale so after that I’d recommend the Filson Mackinaw Cruiser)
Left Field Black Maria Greaser Jeans
$230 at Left Field
Red Wing 875 in Oro Legacy
$260 at Revolve Clothing