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From the archive: did men’s friendship still have a place in 1969?

The Observer Magazine looked at friendship between men for their issue of 29 June 1969 (“The male bond – does all-male society still have a place in modern life?”), though, less charitably, it was simply male chauvinism.

“One of the most obvious distinguishing characteristics of men is their great ability, even urge, to get together with their own sex,” wrote the author of Men in Groups, the Canadian sociologist Lionel Tiger (oh, come on!).

Tiger argued that there was a danger in neglecting what he coined the male bond. “Women now share most sides of British life. But is it all a good thing? They are in clubs and pubs, on explorations and entering rowing eights.” They’re everywhere! Can’t they just stay at home?

“The anti-female tradition is, then, very old and it may be as biologically necessary for men and women to divide when they meet in groups as there is powerful, sweet-sour compulsion for men and women to couple when they meet alone.” That “sweet-sour”… as if love were a cheap Chinese meal. (Although, sometimes it is.)

There were some small shoots of “new man” poking through. “Soccer holds us together, but it is not really that important,” admitted a member of the Mount Street Football and Marching Society. “It gives us a point to meet once a week. It has really sustained me. When my marriage broke up… I lost all my friends. But this went on.”

The 6.18 Club, however, was a little more conservative. It comprised 33 commuters between London Victoria and Arundel who had “a tie (dark blue with a clock face showing 6.18), a committee, a constitution, a newsletter and, best of all, a regular weekend fixture of par-three golf on the miniature course on the seafront at Littlehampton”.

“We mainly talk or sleep, and on Friday we have a drink in the bar,” said one. And to think home working has now killed off this kind of vibrant camaraderie.

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