Playboy, Then and Now

Data Visualizations on Half a Century of Playmates

The ideal playmate is “the girl next door with her clothes off”, according to Playboy’s founder Hugh Hefner.

Marilyn Monroe was the first model that posed for Playboy’s centerfold. It was December 1953. Sixty-two years and 737 issues later, America’s “girl next door” surely has changed. Some speculate that female bodies on Playboy have become more athletic. Others have pointed at the increasing impact of plastic surgery and at the number of models with unrealistic breasts sizes. Academic studies have analyzed the correlation between economic conditions and Playmates’ curves. Others have stressed America’s increasing BMI, and argued that the gap between the “girl next door” and the girl depicted in Playboy covers is getting wider and wider.

To make sense of this, we’ve gathered, organized and visualized information on all the 739 girls that have posed in Playboy’s centerfolds. From the “Sweetheart of the Month” in the December 1953 issue to Kaylia Cassandra’s June 2015 centerfold. Let us tell you the stories that we found in the data.


Do Men Prefer Blondes? Less and less, according to Playboy

The first Playboy centerfold ever was dedicated to a (dyed) blonde, Marilyn Monroe. Yet blondes are not Playboy’s favorite models. The 50s and 60s saw more brunettes than blondes. And also, they saw the highest share of redheads ever recorded (18% through the 50s).

The percentage of blonde Playmates then started to rise through the 70s and 80s. Blondes reached their peak of fame in the 90s. Back then, they made up 57% of the girls featured in the magazine’s centerfolds.

The tables quickly turned, and in the 2010s “only” 44% of the Playmates were blonde. The lowest value ever since the 1970s.

Blonde Playmates, Brunette Playmates and Redhead Playmates Through the Decades

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

Overall, there have been slightly more brunette playmates (48%) than blondes (47%).

However, blondes seem more likely to become Playboy’s favorite model of the year. Only 2.6% of the redheads Playmates have become Playmate of the Year. For the brunettes, this number goes up to 7%. And for the blondes it’s 9.3%.

Number of Playmates of the Year per Hair Color of the Model

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

As Playboy Gets Older, Playmates Have Smaller Bust Sizes

So far, in the 2010s, 94% of the Playmates are a 31–35 inch bra size. The largest busts of this decade have been a 36–37, and still, only 6% of the Playmates sported them.

In contrast, this was the most popular size in through the 50s and 60s. Sizes bigger than 40 have totally disappeared from Playboy’s centerfolds since the 1980s, and 38 or plus measures since the 90s.

On the other hand, smaller busts of 31–33 inches have been 2–3% from the 50s to the 90s. They jumped to 13% in the 2000s. And they’ve been 36% of all the breasts pictured on Playboys’ centerfolds in the 2010’s.

Playmate Bust Sizes throught the Decades

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

How do the numbers compare for the average American woman? It’s hard to find credible or official statistics.

But for fun, consider that according to a study by Intimacy, a bra retailer, the most sold bra size is a 34E. Only 0.1% of the playmates would probably buy this bra size.

Number of Models grouped by Bra Size

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

Nowadays, Almost a Fourth of the Playmates is Foreign Born

Back in the 50s, only 5% of the Playmates were born outside the US. By the 2010s, the number has peaked to almost a fourth.

Non-US Born Playmates through the Decades

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

The highest percentage of foreign-born Playmates is still North American, as they come from Canada.

Number of Issues grouped by Country of Birth for Model (Excluding US)

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

Playmates’ Age Increasing Along with the Magazine: The 2010–2015 average age Is 4 years older than the average age in the 60s

The average playmate of the 2010s is one and a half years older than the one of the 1950s.

Back in the 50s, the average playmate was 22.3 years old. It dropped to 21 in the 60’s, then has been rising ever since. Gradually yet steadily. To the point that in the 2010s, the average age has almost reached 25.

While most of the Playmates have been 21–22, there have been 3 underaged Playmates. And sixteen 30+, starting from Betti Page in 1995.

Playmate Average Age Through the Decades

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

America’s Girl Next Door Looks Less and Less Like a Playmate

In the last two decades, Playmates have had an average BMI of about 18.3–18.5. A value that classifies them as healthy weight or just slightly underweight, according to the World Health Organization.

And for the “American girl next door” the BMI has been increasing steeply.

Playmate Average BMI and US Mean BMI (Female 20–29 Years) 1953–2015

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

But are Playmates an idealized female model?

Not necessarily so, at least in comparison to other fashion models. Almost half of the Playmates have a BMI that classifies as “healthy weight”, according to WHO standards. True, the majority is still considered underweight, but only six models (0.8%) are actually classified as “severely underweight”.

Number of Issues grouped by Model’s BMI Classification

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

Playmates Say Goodbye to “Hourglass” Body Figures

Bill Farley, Playboy’s director of Communications, stated that body shapes of Playmates has been changing:

“In the 1950s and into the 60s, the cultural norm was more of the hourglass figure — Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield. That was reflected in the pages of Playboy. As time has gone on and women have become more athletic, more in the business world and more inclined to put themselves through fitness regimes, their bodies have changed, and we reflect that as well”.

In fact, the data on the average hips, waist and bust sizes seems to confirm this. Playmates are having wider hips and waists, and smaller busts. In other words, the hourglass measures are slowly averaging towards less curvy bodies.

Playmates’ average bust, waist and hips through the decades

Data from http://playboy.silk.co/

NOTE: You can find all the data, together with more interactive charts and articles on our dedicated resource: Playboy, Then and Now. Data Visualizations on Half a Century of Playmates


Originally published at blog.silk.co.