In the last English post we looked at the gold pin striping which was one of the distinctive features of vintage Japanese bicycles from the 1950's but not included in the videos They Don't Make Them Like They Used to Part 1 and Part 2. I think you will agree the gold pin striping is a classic accent, but what about the black frame?
Strange. Most products start out as black. Think about it. Most products made of iron, steel, celluloid, plastic, first started out in black. Early automobiles, telephones, sewing machines, typewriters, laptops, were originally BLACK.
Same for bicycles. Black is basic. The black enamel used on bicycles from the 1950's is amazing. Frames were typically coated with a dull maroon primer and then three layers of black enamel. Don't know what was in the enamel but it is certainly quality materials as with just rubbing compound the paint comes back to life with a rich luster. Click on the photo below and compare. Or, watch the video Trash to Treasure.
In the early 1950's Japan was just starting to rebuild. Bicycles were the only affordable mode of private transportation for most families, costing two to three months' salary. So, in real terms, bicycles held the status of today's automobile. The reason for black is mainly due to the fact that bicycles were predominantly workhorses, used to transport goods as well as people. Gradually as a society becomes more affluent there is a shift to automobiles and the bicycle is no longer a necessity and graduates to a leisure item. This can easily be seen in catalogs from 1950- 1960. In a catalog from the early 1950's ninety-nine percent are black, with the exception of a dark or drab olive green. But by 1960 and thereafter the lineup of colors increases. This coincides with Japan's growth and shift from bicycle as a necessity to a leisure item.
Imagine if you will nearly all bicycles were black. Since bicycles were the only affordable mode of private transportation, one can easily imagine the confusion that arose when attempting to find one's bicycle parked amongst hundreds of others at a crowded train station. Thus, people would paint their name, the name of their store, establishment, etc., with white pant on the back of the rear fender. Click on the photo below and note the name of the establishment or institution on the rear fender.