Whitewall Tires Have Lost Their Coolness

So I was parked in a supermarket lot today waiting for Mrs. Big Geez to do her grocery shopping thing, an activity for which — imagine this — she doesn’t want my assistance, when I spotted a geezer in a big car sporting whitewall tires. (The car, not the geezer.)

They were the narrow kind, and — heaven help me — I instantly remembered a time when those were considered really cool when compared to the older-style wide whitewalls. It also occurred to me how rare it is to see any kind of whitewall tires these days, but the more I thought about it I began to realize that the whole idea has always been pretty silly anyway.

I’m not sure when someone first got the idea of making tires with white sides, but it didn’t take long for people to decide that they somehow gave extra panache to the family chariot. We soon reached the point where you only saw blackwalls on police cruisers, taxis, and used jalopies.

I think it was around the late 1950s when the width of whitewalls began to stylishly shrink, which was also about the time that fancy hubcaps with spinners became all the rage among teens. As we all all know, the passing years saw the increasingly thinner whitewalls eventually give way to all black, perhaps influenced by our admiration for sports cars and hot racers. Whitewalls became the mark of square, conservative people, and thus were to be avoided at all costs. They are now mostly found on vehicles lovingly restored by classic car owners, and occasionally on cars driven by geezers.

Bluegrass Album Band – “Wheel Hoss”


6 thoughts on “Whitewall Tires Have Lost Their Coolness

  1. Well what was not to love about those old whitewalls! I remember they were a pain in the ass to keep clean. In those days most parking was parallel parking so one had to really hone his skills in that area so as to protect the virginity to those wide old whitewalls.

    I remember purchasing a new car in the late eighties, long after whitewalls had lost favor, and they were still installing whitewalls on new cars but were putting the whitewall to the inside. I’m not sure why they were even still making them. In their day whitewalls cost a bit more than just the plain black wall tire as I am sure you remember. I seriously considered turning the tires around after leaving the dealership.

    I also purchased my first very used ‘sports car’, an MG Midget, in the early sixties and found out that a true died-in-the-wool sports car enthusiast never, ever put white sidewall ties on their sports cars. I wasn’t happy about that but desperately desiring to be a part of the clan, I just had to grin and bear it!


    1. I had forgotten about the dreaded curb scuffling to whitewalls! I also recall that I worked in a service station as a teenager, and when doing a car wash for a customer we’d scrub whitewalls with an SOS pad to get them sparkling clean — but of course we were also gradually degrading the white rubber, making it rougher and more likely to get dirty again.


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