0 Posted by - October 25, 2012 - Diary

Before approaching Pop culture in the 60’s, the ‘Pop: Design, Culture Fashion’ exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum set the scene with the first rumblings of a rebellious era with the birth of the teenager in the 1950’s.

After the end of World War II and the uneasiness of talk about a nuclear war, America’s priority was to create a safe environment for its postwar citizens. Teens found themselves between postwar families and the baby boom with no identity for themselves.

Recognition came in the form of rock ‘n’ roll music and style which was frowned upon by their disapproving parents, leading to a set of rules like:

  • Boy’s hair touching the ears wasn’t allowed, punishable by expulsion from school.
  • Most girls weren’t allowed to wear pants, and boys weren’t allowed to wear blue jeans.  Even Stanford University prohibited the wearing of jeans in public during the 1950s.
  • The new slang – hipster talk – bothered most adults.  It was part African American, part beatnik and part street gang… an offensive combination in the eyes of the status quo.
  • There was alarm about teens dating and “heavy petting.”  Any talk about sex was taboo and could be punishable.
  • Many parents were worried about their daughters adoring black rock musicians, fearing the possibility of racial commingling.
  • Hot rods were considered dangerous.  All it took was a few fatal accidents and the other 99% of the custom cars and hot rods were considered a menace to public safety.
  • Dancing to rock’n’roll music was often banned, with school and teen dances shut down.

 More can be read here.

Rock ‘n’ roll was met with disdain resulting in records being banned or smashed. Music and dancing were forms of freedom and escapism under the numerous strict rules imposed on them.

Clubs and dancehalls were the one place they could be themselves.

Teens enjoyed their independence. Instead of starting families like their parents did at their age, they attended college, gained jobs and therefore had more disposable income.

Manufacturers produced gimmicky products like the piano table above as they deemed the teen culture as short lived.

Looking the part was important too. Boys were suited and booted and girls wore easy fitting shift dresses or separates for dancing.