1950's Teenagers

5 Facts:
1. The term "teen-ager" was coined in the 1950s and was not part of the American vocabulary before World War II. It was first seen in a September 1941 article of a Popular Science magazine. Teenagers were results of the baby boom and lived in a time where they experienced autonomy, economic opportunity, and social mobility. They created their own subculture of distinctive social, moral, and cultural values.

2. In the 1950s, a rise in juvenile crime, sexual experimentation and general presence of youth rebellion was caused by several things, the one main cause would be the access to automobiles. This gave teens a lot more freedom to go and do what ever they wanted. However, in the 50s juvenile crime was not drive by shootings or drug deals, but simple things like chewing gum in class or souping up hot rods. All the restrictions to their lives made them want to go and do things they were not suppose to do.

3. The 1950's teens were known as the "Beat Generation" or "Greasers." The Beat Generation stood for the writers, poets, and artists who went against the dress codes and strict rules taking away the creativity of teens in the 50s. The term Greasers came from the way guys would slick back their hair with gel. They rode motorcycles, wore leather jackets, and grew their hair long like, this style became popularized by people like James Dean.

4. In the 1950s, a new form of music came out called "Rock 'n' Roll." This music was a blend of rhythm and blues and electric beats, introduced by Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey. This music let teens express themselves through dancing and having fun with their friends. However, the music was not the only thing affecting teens, rock 'n' roll singers like Elvis Presley who wore flashy clothes, slicked back hair and danced with his hips increased a state of sexuality that parents found unmoving and rebellious.

5. The 1950s was a decade of uniformity for teens, girls wore their bobby socks and skirts and guys with their crew cuts and letter sweaters. Everyone looked the same, no one could really express their creativity without getting in trouble from your school or parents. Boys were not to have their hair touching their ears, or wear jeans and girls could not wear pants. Things like these would get you expelled or suspended from school. In rebel, a group called the Beats emerged because they wanted to express their individuality. The Beats accepted themselves living out of the system with little possessions, and set creative goals for themselves.

Primary Source 1:
Dress Code for High School Students in New York (1956)

Board of Education, Buffalo, New York
January 24, 1956


Dress shirt and tie or conservative sport shirt and tie with suit jacket, jacket, sport coat, or sweater
Standard trousers or khakis; clean and neatly pressed
Shoes, clean and polished; white bucks acceptable

Not Recommended:
Dungarees or soiled, unpressed khakis
T-shirts, sweat shirts
Extreme style of shoes, including hobnail or "motorcycle boots"


Shirt and tie or sport shirt and tie
Sport shirt with sweater or jacket
Standard trousers or khakis; clean and neatly pressed
Shoes, clean and polished; white bucks acceptable

Not Recommended:
Dungarees or soiled, unpressed khakis
T-shirts, sweat shirts
Extreme styles of shoes, including hobnail or "motorcycle boots"
Note: The apparel recommended for boys should be worn in standard fashion with shirts tucked in and buttoned, and ties tied at the neck.
Standard of dress for boys, while in school shops or laboratories, should be determined by the school.


Blouses, sweaters, blouse and sweater, jacket with blouse or sweater
Skirts, jumpers, suits or conservative dresses
Shoes appropriate to the rest of the costume

Not Recommended:
V-neck sweaters without blouse
Bermuda shorts, kilts, party-type dresses, slacks of any kind
Ornate jewelry T-shirts, sweat shirts
  • This is an example of one of the dress codes in New York City for high schools showing how serious hey took dressing.

Primary Source 2:
  • This is a picture of people listening to rock 'n' roll doing the twist, a dance created in the 1950s.

Explanation Paragraph:
In the 1950s teenagers were stuck in the middle of a thriving country trying to find their places and identities. However, rules and laws kept them from showing the way they wanted to live. Guys were forced to have crew cuts and could not where things they liked, and girls had to follow a dress code also. Dressing was not the only thing though because when rock 'n' roll first came out in the 50s radios were band to play it and parents kept it from their teenagers. Teens were deprived of so many things they had to find ways to break laws and lose their innocence to have fun and do the things they wanted.