Life in the 1950’s

by Erika Cox

Life in the 1950’s was simple. Some say it was the best time in American History, although I would suggest that could be true for most White Americans but not completely true for Black Americans.

Segregation and racism was still part of life and although there were some major changes to erase both like in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools were unconstitutional, there were still problems forcing blacks to take drastic measures for equality and inclusion like in 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus.

For many Americans, the wars and the depression were a distant memory and the country was feeling good about itself. Most Americans trusted the government and believed in politicians. Society was experiencing growth, economically and socially, and new ideas of prosperity and success for families and the country as a whole were taking shape.

1950's Costume Style Design - 1950's costumes has been trendy and stylelish during the fifties ara. Movie such as 50's Greaser created many Grease costumes dresses and diner hop design that are still popular today.

Jobs were mainly industrial and agricultural, most men worked in blue-collar jobs and there was an increase in the need for secretarial work, which allowed for some women to work outside of the home.

In the 1950’s, television was becoming more and more a part of everyday life, more families had televisions in their homes and AM radio was also becoming more popular, along with the advent of 45 records, jukeboxes, and eventually albums.

Music was expanding; the sound of rock and roll was creeping into the mainstream with the help of radio and television and teenagers were experiencing more independence and freedom than what their parents had as teenagers.

However, life in the early 1950’s was still very strict. Women were still obligated to the status of housewife and men were the main breadwinners in the family. Children, including teenagers, were to be seen and not heard but by the mid-1950’s, that was becoming more difficult because of newfound freedoms, rock and roll music, and other outlets teenagers had available to them.

Changes in clothing styles, specifically for teens, started to appear. Guys started wearing their hear longer with sideburns and slicked back with grease. They also wore jeans and leather jackets (with the collar turned up to be “cool”) and the girls wore ponytails, poodle skirts, pedal pushers, and scarves.

Prior to the 1950’s, clothing worn by young people was very reserved and proper but to some extent that changed in the 50’s. For example, poodle skirts were popular with females for a couple of reasons.

In the fifties Halloween began to become popular in the US.  Find some cool poodle skirts and 50s Halloween costumes for Halloween or some other Adult Halloween Costumes for the holdiay season.

The first is that the skirt allowed for easier dancing, being spun around letting the skirt twirled. The next reason is that the skirt was loose and free, a sign of freedom. Leather jackets, cut-off shirts, and slicked back hair allowed the boys to appear as “cool.”

Popular celebrities were very influential, kids wanted to be just like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Ricky Nelson to name a few. One thing to note is that the popular size for women back in the 1950’s is much different than it is today. Curves were popular; those with bigger bust and smaller waistlines like Marilyn Monroe were in style.

Popular television shows were I Love Lucy, The adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and Superman to name a few. Sock hops, (dance hops), hula hoops, and cruising were very popular among young people and popular slang were words like squares, chicks, be bop, threads, keen, back seat bingo (kissing in the back seat), kill (impress), and cat (a cool person).

Although, young people were experiencing more freedom and independence they were, for the most part, still respectable to adults and they still were dignified and decent.

Children still obeyed parents. Females were still expected to act a certain “ladylike” way and males were still expected to act like gentlemen. Sex was taboo, premarital sex was not accepted and if a girl found herself “in the family way” (a slang for pregnant) many times she was shipped off to live with relatives or admitted to some special school for girls.

Although, times were changing, major changes didn’t take place until the 1960’s, which saw a shift in morals, attitudes, family life, race relations, and overall feelings about the government. To many, this is why the 1950’s are seen as the best time, when families and morals were intact and times were much simpler and enjoyable.

Go to Rewind the Fifties Home




Rewind the Fifties and all related Pages copyright 1997 - 2009