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
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.
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
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
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.
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