The 1900s marked the beginning of a new century, one that would
allow people to grow and develop, and of course it was to be
the century of technological advancement.
Although teenagers of the 1900s were not considered an individual
group yet, their progression through the century brought teenagers
to where they are today.
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With the beginning of the new century, attitudes slowly began
to change. People began to spend more time on leisure activities,
and the working week was cut to six days a week, and some employers
gave two-week vacations. Much of this time was spent with friends,
either at the home, at a musical concert, at the theatre or at
Inventions like the icebox and shopping by catalogue made everyday
life much more easier for people. Women no longer had to sew
all the clothes for their families, but they could now purchase
them through the Sears catalogue.
Although teens still had to wear uncomfortable undergarments,
clothing in general was becoming a little less constrictive and
much simpler. Young women still had to wear corsets, but the
often wore a dress that fell just below their ankles which was
of a much more simple design and not as frilly. For boys, the
jacket and knee pants or sailor suits were all popular.
There was no major event, nor was their a major trend, that signifies
the teenagers of the 1900s. They simply did as their parents
told, and there was not much of a gap in between childhood and
adulthood. Many teens were forced to grow up quickly, as can
be seen in many of the decades in this century.
The 1910s provided an era of change, as the world witnessed its
first major world war in 1914. Nations around the world were
also switching from agrarian economies to ones based on factories
and industries. Along with these changes, the importance of education
recognized during this era. North American society felt that
there was a need for young people to be taught the basics, such
as reading, writing and arithmetic.
Before the war, clothing was quite traditional although the hemline
on women's dresses became shorter. One fashion, originated in
Paris, was the hobble skirt. This skirt had a hem tied together
with a band so that women had to hobble to walk in them. These
were often accompanied by wide-brimmed hats. However when the
war started new materials were used and new dyes made clothes
Overall, teenagers did not stick out as an individual group,
but one could see the young faces in the war photographs. These
youth did not have many luxuries that people are used to today,
and on top of that many were sent to war.
The 1920s can best be characterized by the boom period that
followed WWI. Employment had escalated phenomenally during the
war, as North American's industrialization allowed it to produce
vast quantities of armaments.
Throughout this era, teens usually had no trouble finding a job,
and they made quite good wages. Often youth did not attend secondary
school because they would be able to go out into the workforce
and make good wages without having a high school diploma.
After the war ended, Parisien designers resumed their positions
as the leaders of fashion. Flappers were very popular, and their
shorter dresses were often accompanied by feathers worn in their
hair. The Charleston was a favourite dance of these people. Teen
girls' dresses became shorter during this era, and they often
wore stockings with various patterns. Young men on the other
hand, imitated pilots, wearing leather jackets and flying coats.
Overall, the 1920s was a great era to grow up in for teenagers,
as it was very easy to find a job, and North America was prospering.
However, this was not to last long, as depression hit in 1929.
The thirties marked an era of economic depression, and unemployment
was apparent all around the world. Teens suffered greatly during
the depression. It was extremely difficult for them to find employment,
even one third of all college graduates could not find a job.
However, this did not discourage people from getting an education
-- in fact, it did the exact opposite. Parents strongly encouraged
their children to stay in school as there would be no future
for them if they did not have a education. During the thirties,
high school enrollment increased drastically.
Many youth lived on the street and teens were responsible
for many criminal acts. A common question asked by adults was,
"What is happening to our youth?" As teens had seen
the results of war, many demonstrated anti-war opinions.
Although many teens could not afford extravagant clothing,
many teens adopted the "swing kids" look, which incorporated
not only clothing but a specific type of dancing also. Girls
wore dresses that went just below their knees, which were often
belted to show off their waistlines. They also wore their hair
quite long and softly curled. Young men wore dress pants and
shirts, which had not changed much for the past few years.
Although times were quite rough for many people, the teens
of this era managed to persevere, and they grew up knowing that
they never wanted to live in a state of depression again.
Throughout the 1940s youth were preoccupied with the Second
World War. Teens were sent off to fight for their countries,
and younger people contributed to the war effort by collecting
newspaper, rubber, rags, tin cans and other scrap metal, which
were all recycled. Children in the U.S. also spent money on War
Stamps which, when accumulated, could buy War Bonds.
As France was heavily involved in the war, most Paris designers
were unable to continue their work, giving North American designers
the opportunity to create their own styles.
As there were few materials available at the time, clothes
became much simpler and less fabric was used. Women's dresses
acquired shorter arms and hems. Their fancy hats no longer existed,
but turban-style hats were more useful to keep women's hair back
when they worked in the factories. However, after the war ended,
Paris fashions returned and fancy clothing was once again popular.
For young men, zoot suits became extremely popular. These
suit jackets, "fingertips," hung to the mid thighs
and incorporated wide-padded shoulders. The pants, "drapes,"
were tight at the ankles but the legs themselves were ballooned
out. These suits were often accompanied by wide-brimmed hats
and long watch chains.
Although the war made the '40s a very difficult time for teenagers,
people made do with what they had. However they would be left
with the memories of WWII for the rest of their lives.
During the '50s, everyone was still recovering from the horrors
of World War II. People from around the world idolized the Americans,
who definitely prospered during this era. For teenagers, the
clean-cut "college" look was back in style. Girls often
wore full skirts with bobby socks and saddle shoes, and their
hair was usually in ponytails or softly curled. Beehives came
into style in the late years of the decade As the '50s progressed
trends started to imitate cover model, Marilyn Munroe, and young
women turned to clothes that showed off their figures.
Although boys' appearance began as rigidly clean-cut, it slowly
changed. Teenage boys either had short crew cuts or their hair
was on the slightly longer side. These young men started dressing
as "bikers" or "greasers," and many imitated
the popular Elvis Presley.
During the 1950s, youth became more self-aware, and they were
determined to create their own styles, which the designers followed.
Throughout the decade, the teenagers became a distinct group
of society, which had never been done before. Young people gained
much freedom, which was attributed by some to the lack of discipline
after the war and the invention of Rock'n'Roll. However with
this newborn freedom also came an increase in racism, and some
youth gangs appeared.
One type of music known as Rock'n'Roll greatly influenced
the teens of the '50s. Saturday nights were spent at local dances
where teens jived to their favourite music. Youth could also
"hang out" at coffee bars or diners and listen to jukeboxes
while they smoked cigarettes. Although nicotine was a very popular
drug used, the other drugs that teens use now were not as prevalent
in the '50s.
The '60s marked an era of teenagers, as they truly became
a distinct part of North American culture. The first baby-boomers
were just growing up and developing into young men and women.
As this was a time of prosperity and production for North America,
teens received more money and had an easy time finding jobs.
Since teens had more money to spend, more and more products were
being designed specifically for them, notably clothing. Designers
began to market items directly to youth, and small boutiques
that sold these young and modern fashions opened up everywhere.
For girls miniskirts and tights were extremely popular, accompanied
by a skimpy or see-through blouse and long loose hair. It was
during this decade that the young and ultra-skinny look first
For boys, the Beatles look was very popular, and their clothes
were often very colourful. Many hippies wore tie-dyed t-shirts
and bell bottoms. These bright and bold outfits were seen as
very daring for young men to wear as opposed to previous generations.
Denim jeans also became the most worn type of pants during the
'60s, and Levi's was thought of as the best brand. Common practice
for teens to buy jeans too big for them and wear them in the
bath to shrink them down to the "perfect fit."
Although the horrors of WWII were somewhat in the past, teens
were often still very pacifist during the '60s. The protested
against the war in Vietnam, and the immediate fear of nuclear
war gave them even more reason to despise war. This threat of
world demolition also gave youth the opportunity to enjoy their
lives immediately, experiencing as much as possible, even if
it had been seen as inappropriate in the past.
The '70s proved to be a drastic change in thoughts and beliefs
of teenagers from the '60s. Many young people held pessimistic
views of the world, and they felt very uncertain about what the
future would hold.
Many people have speculated that this complete change in youthism
resulted in the outrageous fashions during this time. The unisex
look was in trés chic with denim becoming the most common
teenage apparel. Large boots and platform shoes complemented
the look, and many young women combined this footwear with hot
pants and a crop top. Flared trousers were also very popular,
and military colours also influenced some of the "camouflage
clothes" worn by youth.
Probably the most noticeable change in fashion was the creation
of the punk movement. This style was heavily influenced by musicians
of this era, including the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. The glamorous
clothing consisted of lots of glitter and colourful materials.
Movies and television shows also had a great impact on the
styles of the youth in the '70s. Saturday Night Fever made disco
very popular and many teens copied the disco attire worn by John
Travolta in the famous movie.
Teenyboppers, or young fans, were also an invention of the
'70s. As young male stars, such as David Cassidy, were becoming
more and more prevalent, these younger fans had role models who
were just a few years older than themselves.
Although not every one viewed things in a negative way, the
majority of teens were worried about the future. Unemployment
was increasing, and teens were finding it more and more difficult
to get a job.
During the '80s, young people were influenced by many different
cultural aspects. Styles were not specific to boys or girls and
almost everything was unisex. The punk look was also still alive,
and preppies seemed to appear again. During the '80s, anything
with a designer label was considered cool, as well sportswear,
as people were very involved in fitness and their health.
During the mid-eighties, the Madonna era began, and girls
everywhere copied the daring styles worn by the singer. Young
women also began dressing in more masculine clothing, and often
their attire was a combination of traditional female clothing
with the typical clothes worn by men.
In their spare time on the weekends, teenagers could often be
found in night clubs and cocktail clubs, listening and break-dancing
to dance, hip-hop, rap or "synthesizer music." By this
time entertainment was a regular part of everyday life, including
television shows and movies, such as Teen Wolf, Back to the Future
and ET. As fitness had become very important to people during
this decade, young people were often encouraged to go to workout
classes, and they often sported tights and leg-warmers even outside
of the gym.
Although there was an emphasis placed on becoming more healthy
during the '80s, many teens suffered from major drug abuse problems.
Crack and heroin were more common than ever before, and people
were becoming aware of the dangers of AIDS and HIV, which was
associated with heroin. Youth were told to practice safer sex,
which included the use of condoms and limit their sexual partners.
Overall the eighties was a decade that combined many different
styles, groups and teens were more aware about risks like HIV
and AIDS. This led to the attitudes displayed by teens in the
Like the 1980s, the '90s cannot be described by one specific
trend or group of people. Everyone has been excited about the
new millennium beginning, and the fear of Y2K has been on everyone's
The '90s has been an era of education. Most teens have been
introduced to modern equipment such as the Internet, digital
cameras, compact discs and DVD players. There has also been awareness
raised about many different causes, such as AIDS, cancer, racism,
homosexuality, women's issues and teen pregnancy.
Styles have been very casual through this decade, with emphasis
placed on comfortable clothing. However there have been many
trendy clothes in fashion, but most are just modified versions
of clothes from previous decades. Flared pants have been popular
pants, and most teens own at least one pair of khakis. These
styles are worn, not only by teens, but also by children as young
as three years old. This decade has witnessed an emphasis placed
on younger people to look more and more trendy.
As teens wait for the new millennium, they can only look back
on the last century and remember how their group has changed