How far did young peoples’ lives change beetween the early 1950’s and the late 1960’s?

Today, young adults or ‘teenagers’ are known for having different fashions and ideas to the older generations. They dress differently, act differently and have a whole different attitude. However, it hasn’t always been like this, before the Cultural Revolution of the late 50’s and 60’s, ‘young adults’ as they were known then, were conforming and obedient who respected their parents and followed the music and fashions of the older generations.

The word ‘teenager’ is a relatively modern word. Although it has been around since the 1920’s, it didn’t become widely used until the late 1950’s. This was because until then there was no such thing as a teenager. You basically went from being a child to an adult when you reached puberty. This was because of what society dictated. Teenagers weren’t allowed to have their own cultures and attitudes, they were expected to go to school, have a job or get married, and produce children, and sexual relationships were expected to take place only after marriage.

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Much of this way of life was due to the hardships of the Depression and World War Two which created a shortage of money and a shortage of money to spend on fashion, music and leisure activities. After World War Two and the end of rationing in 1953, people began to have gradually more and more money. In 1950 the average weekly wage was �7.28 but by 1960 this had increased to �14.10. They could afford to spend more on the latest gadgets or a night out to some form of entertainment. However, until the late 1950’s, many people were still conforming and conventional.

Things reached a turning point when a young, unknown American named Elvis Presley reached the music scene. His style was new and original and above all, different to anything that had been done before. This new type of music titled ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ had energy and beat which was appealing. Now, young people had more money and more time to spend on music. Music became influential. People began to go wild to the songs they were hearing because they were so excited by it.

Parents disapproved of this new ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. Elvis and other similar musicians were rebellious and unconventional. He challenged authority and his dancing was thought to encourage sex with the swinging of his hips. The words in his songs were thought to provoke sex too. Parents thought he would influence their children whom he did do to an extent, but there were other influences as well.

Young people were having more and more opportunities. Due to changing social attitudes, teenagers became more rebellious and more independent. They were now able to spend more time with their friends and so they were able to form new, different social groups. In the 1950’s there were the ‘Teddy Boys’ and in the 1960’s there were the ‘Rockers’ and the ‘Mods’. The ‘Teddy Boys’ had long, greased hair that was swept back, and wore Edwardian style coats. They listened to rock ‘n roll by people such as Bill Hayley. The ‘Rockers’ were a development of the ‘Teddy Boys’. They had the same hairstyles but wore jeans and leather jackets and moved around on motorbikes. The ‘Mods’ were ‘Rockers’ rivals. Mods drove Italian scooters and wore expensive, tailored clothes. They listened to music inspired by black singers. Rhythm and blues and soul from the United States and ‘Ska’ from Jamaica influenced them.

Now that people had more money to spend, people could afford to buy more clothes and more consumer-orientated products. In the 50’s girls stared wearing trousers which had been unheard of before. Fashion became orientated towards the young. ‘In 1958 Mary Quant was one of the first to design clothes, shoes, make-up and hairstyles for the under 20’s’. Part of this is due to television. Now that television was more readily available, people were being influenced by the fashions shown on TV and because they had more money, they could buy the products advertised on TV.

Jobs became more readily available. People were able to pick and choose the jobs they wanted rather than take whatever they could. Women started going to work more. This was totally new. Before, the social stereotypes dictated that the husband should be the breadwinner and the wife should look after the children. In World War Two, many women had to go out to work and some carried this through into the 1950’s and 60’s. Due to an increase in the amount of women going to work, teenage girls began to go out to work and attitudes towards women began to change.

In the 1960’s, boundaries were pushed further. As sex before marriage became more acceptable, much more emphasis was put on attracting the opposite sex. Dramatic eye make-up was widely popular in the 60’s and skirts became shorter and shorter showing more and more leg. When contraception became legal, people became free of convention and all the constrictions of before were just put aside. People began to experiment like they had never experimented before. A new sub-group named ‘Hippies’ emerged. They believed in free love and moral freedom. They promoted sexual liberation and the use or drugs in developing the spirit and mind as well as the body.

But there was a downside to all this. The hippie way of life created selfishness and a lack of responsibility. Drugs were also an issue. The Hippies challenged society and its way of life and challenged what was considered normal social behaviour. In 1968 they even challenged political authority, as many people believed the way the government was being run was wrong. But it wasn’t just Hippies who caused the breakdown of society. All the changes that had been happening right since the early 1950’s had completely revolutionised everything and changed the rules of society.

Some things stayed the same throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. There was a continual influence from the USA on fashion and music and ideas. Although the music between the 1950’s and 1960’s was widely different, young people were still listening to music all the same. People watched the same programmes and parents views on society and what was acceptable, stayed the same. They still disapproved of what their children were up to and disapproved of the fashions and music as young teenagers began to show their individuality more and more.

Overall, young peoples’ lives during the 1950’s and 1960’s changed greatly in all aspects of life and culture. The whole idea of what a ‘teenager’ is was changed around. Fashions became much more individual as did the music that represented the changing attitudes and ideas. The whole two decades could be called a revolution as so many things changed such as money and jobs and entertainment. People were sexually liberated when the pill became more available. Although some things stayed the same, all sides of society for young people were changed.

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