Teenagers in the 1920s had a lot in common with today's teens. Just as today's teens are celebrating a new century filled with excitement and promise for the future, the teens of the 1920s also celebrated the marking of a new century and all the promise of tomorrow. Known as the "Roaring 20s", "The Jazz Age" and other nicknames, this was an era of romance, excitement, and America coming into a more modern age.
Teenagers in the 1920s Danced Too
A popular activity among tweens and teens today is dancing. Artists such as Soulja Boy have come up with hit songs and all the right dance moves to go alongside the song. Teens in the 1920s also had dances that were new and provocative for the time, such as the Charleston, Tango, and the Shimmy.
Although they may not have enjoyed quite as much freedom as many of today's teens do, teenagers in the 1920s were able to loosen up a bit. Gone were the constricting long dresses and corsets from earlier in the century and replacing those were shorter, flapper style dresses. Many girls wore stockings with the longer skirts. Teen boys wore bomber jackets and tried to look like the fighter pilots from World War I. The country was doing well financially and going through a boom in the 1920s, so most teenagers could easily find jobs. Many chose not to finish school, because they did not need a high school education to find a job paying livable wages. Because of this, many teens grew up more quickly and lived on their own more than teens do today.
Model-T Fords were readily available in a stripped down, no frills version that was affordable for many. Teenagers now had wheels to get where they wanted when they wanted and many took advantage of this freedom. Most teens had jobs, whether or not they were still in school. Social events included listening to jazz music and going to dances.
Differences Between 1920s Teens and Today's Teens
There are some marked differences between teens in the 1920s and teenagers today.
- Technology: Teens in the 1920s didn't have cell phones, iPods and laptop computers. In fact, many did not even have telephones in their homes. There were no televisions, microwave ovens or other distractions. Teenagers spent time listening to music, socializing with friends, and in the pursuit of various arts and studies.
- Education: Education was not as revered in the 1920s or as essential as it is today. Many teens took on full-time careers as young as 14 and quit school. Higher education was available, but not as readily. It was much harder for women to get into college.
- Gender Roles: Although 1920s teen girls did have quite a bit of independence, women and men had very separate roles to play in society. Women were expected to get married and raise a family, although it wasn't required for survival as it had been in centuries past. Nevertheless, most girls married and started families rather than pursuing careers. However, women like Amelia Earhart offered the hope that they could really do anything they set their minds to.
- Music: Jazz was extremely popular in the 1920s. Ragtime and Broadway music was also a favorite. The sound included a lot of brass instruments and soulful notes.
To describe teens in the 1920s is to describe an overall attitude of the people at the time. Everyone was ecstatic over the end of World War I and the new technologies and booming economy. Things became more relaxed, even fashions. While there are similarities between the teens of the 20s and today's teenagers, the 1920s was a unique time in history that will never be fully repeated again. However, we are left with hints of independence and a hope for the future that all started in the second decade of the twentieth century.