In the UK, the 1950s were a period of great cultural change. Clear of the risk of World War II (aside from rationing, which still affected the early part of the decade) Britons could look forward with a new hope and optimism. The 1950s noticed the launch of the twin tub washing machine into homes. The twin tub was, of course, rather less convenient than the automatic washing machines we have today.
However, it was a great improvement on needing to hand wash every garment before putting it through a mangle. Not everyone had the comparative luxury of the twin tub, however the recognizable changes were being made. The fifties was ten years that saw the gradual improvement of living standards and home comforts as we know it today.
It was an exciting decade, paving the way for modern Britain. Even the humble teabag hails from the 1950s, although at the time most people opted for the familiarity of tea-leaves. Possibly the most striking difference within the family itself was the ‘birth of the teenager’. Today A phase of life that is overlooked, it is simple to forget that a few decades ago just young people went from being children to adults with nothing at all in-between simply. Before the 1950s, teenagers didn’t have their own music or fashions – they simply conformed to the guidance of their elders.
Neither do they have their own places to go, from their parents away. But being truly a young person during the fifties was exciting, because this generation were the first of their kind. The word ‘teen’ was actually invented. Also, it was a booming time to be always a young adult finishing college – with almost zero unemployment, throw-away income was at a high. It had been easy to get a job – and the ones who fancied a change could walk away in one position and quickly into another, sometimes within the same day.
It is obviously a world from current times, where many people feel stuck by jobs, struggling to make a big change yet. The new teenagers of the 50s were empowered like nothing you’ve seen prior – they started to step from the traditional expectations of the sooner generations and formed their own subculture. Fashion was not simply a revolution delivered from an era that started to speak its own mind.
The clothing industry was set alive by the invention of several fabrics that offered style a new lease of life. Stretchy fabrics, like nylon, allowed clothes to keep their form and at the same time feel comfortable – a feat that was unattainable prior to this time. Polyester appeared after nylon quickly.
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The turnabout was due to new discoveries within the petrochemicals industry. It also made method for the variety in color and published patterns on materials. Polyester became the new queen of the clothing industry – it was the perfect material to dye or even to print onto. Suddenly the decision of color and pattern appeared endless.
The fashion industry exploded and teens were quite definitely at the forefront of everything. The new teenagers dressed up using their parents for the very first time in a different way. Stores dedicated areas for teenage clothing solely. Teenagers suddenly had their own opinions in what they wanted to wear, plus they were hugely thinking about it. They stepped from their parents for the very first time and did their own thing. Now, whenever we shop around our 21st Century roads at the sets of teens huddled collectively, expressing their individuality, we can determine the beginnings right back to the fifties.
The life of aerosol hairspray in the 1950s also gave teenagers the chance to create different hairstyles that could be held to set up easier. Backcombing became popular. Of course, not only was backcombing bad for the hair, but the aerosols used to secure it were bad for the environment. Back in the fifties, however, no one was any the wiser, and the advancements in hairstyle and makeup gave a fresh lease of life to women’s fashion. If we could summarize the revolution of the fifties in only two words, perhaps those words would be ‘fashion’ and ‘music’.