Until 1950s the term teenager
was not used. There wasnt the
gap between being a child and an
adult that we find now. People
were often moved out and married
by the time they were 21 and had
a job from the age of 14/15.
During the 50s youth culture
began to develop as film, music,
TV shows and magazines were
aimed at young people.
American musicians like Elvis,
along with film stars like Marlon
Brando and James Dean
influenced young people in Britain
in terms of how they dressed,
spoke and spent their free time.
As the economy began to recover
from the war in the 1950s and
rationing began to end, more
consumer goods became
available to buy so that young
people could develop their own
styles. There was also a labour
shortage so it was not diffiuclt for
young people to get a job.
Because young people had
disposable income, without
responsibility for mortgages and
children, they became a dream
consumer group for businesses
and they were relentlessly
It has been calculated that in 1959
teenagers had collectively
830million to spend and the
majority of this went on records
Teddy Boys were one of the first
youth subcultures to develop.
They dressed in what were
known as Edwardian clothing,
hung around in gangs and
listened to American rock and
roll. Famously involved in Notting
Hill Race Riots 1958.
Rockers were a youth subculture
that developed in the 1950s from
the Teddy Boy culture. They
rode motorbikes, listened to rock
and roll music and wore leathers.
They were the traditional rival of
The Mod youth culture (short for
modernists) grew in the early 1960s.
They listened to new music that was
often associated with immigrants like
Ska, R&B and soul. They also
listened to some of the new
rebellious bands like The Who or the
Rolling Stones. Traditional rivals of
Mods. Rode scooters like the
The Hippie movement grew in the
mid 60s and came from USA. It was
linked to the peace movement, the
anti-Vietnam war movement and the
campaign for nuclear disarmament.
The famous Vietnam War demo
happened June 1966, teenagers
were involved and there were a
number of arrests.
The contraceptive pill, which became
available from 1961 to married
women and 1967 to single women,
was seen as something that helped
spur a sexual revolution with young
people experimenting sexually in
greater numbers. Attitudes to sex
differed hugely between younger
generations and older.
In the early 1960s it is estimated
that the 5 million UK teenagers
spent 800 million in the UK
economy. Mainly on clothes,
cosmetics and entertainment. The
targeting of young people by
businesses which began in the late
1950s, really got going in the
In 1955 British people bought 4 million
records and by 1963 they bought 61
million. Much of this music was bought
by young people.
The parents of young people often
judged them against what they were
doing when they were young; fighting a
war. Many thought young people were
acting irresponsibly, whilst the young
people were sick of being told I didnt
fight Hitler so you could...
Only about 4% of all births were to
mothers aged 15-19 in 1955. However,
by 1975 this had risen to 10%; this is
clear evidence that attitudes to sex had
Education changed. By 1944 education
was free to all up to age 14. There
were three types of school young
people could go to (known as a
Triparite System), grammar schools,
technical schools and secondary
modern. At the end of primary school
students took an 11+ exam to see if
they could get a good enough score to
be able to go to grammar schools.
After the 1964 general election victory,
Labour instructed that all local
authorities must prepare for the
creation of comprehensive schools and
the removal of the Triparite System.
The consequence was more children
got access to higher education and it
prevented children who failed their 11plus from feeling like second-class
In a survey conducted in 1965, 11% of478 boys
asked aged 15-17 and 6% of 475 girls aged 15-17
asked said they had had sexual intercourse. Maybe
the changes had been exaggerated by the media
Fashion designers like Mary Quant(with her London
shop Bazaar), pop stars like The Beatles and
football stars like George Best became icons in the
eyes of young people.
The mini-skirt was a huge new fashion in the 60s
and was a break from traditional modesty for young
In 1964 came the Battle of Brighton Beach
when around 3000 Mods and Rockers
travelled to Brighton on the May bank holiday.
A number of fights broke out, often using
deckchairs as weapons, and it was widely
reported in the newspapers. People called for
conscription to be reintroduced and
newspapers claimed the young people were
out of control. Some newspapers even went
so far as to call mods and rockers vermin.
There were also riots between mods and
rockers at other seafronts like Clacton,
Margate and Bournemouth.
In all cases, arrests were made.
Young people of the 1960s rebelled due to many
things such as;
Political authority because politicians were being
exposed in the 60s as not as trustworthy as they
might have been seen before
Parents trying to control them
Boredom but with disposable income
Rivalry with other subcultures.
It must be kept in mind that although all of these
changes for teenagers took place, it was only a tiny
fraction of teenagers who fought on Brighton Beach
and many of the political protests were very
peaceful, especially when compared to the protests
that took place in the USA and France. Perhaps,
although the way young people changed, the
biggest change came in the way the media reacted
to teenagers. Teenagers were often headline news
and were a controversial topic to read about.
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