Up until the 1950s fashion had focused on the adult market and teenagers had followed along and wore the adult fashion. In the 50s teenage fashion developed into its own huge industry. Teenagers were the main inspiration for the 50s fashion. During this period teenagers spent more money on clothing as their parents were newly well off, after World War II, could afford to give their children generous amounts of pocket money. Both sexes became more fashion conscious, and in the 50s the style became freer, looser, and more informal. This was a major transition from the 1940s, where the style was more restraint, conservative and formal.
The influx of American movies influenced the 50s fashion. Jeans, leather boots, and a white t-shirt became a symbol of rebellion for teenage boys. Not all the boys adopted this look. Towards the end of the decade the tailored, British-influenced Teddy Boy styles became popular. This look included high-waisted, narrow ‘drain pipe’ trousers, long jackets, slim ties and large shiny pointed shoes. Elvis Presley influenced teenage boys with slicked back ‘duck tail’ hair and long sideburns. Young men started to wear bright colours and sharp flashy suits, loose unbuttoned shirts with upturned collars also became fashionable.
Young women’s fashion was influenced by the rock ‘n’ roll craze. Full skirts in bright colurs became popular for dancing as well as skirts and pants that were pinched in at the waist the emphasise the waist and bust. Young women also wore tight-fitting blouses tucked into slim-line calf-length trousers that were called ‘Capri pants’ or ‘pedal pushers’. Short ankle socks, cropped cardigans and scarves tied around the neck were popular. Adult mens fashion in the 50’s was quiet and conservative. This widened the gap between older men and the younger generation.
Men mostly wore plain fabrics in dark, muted shades such as blue, brown and grey. Movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly influenced the clothing style of ladies in the 1950’s. Tiny waistlines and full skirts, slim pencil-line skirts, and busts were popular. Stiletto heeled shoes emerged in the 1950’s and were available in a wide range of colours to match any outfit. Synthetic materials such as nylon, acrylic polyester and vinyl were introduced in the 1950’s. These fabrics were appealing to women as they were easy to wash, dried quickly and did not crease or require ironing.