The birth of the ‘teenage’ generation having a gas in 1940s America
Before Justin Bieber, One Direction and Gossip Girl, the carefree teens of the early 1940s sipped milkshakes, listened to records and went on their first dates – usually to the movies to catch a flick.
The stunning images by photographer Nina Leen, captured daily life of the American teenager as the country emerged from the Great Depression and World War II was waged abroad.
The photos highlighted a Life Magazine article published in 1944 about the birth of the so-called ‘teenage’ generation, which was marked by its own fashion, music and shoulder-length hairstyle.
One image shows a group of teens working together to push a Ford model T down the street after it wouldn’t start. Another shows a group of girls huddled around a record player, likely listening to Bing Crosby, the top artist of 1944.
An adolescent boy puts his arm around his date during a trip to the movies in one of Leen’s photos, as 1944 was a popular year for films. Casablanca won the best picture Oscar that year.
The young women of the day emerged as a distinctive generation between childhood and adulthood in post-Depression America.
As the feature in Life magazine put it: ‘There is a time in the life of every American girl when the most important thing in the world is to be one of a crowd of other girls and to act and speak and dress exactly as they do. This is the teen age.
‘Some 6,000,000 U.S. teen-age girls live in a world all their own – a lovely, gay, enthusiastic, funny and blissful society almost untouched by the war. It is a world of sweaters and skirts and bobby sox and loafers, of hair worn long, of eye-glass rims painted red with nail polish, of high school boys [not] yet gone to war.’
For the story, Leen followed around a group of 12 teenage girls in Webster Groves, Missouri, snapping various pictures as they hung out together, dressed alike and met up with boys at local sweet shops and movie theaters.
If alive today, the women would be between 83 and 85 years old.
Attribution: Thomas Durante, Daily Mail, LIFE