Teenagers: Then and Now

At eight years old, I wanted nothing more than to be 16. To me, the “sweet” age of 16 was the pinnacle of the golden teenage years that consisted of parties, makeup, cell phones, and football games. Being a teenager now has made me realize that these “teenage years” are better defined through Tumblr gifs, John Green novels, and relevant hashtags (i.e. #icant) — things that didn’t even exist when I was eight years old.

But a hundred years ago, I wouldn’t even exist. Being a teenager, that is.

Undocumented in our U.S. History textbooks, the “birth” of the American teenager took place during the 1940s, when kids first began developing their own slang, fashions, and behaviors specific to the teenaged populace. In 1944, LIFE Magazine first published an article titled, “Teen-Age Girls: They Live in a Wonderful World of Their Own.” When describing the exotic creature known as the teenage girl, it was noted, “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.” Sound familiar?

Don’t think this is the only relatable thing between now and then — things aren’t as different as you’d expect. Sure, there was no Instagram or Facebook (or even computers, for that matter), but back in the day teens lived for free samples and sleepovers just like we do now. Take a look!