Teen Markets

Teens had money to spend, and advertisers began to see them as a unique, age-defined market in the 1950s. Marketers studied their buying habits on behalf of businesses and created advertising for everything from clothing to music. Although marketers focused on white girls, teens from diverse backgrounds created a growing culture that centered on the consumption of music, magazines, clothing, and rituals like the high school prom.

Magazines

Magazines segregated their audiences by gender, with publications catering to either girls or boys. Seventeen produced marketing data on teenage girls and packaged the information in the form of a composite teenager, named Teena, for retailers and manufacturers.

Seventeen, 1949 (reproduction)

Seventeen, 1949 (reproduction)

Color, 1953

Color, 1953

Teena, 1945

Teena, 1945

Jet, 1965

Jet, 1965

Hot Rod, 1951

Hot Rod, 1951

Music

The music industry capitalized on youth markets through radio and the new medium of television. The invention of 45rpm records, Top 40 countdowns, and American Bandstand made music affordable, desirable, and profitable. Although music became a touchstone for diverse communities of teens, the business remained segregated.

Perez Prado, Cherry Pink, #1, 1955 (reissued 1977)

Elvis, All Shook Up, #1, 1957 (reissued 1977)

Beatles, Hey Jude, #1, 1968 (reissued 1978)

Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing, 1978

Sunny and the Sunliners, 1960s

One of the first Tejano bands to have a Top 10 hit, Sunny and the Sunliners appeared on American Bandstand in 1963.

View object record

Beauty

Makers of personal care products targeted teens, claiming that shampoo, skin cream, and deodorant could help manage awkward bodies and improve social relationships. Although make-up manufacturers had long cultivated the ideal of youth, in the postwar period they actively courted youth themselves, designing products just for teens.

Farrah Fawcett shampoo, about 1978

Afro-Sheen blowout kit, 1960s

Summer Blonde hair lightener, 1960s

Afro-Food with hormones conditioner, about 1970

Prom hair waving lotion, 1950s

DuSharme and Dab conditioner and dressing, 1960s

Wildroot hair dressing, about 1962

Love cosmetics, 1960s and 1970s

Evening in Paris cologne, 1940s-1950s

High School Memories

Class rings and yearbooks became big business with a growing number of teens attending high school and engaging in rituals of dating and prom.

Class ring, Milford Mill High School, 1961

Yearbook, Ave Maria High School, 1947–1948

Yearbook, Ave Maria High School, 1947–1948

Prom dress, about 1965

Hand-sewn by author Norma Cantú for her senior prom in South Texas.

View object record

Screenshot of Teen Rooms interactive displayVisit (or perhaps, revisit) the world of teenage consumers from the 1940s to the 1970s. See the diverse objects and stories that lived in teenagers' bedrooms during the Consumer Era. Click on the screenshot above to open the interactive display in a new window.