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 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.
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.
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.
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.