Forget about the Playstation Two and a downloaded music collection. The days of walking around with easy access to five thousand, if not more, songs in your pocket are decades away. Before Eminem and George W. Bush began to start their careers, may of today’s celebrities never walked this Earth. Nineteen fifty-six involved formality in fashion, a redesigned home, and newly introduced technology that laid the groundwork for modern day luxuries.
Firstly, one of the most well-known and respected legends, Elvis Presley, made his first impression on America in 1956. On January 28th, Presley debuted on national television on, The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. The impact of the newly introduced television technology was very strong. The broadcasting of the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, attracted 49 million Americans to their television sets, which is still a common occurrence decades later (Wikipedia). Plays were a very common source of entertainment for much of the population. The Broadway play, “My Fair Lady” was one of the most famous plays of its time, affecting the design preferences of many United States clothing designers.
Furthermore, much of the fashion trends were influenced by pop culture and the celebrities in it. A large majority of women dressed in a sophisticated manner, mirroring the designs of many celebrities (PUT SOURCE). Seeing a women wearing a fur coat with a minx fur collar was not at all uncommon. As Adele Simpson explained it, “the fashion-minded woman replaced a `look’ with a presentation of her own good looks, counting her personality, her posture, grace and loveliness as vital means of self-expression in dress.” Fabrics were very considered to be very vintage. Satin, silk georgette, flat crepe, double and triple chiffon, crepe mystere, shadow lace, metal thread lace, French lame, gold tissue, point d’esprit and silk tulle, with oriental brocades, panne and Florentine velvets and Edwardian cut velvets reemerged in 1956. Also reemerging in 1956 was “big” hair. In the 1950s beehives and stiff curls were commonly worn. To increase the height of their hair, many women toyed with their hair to achieve the hair style “rats,” or balls of hair that were worn to increase hair height (St. James Encyclopedia Of Popular Culture). Also popular were the poodle cut, bouffants, and the legendary ponytail. Hair styling was so popular that by 1955 nearly 30,000 salons had sprung up in Britain. This number only increased in the future years (1950s Glamour Fashion History 1950s).
In addition, the style of households in 1956 has taken a 180 degree turn from the current design of households. It seems as though the smaller the electrical appliances are today, the better. However, in 1956 it was the opposite; the larger the appliances are, such as refrigerators, the better. The design of the kitchen was influenced by diners. The diner theme was very prominent in an average kitchen. Hardwood floors in checkered patterns were popular. The style consisted of either a while and black, a red and white, or a yellow and white checkerboard pattern. The refrigerator was often a bright, eye catching color such as green. Not only was the refrigerator color eye catching, the size also was. A large refrigerator was very desired. Electrical appliances were being introduced. Scrub boards and hand wringers were replaced by electric stoves, toasters, and mixers. Because of the size of houses becoming smaller in size than pre-war homes, furniture had to stack or be light enough to move around with ease. For example, trolleys, sofa beds, and ironing boards were all introduced in the ’50s. These designs have become classics and are often duplicated.
Moreover, many trends were a part of 1956. Early rock and roll music was adored by teenagers while often shunned upon by older generations. Elvis Presley was a major cause of this trend. Television gained priority over radio in many nations; primarily the United States. Because of this technology boom, many people were anticipating greater technology. Devices such as a flying car were envisioned but were not invented, even decades later. Looked on as a form of art, graffiti eventually became very popular, especially among Urban African Americans. Graffiti, often looked upon as a sign of gangs in today’s world, was not seen as such in 1956. Therefore, crimes were much different then and it widely believed that juvenile delinquency was at “unprecedented epidemic proportions” in the USA, though some believe it was quite low when compared to today’s crime rate (WIKIPEDIA). As trends faded out, new trends were introduced but were influenced by its ancestors.
Equally important was the slang of 1956. Terms such as “bash”, “big tickle”, and “boss” were very common and meant, “great”, when translated into 2006 termonology. “Ankle-biter” was used when referring to a child or youth. The word “flick” meant movie and is commonly used today in the phrase, “chick flick”. Consequently, many meanings of words have changed throughout the years. In 1956 ” weed” was slang for “cigarette”. Today, the term “weed” is now a drug that causes hallucinations. “Razz my berries” would certainly not mean “impress” today. The term “hottie” is no longer defined as, “a very fast car”. Though slang words variate in today’s world, slang has certainly not faded out.
Additionally, many people lived in 1956 but not all were famous. Arthur Miller was very famous when he married actress Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last when it ended in 1961. Actress Lucille Ball was very famous in 1956 because of her hit television show, “I Love Lucy”. During her career, Lucille Ball won 8 Emmys. Another actress, Marilyn Monroe, would become legendary. However, before gaining such a status, she starred in multiple movies. She was honored with singing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. Unfortunately, her life was cut short when she overdosed on sleeping pills in a speculated suicide attempt. In addition to the list was Elvis Presley. Presley is the best selling solo artist In U.S. History and is now known by the nickname, The King. Born in Ohio, Doris Day was America’s number one female box office star during the late 1950s and ’60s. Doris Day starred in a number musicals, comedies, and thrillers. She later shifted from films to star in the popular TV sitcom, The Doris Day Show. All are very respected to this day.
Also, major events occurred in 1956, such as the Soviets invading Hungary to crush the anti-communist revolution. Communism was very feared because of the theory behind it. Also, Communism was thought to have a domino type affect and the spreading of it was increasing. In addition, Bikini Atoll is nearly destroyed by the first airborne explosion of a hydrogen bomb. The hydrogen bomb was a major step in the right direction for the United States because of the tensions with other countries. Last but not least, the United Kingdom banned heroin because of the proven affects it has on the human body.
Nineteen fifty six was famous for many firsts. Seen for the first time was a hard drive. Though the hard drive was only five megabytes big, IBM made it known that a hard drive could be invented. Today there are hard drives that hold thousands of megabytes. In addition to the hard drive being invented, videotape was first demonstrated at a convention in Chicago, Illinois. The videotape was the first practical and commercially successful videotape. General Electric/Telechron introduced the first snooze alarm clock. The snooze option allows you to set the alarm clock to wake you up in five more minutes if more sleep is required after the alarm initially goes off.
Moreover, 1956 revolutionized travel when The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act was introduced. which would be the biggest public works project in the nation’s history. During former President Eisenhower’s State of the Union Address, he made a point to turn attention to the nation’s highway problems. He felt it was necessary to ” protect the vital interest of every citizen in a safe and adequate highway system” and that is what he did. However, with America coming close to joining the war in Europe, this massive program had not been a main priority. Eventually the time came to start the construction of 40,000 miles of highway (FEDERAL HIGHWAY ACT). The price of a Ford car ranged from $1,748 to $3,151, which was very expensive then.
Consequently, because of the price of living, the cost of many household good were a lot of money. The average home was $22,000 and the average income was as low as $4,454. The minimum wage was increased to $1.00 in 1956 (MINIMUM WAGE). Milk cost $0.97, gasoline cost $0.23, bread cost $0.18, a single postage stamp cost $0.03, and one dozen eggs cost about $0.45 (prices cost of living). One dollar in 1956 was worth as much as $7.30 is currently worth today, which is a dramatic comparison. To earn money, occupations were more directed to manufacturing and agricultural type jobs. Blue collar jobs were much more common than white collar occupations. There was a higher demand for women in the work place when typing pools were introduced. Women were desired in the work place for typing letters, contracts, and other data that computers generate now.
Also, the government was Democratic but the possible spread of Communism was feared. Furthermore, Dwight D. Eisenhower took over as president after defeating Adlai Stevenson unexpectedly. After Eisenhower’s earlier heart attack, much of the country was uncertain about whether or not he should serve another term. However, on February 29th, 1956, Eisenhower announced he would be running for reelection. He assured voters that his health was in good enough condition to properly serve this country. The nation was torn on the issue of racial segregation. Eisenhower announced he would leave that issue to the Supreme Court. Regardless of the indecisiveness of racial issues, Eisenhower won Michigan’s popular vote.
Clearly, 1956 was a very important year in America’s history. Certainly without many of the events occurring in 1956, America would not be where it is today. Numerous extreme technological advances were announced and introduced, fashion and hairstyles were a part of culture, and the trends helped define the trends of today.