Weird History

15 Popular American Fads from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s

In the space between the two World Wars, America - and in particular its young people - got into some pretty weird stuff. Let's face it; teenagers, what with their partially formed frontal lobes and massive chemical imbalances, have always found bizarre and unique ways to set themselves apart from their parents' generation. The decades from 1920 to 1950, however, were full of historically unique moments that elicited some equally unique teenage crazes.

The post-war boom of the 1920s was accompanied by the cultural sea change of Prohibition. The poverty and low employment of the Depression meant Americans had too much free time but no money to do anything with it. Then, just as the country was stabilizing economically, it found itself plunged into global conflict yet again. This forced a whole new round of sacrifices and hardships onto the American people while simultaneously inspiring in them some very odd leisure time activities.

While the teen fads of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s often seem totally goofy or absurdly random, they shared common roots in tough times and hardship. When things are going badly, we find ways to cope. When things finally get better, we find ways to celebrate. The methods used by our fun-seeking forefathers may not always make sense to people decades in the future, but hey, it probably didn't make sense to lots of people then, too.

You should also remember: that fun, trendy stuff you're into today will probably seem pretty weird to the people of tomorrow (Pokemon Go and hipster 'staches, I'm looking at you). Throughout the eras, human beings have been tenacious in both their quest for novel entertainment and their ridicule of their forefathers, so in that spirit, here are some of the trends, rages, and very weird places that our persistent hatred of boredom has taken us.