Historical Context
Cultural Conflict in the 1920s
American culture in the 1920s experienced a clash between the old and new. Most Americans centered
their lives around work, family, church, and local community. The separation of races, ethnic groups, and
gender roles was the accepted norm. Traditionalists advocated a strict moral code, the prohibition of
alcohol, and restrictive immigration laws to keep foreigners out of America. They saw new trends in
society as a threat, and the era gave rise to extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Flapper Culture
Despite the influence of traditional culture, America after World War I was changing. A growing segment
of the population, mostly younger and more urban, embraced new trends. In the prosperous consumer
economy, affordable, mass-produced automobiles brought new mobility. Growing cities brought a new
cultural diversity. The young valued progressive ideas about women's role in society and experimented
with new styles of dress and behavior. Seeking to break out of what they considered old-fashioned moral
code, they sought enjoyment in the present. Many young people danced to a new music called "jazz" and
embraced a culture called "flapper."
Using the documents provided, analyze the changes in American culture during the 1920s. Use the chart
provided to complete the comparison to culture today.
Document 1: Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?
Using the article (first four paragraphs), answer the following questions:
Who wrote this article? When was it published?
According to Faulkner, what was the "serious situation" facing America in the 1920s?
What rule does Faulkner claim was adopted by the National Dancing Master's Association, and
Document 2: A Flapper's Appeal to Parents
Using the Site 2 article (first eight paragraphs), answer the following questions:
Who wrote this letter? Who is it addressed to?
What characteristics of flapper style does she identify in paragraph 1?
What does she identify as differences between her generation and her parents' generation?
What does she say causes girls to become flappers in paragraphs 6-8?
Document 3: Fashion of the 1920s
Describe the two fashions most associated with the 1920s.
Describe the mood represented by the people and music in the video "Flappers – the Roaring
10. Describe the songs that young people listen to today. How would you describe the mood(s) of
these songs?
Synthesize: Comparing Flappers and Modern Youth
Using what you have learned, complete the chart below by describing the characteristics of 1920s flappers
and modern youth.
Flappers of the 1920s
Leisure Activities
Clothes and Fashion
Music Style
Reaction of Parents
Modern Youth
"Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?"
by Anne Shaw Faulkner, head of the Music
Department of the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
Published in Ladies Home Journal, August 1921, pp. 16-34.
We have all been taught to believe that "music soothes the savage breast," but we have
never stopped to consider that an entirely different type of music might invoke savage
instincts. We have been content to accept all kinds of music, and to admit music in all its
phases into our homes, simply because it was music. It is true that frequently father and
mother have preferred some old favorite song or dance, or some aria from opera, to the
last "best seller" which has found its way into the home circle; but, after all, young people
must be entertained and amused, and even if the old-fashioned parents did not enjoy the
dance music of the day, they felt it could really do no harm, because it was music.
Therefore, it is somewhat of a rude awakening for many of these parents to find that America is facing
a most serious situation regarding its popular music. Welfare workers tell us that never in the history
of our land have there been such immoral conditions among our young people, and in the surveys
made by many organizations regarding these conditions, the blame is laid on jazz music and its evil
influence on the young people of to-day. Never before have such outrageous dances been permitted in
private as well as public ballrooms, and never has there been used for the accompaniment of the dance
such a strange combination of tone and rhythm as that produced by the dance orchestras of to-day.
Certainly, if this music is in any way responsible for the condition and for the immoral acts which can
be traced to the influence of these dances, then it is high time that the question should be raised: "Can
music ever be an influence for evil?"
The Rebellion
In history there have been several great periods when music was declared to be an evil influence, and
certain restrictions were placed upon the dance and the music which accompanied it. But all of these
restrictions were made by the clergy, who have never been particularly enthusiastic about dancing
anyway. To-day, however, the first great rebellion against jazz music and such dances as the "toddle"
and the "shimmy" comes from the dancing masters themselves. Realizing the evil influence of this
type of music and dancing, the National Dancing Masters' Association, at their last session, adopted
this rule: "Don't permit vulgar cheap jazz music to be played. Such music almost forces dancers to use
jerky half-steps, and invites immoral variations. It is useless to expect to find refined dancing when
the music lacks all refinement, for, after all, what is dancing but an interpretation of music?"
Several of the large dance halls in the big cities are following the lead of the proprietor of one of them
in Chicago, who, when he opened his establishment a few years ago, bravely advertised that no jazz
music and no immoral dances would be allowed on his floor. His announcement was met with
ridicule, but his dance hall has become the most popular one in Chicago. The place is crowded every
evening, and yet nothing except waltzes and two-steps are allowed on the floor and absolutely no jazz
music is tolerated.
That jazz is an influence for evil is also felt by a number of the biggest country clubs, which have
forbidden the corset check room, the leaving of the hall between dances and the jazz orchestras--three
evils which have also been eliminated from many municipal dance halls, particularly when these have
been taken under the chaperonage of the Women's Clubs.
Still another proof that jazz is recognized as producing an evil effect is the fact that in almost every
big industry where music has been instituted it has been found necessary to discontinue jazz because
of its demoralizing effect upon the workers. This was noticed in an unsteadiness and lack of evenness
in the workmanship of the product after a period when the workmen had indulged in jazz music.
Many people classify under the title of "jazz" all music in syncopated rhythm, whether it be the
ragtime of the American Negro or the csardas of the Slavic people. Yet there is a vast difference
between syncopation and jazz. To understand the seriousness of the jazz craze, which, emanating
from America, has swept over the world, it is time that the American public should realize what the
terms ragtime and jazz mean; for the words are not synonymous, as so many people suppose.
"A Flapper's Appeal to Parents"
by Ellen Welles Page
Published in Outlook, December 6, 1922, p. 607.
If one judges by appearances, I suppose I am a flapper. I am within the age limit. I wear bobbed hair,
the badge of flapperhood. (And, oh, what a comfort it is!). I powder my nose. I wear fringed skirts and
bright-colored sweaters, and scarfs, and waists with Peter Pan collars, and low-heeled "finale hopper"
shoes. I adore to dance. I spend a large amount of time in automobiles. I attend hops, and proms, and
ball-games, and crew races, and other affairs at men's colleges. But none the less some of the most
thoroughbred superflappers might blush to claim sistership or even remote relationship with such as I.
I don't use rouge, or lipstick, or pluck my eyebrows. I don't smoke (I've tried it, and don't like it), or
drink, or tell "peppy stories." I don't pet. And, most unpardonable infringement of all the rules and
regulations of Flapperdom, I haven't a line!
But then--there are many degrees of flapper. There is the semi-flapper; the flapper; the superflapper.
Each of these three main general divisions has its degrees of variation. I might possibly be placed
somewhere in the middle of the first class. I think every one realizes by this time that there has been a
marked change in our much-discussed tactics. Jazz has been modified, and probably will continue to
be until it has become obsolete. Petting is gradually growing out of fashion through being overworked.
Yes, undoubtedly our hopeless condition is improving. But it was not for discussing these aspects of
the case that I began this article. I want to beg all you parents, and grandparents, and friends, and
teachers, and preachers--you who constitute the "older generation"--to overlook our shortcomings, at
least for the present, and to appreciate our virtues. I wonder if it ever occurred to any of you that it
required brains to become and remain a successful flapper? Indeed it does! It requires an enormous
amount of cleverness and energy to keep going at the proper pace. It requires self-knowledge and selfanalysis. We must know our capabilities and limitations. We must be constantly on the alert.
Attainment of flapperhood is a big and serious undertaking! "Brains?" you repeat, skeptically. "Then
why aren't they used to better advantage?" That is exactly it! And do you know who is largely
responsible for all this energy being spent in the wrong directions?
You! You parents, and grandparents, and friends, and teachers, and preachers--all of you! "The war!"
you cry. "It is the effect of the war!" And then you blame prohibition. Yes! Yet it is you who set the
example there! But this is my point: Instead of helping us work out our problems with constructive,
sympathetic thinking and acting, you have muddled them for us more hopelessly with destructive
public condemnation and denunciation. Think back to the time when you were struggling through the
teens. Remember how spontaneous and deep were the joys, how serious and penetrating the sorrows.
Most of us, under the present system of modern education, are further advanced and more thoroughly
developed mentally, physically, and vocationally than were our parents at our age. We hold the
infinite possibilities of the myriads of new inventions within our grasp. We have learned to take for
granted conveniences, and many luxuries, which not so many years ago were as yet undreamed of. We
are in touch with the whole universe.
We have a tremendous problem on our hands. You must help us. Give us confidence--not distrust.
Give us practical aid and advice--not criticism. Praise us when praise is merited. Be patient and
understanding when we make mistakes. We are the Younger Generation. The war tore away our
spiritual foundations and challenged our faith. We are struggling to regain our equilibrium. The times
have made us older and more experienced than you were at our age. It must be so with each
succeeding generation if it is to keep pace with the rapidly advancing and mighty tide of civilization.
Help us to put our knowledge to the best advantage. Work with us! That is the way! Outlets for this
surplus knowledge and energy must be opened. Give us a helping hand. Youth has many
disillusionments. Spiritual forces begin to be felt. The emotions are frequently in a state of upheaval,
struggling with one another for supremacy. And Youth does not understand. There is no one to turn
to--no one but the rest of Youth, which is as perplexed and troubled with its problems as ourselves.
Everywhere we read and hear the criticism and distrust of older people toward us. It forms an
insurmountable barrier between us. How can we turn to them? In every person there is a desire, an
innate longing, toward some special goal or achievement. Each of us has his place to fill. Each of us
has his talent--be it ever so humble. And our hidden longing is usually for that for which nature
equipped us. Any one will do best and be happiest doing that which he really likes and for which he is
fitted. In this "age of specialists," as it has been called, there is less excuse than ever for persons being
shoved into niches in which they do not belong and cannot be made to fit. The lives of such people are
great tragedies.
That is why it is up to you who have the supervision of us of less ripe experience to guide us
sympathetically, and to help us find, encourage, and develop our special abilities and talents. Study us.
Make us realize that you respect us as fellow human beings, that you have confidence in us, and,
above all, that you expect us to live up to the highest ideals, and to the best that is in us.
It must begin with individuals. Parents, study your children. Talk to them more intimately. Respect
their right to a point of view. Be so understanding and sympathetic that they will turn to you naturally
and trustfully with their glowing joys or with their heartaches and tragedies. Youth has many of the
latter because Youth takes itself so seriously. And so often the wounds go unconfessed, and, instead of
gradually healing, become more and more gnawing through suppression until of necessity relief is
sought in some way which is not always for the best.
DOCUMENT #3 – Fashions and Accessories From the 1920s
The 1920s-a “Cloche and Flapper” Decade, and More
Two of the most iconic fashions of the 1920s are the cloche hat and the flapper dress. The
cloche hat of the 1920s evolved from the wider-brimmed hats of the decade before, and
continued to evolve up until the 1930s and beyond. The basic description of the cloche hat is
that it is a very snug-fit hat that was often worn tilted, covering the forehead, yet allowing
room for vision. The hair was often cut short and styled flat to fit under these types of hats.
Cloche type hats often covered the ears as well, and even sometimes the ends of women’s
short haircuts of the time. Often the flapper style clothing and the cloche hat were worn
together, especially during the latter half of the Decade. These Accessories are featured
From the Years 1923 and 1926
The flapper style was more than just a dress, it embodied an entire lifestyle of the decade.
The specific flapper type of dress was cut in a straight and loose style and throughout the
decade the length of the flapper dress varied a little. In the early 1920s the length of dresses
and skirts were about calf length, with some a little longer and some a bit shorter. From
around the years 1926 to 1928, the hem lines of dresses were the shortest (approximately
knee-length), and this is what most people remember when they talk of the flapper dress.
During part of this decade the waist line of dresses dropped to the hip to promote more of a
“boyish” look. However, by the early 1930s the waist line of dresses rose back up to its
normal position. These Flapper Era Dresses are featured From the Years 1924, 1925 1926
and 1929
Beyond the Cloche and Flapper
Clothing styles consisted of more than just the cloche and flapper. In fact, this is the era
during which more casual clothing was introduced to the public. For example, women began
to wear pants more often and there were certain styles of women’s shoes that were unique to
this decade as well. Some of the breakout shoe styles included the ankle strap button shoe,
the t-bar shoe, and shoes trimmed with sequins or other materials. The men of the era began
to abandon formal wear as well when more and more men left full suits with long suit jackets
for special events and began wearing shorter suit jackets for more casual occasions. These
Roaring Twenties Examples are featured From the Years 1922 and 1927
Men's Clothing
Men’s suit lapels where not very wide during the 1920s, which was a trend that was started
during World War I (1914 to 1918). This is also the era in which men began to wear cuffed
trousers. Flannel also became increasingly popular, and so did two-toned white and tan or
white and black shoes for casual wear. Some of the casual shoes that were worn by men
were made with fringed tongues, and/or winged tips. The black patented leather shoes were
still worn for more formal dress. However, the lace-up styled shoe was becoming more and
more popular for men. Additionally, both men and boys often wore short knee pants
(knickers) along with sweaters (i.e. Fair Isle slipovers) or casual shirts. Moreover, the shoes
that boys wore usually were made of canvas. These Twenties Examples are featured From
the Years 1925 and 1929
Children's Clothing
One other change that was significant of the 1920s is the fact that baby clothing were
designed to be more practical. More comfortable outfits such as rompers and short dresses
replaced the frilly laced dresses and other formal baby attire. For older girls, dress was
different as well. They usually were seen wearing items such as cotton frocks, cardigan
sweaters, and canvas shoes or sandals. In Addition to our Fashion Clothes and Accessories
for Ladies and Gentlemen we have created a new page that shows Childrens Clothing during
the decade the two examples below are from the Twenties Childrens Clothes Page
1920's Price List
Men's Clothing Suits (Pre-War) $30.00 New York 1920
Men's Clothing Suits (Post War)$50.00 New York 1920
Silk Lined Suit (Hart Shaffner & Marx) $50 (Sale Price) New York 1920
Boy’s and Girls’ Ribbed Cotton Stockings 35¢ Wisconsin 1921
Girls Bob Evens Middy Blouses $2.75 Wisconsin 1921
Boys Cotton Sweaters 95¢ Wisconsin 1921
Wool Sweaters or Coats $1.98 Wisconsin 1921
Girls’ Serge Dresses (Wood Peter Tom Dresses, Navy, Braid Trimmed) $4.75 Wisconsin 1921
Zepher Yarn Sweaters $5.98 Wisconsin 1921
Children’s All Wool Sweaters $4.98 Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Black Sateen Bloomers 48¢ Wisconsin 1921
Ladies Wool Flannel Robes $3.95 Nebraska 1934
Children’s Union Suits 98¢ Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Union Suits 1.25¢ Wisconsin 1921
Boy’s Heavy Fleece Lined Underwear 98¢ Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Vests and Pants 68¢ Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Black Cat School Stockings (Heavy Ribbed Cotton) 25¢ Wisconsin 1921
Boys Wool Tweed Two-Pants Suits $7.45 to $7.95 Wisconsin 1921
Boys’ Right-Posture Suits $12.98 to $16.50 Wisconsin 1921
Two-Piece Pant Navy Serge Pant Suits $8.95 Wisconsin 1921
Tweed Knickers (for 8 to 18 yrs.) $1.55 Wisconsin 1921
Boys’ Blouses (Various materials and styles) 69 ¢ and 98 ¢ Wisconsin 1921
Boys’ Knickers $1.48, $2.48, and $2.98 Wisconsin 1921
Velvet and Serge Suits (Oliver Twist and Middy Styles) $3.50, $5.00, and $5.95 Wisconsin 1921
Boys’ Shoes Dark Brown, Double-Wear Soled English Walker, Various Sizes From $2.65, Wisconsin 1921
Girls’ Calf Skin Shoes (Various Sizes) From $1.45, Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Pantyhose (Fine Combed Egyptian Yarn) 25¢ Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Hats $2.95 Wisconsin 1921
Children’s All Wool Sweaters $1.98 Wisconsin 1921
Girls’ Pure Worsted Zephyer Sweaters $4.98 Wisconsin 1921
Children’s Black Sateen Bloomers 48¢ Wisconsin 1921
Fall Coats (Ravena, Velour, Polyanna, and other fabrics $29.75 Wisconsin 1921
Women’s Tight Fleeced Union Suits 98¢ Wisconsin 1921
Women’s Sateen Bloomers (Double Sewn) 98¢ Wisconsin 1921
Women’s Wool Skirts $7.50 to $22.50 Wisconsin 1921
Men’s Fall Suits $27.50 to $48.00 Wisconsin 1921
Men’s Dress Shoes (Dark Brown Mahogany Calf Goodyear, Welt Sewed) $4.85 Wisconsin 1921