chapter  1
22 Pages

‘A Large Football Stadium with a College Attached’

1920s Collegiate Youth Culture
ByChristina G. Petersen

Long before the rise of the 1950s teenager and teenpic, 1920scollegiate culture emerged as an influential instance of American youth culture. Drawing on contemporary economic and social discourses, including mainstream and college newspapers, this chapter explores the rise of collegiate style as a distinct subculture, form of mass culture, and instance of popular culture in 1920s America. As college became accessible to a greater number of America’s young who looked to distance themselves from the culture of their elders, the term ‘“collegiate’” came to stand in for a commodity that originated on campus yet could be purchased by anyone, regardless of their matriculation status. In addition, 1920s collegiate culture’s conflation with intercollegiate sports, particularly football, further transformed the popular conception of the American university into something not unlike the movies, namely, an opportunity for active and critical consumption of visceral spectacle. As this chapter demonstrates, as opposed to the youth cultures of the 1950s and 1960s, 1920s collegiate culture rejected the norms and styles of the parent culture but not its middle-class values, promoting conformity, conspicuous consumption, and corporate action as the means of success.