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Roaring Twenties

Fads, Fashions, & American Influences

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In the 1920’s people eagerly took up the latest fads and crazes. The fads, for many were ways to forget the horrific memories of the war, and live a new enjoyable life. No one can really explain how the fads start, but abruptly many people become engrossed in certain dances, fashion, games, sports, or other activity and do it with great eagerness. Fads arent one to last long periods of time, and are often dropped as fast as they were picked up.

In the 1920’s most fads that came into Canada were influenced by the United States. It was the time of the beginning of mass media advertising in North America. Radio broadcasting, newspapers, magazines, billboards, and movies poured into Canada from the U.S. The Canadians admired fashions from New York, bought American made appliances (vacuums), and even watched American movies. After some time, many felt uneasy about the American influence that was on Canadian culture and life. But it was not until the 1930’s when the government stepped in to counter foreign influences.

One of the first fads of the 1920’s was the ancient Chinese game Mahjong. It was a combination of dice and dominoes. Mahjong caught on rapidly all across North America. Many had Mahjong parties, and imported Chinese robes, furniture, and decorative objects to create the atmosphere. By 1927, Mahjong was old, a new fad was needed.

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"Mahjong tiles"

This new fad was taken up by the crossword puzzle. After two young American publishers brought out a book of crosswords with a pencil attached, everyone was wild for crosswords. Dictionaries were being sold by the thousands, and some railways even provided them to help travellers solve crossword puzzles during their trips.

crosswordpuzzle.jpg
"Crossword Puzzle"

Long races and contests of every kind also became popular. Non-stop kissing, talking, laughing, eating, drinking, flagpole sitting, and rocking-chair marathons were most common. People tried to institute records at these activities.

The biggest rage of all the marathons was dancing. Dancers competed for thousands of dollars. Pairs would drag themselves around the dance floor with blistered feet and aching backs just to win. One man even dropped dead on the floor after 87 hours of continual dancing. To keep themselves awake some smelled salts and using ice packs. Some soaked their feet in vinegar and brine for three weeks, so that they couldn’t feel anything.

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"couple @ Dance Contest"

The fashion world also had many fads within it. For young women at the time, the “flapper” look was popular. A flapper was a young women who dressed outrageously. In the winter she would wear galoshes with buckles unfastened to create the greatest possible flap. Hemlines rose above the knees and silk stockings were rolled down. Their long hair was cut short and set in a “bobbed” style.

flappergirl.jpg
"flapper girl"

Fashions for a young man were often as outrageous. He would wear baggy pants or knickers, a bright snappy hat, and a bow tie. His hair would be greased down and parted in the middle to imitate the popular movie idols.

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"Boys and a Girl from 1920"

Although the fashions were the latest thing, they didn’t reflect their day-to-day lives for most Canadian women and men. The admired from afar those daring and wealthy enough to wear the hottest fashions.

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