A Hidden Spotlight on American Changes

December 6, 2011
L. Robert Kohls clarified thirteen values that Americans live by, stated precisely what each American value was, and said that while most Americans don’t specifically know these values, they would agree. He based his theory off of basic beliefs and assumptions; one of these values is change, which is seen as having a positive effect on the nation to the American eye. In contrast, older, more traditional societies see change as having a negative impact on their lives and try their best to avoid it. I support Mr. Kohls in the sense that change is vital to improve society. The American value of change is needed and accepted by Americans today. Mr. Kohls wrote that change is seen as good, and is linked to a rapidly developing society. I agree with Mr. Kohls and will help prove his theory on the American value of change through examples in culture, fashion, and technology.

Changes in American culture have been ongoing since the United States were founded in 1776. The years between the 1950 and today have been full of cultural changes. Until the 1960’s, there was a post-war baby boom; the increase in birth rates may have been due to the strong American economy and the rates of success in raising a family. The Second World War had also just ended, so there may have been a sense of hope, and an air of positiveness to many Americans. In America today, there isn’t such a strong urge to start raising a family; there is an economic depression, and couples are waiting until they are more economically stable before they start having kids. Studies have shown that in the first year alone, the average cost of a newborn is between $9,000 and $11,000. With many people searching for jobs that aren’t available, having a baby may not be on the top of every one’s list. America is also occupied with the War on Terror, and so many couples are waiting to have children until their loved one is back from war. Another example of cultural change is the increased movement towards suburbanization. In the early years of America, many people lived in a big city; now, many families are choosing to live in more of a suburban-like neighborhood with a greater sense of security. According to Hans Johnson, “Between 1950 and 2000, the number of people living in the suburbs doubled.” Suburbanization began in the 1950’s, and with the scare of the cold war many families wanted a closer-nit area in which to live, and preferred to live on the edges of a big city rather than in the heart of it. This led to the nuclear family, creating an image of the ‘perfect family’. In American society today, it isn’t very uncommon to live in a neighborhood with a friendly and close-nit atmosphere. An additional cultural change in America that has taken place since the 1950’s is the role of African-Americans and women in American society. In the 1960’s and prior to that, African-Americans were greatly discriminated against; they were treated differently in America because of the color of their skin. With the help of leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and civil rights activist Rosa Parks, African-Americans are now seen as equals in today’s society. Although many people over look this, women have changed their role in society since the 1950’s too. In the 1950’s, American women had a certain image to fulfill. They had to be the perfect house wife, complete with pearls and an impeccable outfit. When the nineteenth amendment had passed in 1920 allowing women to vote, they still weren’t seen as equals in America. The 1960’s were a time of women’s rights, and an icon of these rights was Eleanor Roosevelt. With much perseverance, women are now seen as equals is society today. There has been a large culture change from the 1950’s to today. The amount of couples wanting to have children has decreased while the amount of suburbanization has increased. The roles of African-Americans and women have also changed for the better in these past years.

Changes in fashion have always been ongoing in American society, and will continue to develop. Jose Espinosa said that changes in fashion are due to the current generations continually trying to differentiate from the previous generations and create their own identity. This statement can be proven by looking at fashion throughout the decades. Unlike today, the social norm for women’s fashion included high-cut blouses and long skirts, which goes along the theory ‘the less skin the better’. They wore no shorts, and rarely wore pants. In today’s fashion world it is less common for you to see women wearing this style of clothing, and to instead see women wear shorter and more revealing clothing, especially in young adults. The first swimsuit for women wasn’t a bikini bottom like today, but was instead a long skirt. Almost nobody showed skin except for in magazines such as Playboy. Church was considered to be a black tie affair in the sense that the attendants wore their best clothes. In the 1950’s, common clothes to wear would include polka-dots, poodle skirts, motorcycle jackets, white T-shirts, hair gel and pearls. In the 1960’s, people would wear what we would see as ‘retro’ today. The first half of the ‘60’s resembled much of the ‘50’s, which was very conservative and ladylike. Jackie Kennedy was a fashion icon to this era. The 1960’s added color and patterns to the traditional ‘50’s clothing. As the decade continued, the dresses would become shorter and the neckline bigger. The 1960’s broke many fashion traditions. The mini-skirt and bikini were introduced, and American fashion had changed forever. By the mid- 60’s, there became a very retro look to fashion, and by the late 1960’s there was a very hippie feeling to American fashion. Common articles of clothing would include bell bottoms, T-shirts with messages, and go-go boots. Fashion in the 1970’s continued with some of the fashion of the 1960’s, which included mini-skirts and the ‘free people’ look. The 70’s then developed into a time of platform shoes, the ‘disco’ look, and later developed into ‘punk’ fashion. Clothes that are iconic to the 70’s were western boots, denim, legwarmers and pant suits. The 1980’s was a time of shoulder pads and a look that can be referred to as bright. This fashion had the opposite idea and look when compared to the 1970’s fashion trends. Now instead of loose bottoms and tight tops, the trends included tight bottoms and loose tops. A fashion icon to women in this time period was Madonna. There was an increase in households recognition of designer names. Clothes seen from the 1980’s would be items such as frill on collars and hems, penny loafers, fingerless lace gloves and fair-isle sweaters. The 1990’s and early 2000’s was a time of anti-fashion. The idea of this trend was anti-conformist and indifferent, which ultimately was like a grunge type of look. Alternative rock music helped bring about this look. The 1990’s was uniquely different from previous decades, solely because it got away from bright colors and patterns. Some of these types of clothes included hooded sweatshirts, designer shoes, baggy pants and bare midriffs. The 2000’s types of clothing included low-rise pants, tank tops, and skinny jeans. From the 2000’s to today, there has been a mash-up of different styles from all places and times in the world. As just given, there has been an immense amount of change in the fashion world in the past decades. Each decade contributes something new and exciting to the world of fashion. What once may have been seen as stylish may now be the favored Halloween costume. The changes in fashion are always continuous through the years, and although it might not seem like there are new trends over night, looking at fashion by each decade shows the ideas of the Americans and their values for that time period. While it may have been popular to wear long skirts and high cut blouses six decades ago, it is now popular to wear mini skirts and tube tops, and in another sixty years, there will be an entirely new fashion trend sweeping the nation.

Changes in American society can be seen through technology. Television and cell phones have improved greatly in the recent years. Television used to be a small box which played a certain show at a certain time on a certain channel each day, and that was the only way to view it. In the unfortunate event of someone missing their favorite show, one could hope to catch a rerun of the episode in the following weeks. If a show was cancelled, there was a large chance that you would never see the show again. Today’s television couldn’t be any more different! Technology for television has advanced and now allows shows to be TiVo’d to be watched at a later time, as many times you wish, and whenever you want. IPods and iPads, along with other smart phones and tablets have been created, and those can allow you to purchase an episode whenever and wherever you wish. What was once confined to your family room can now literally go all over the world in the palm of your hand. If a show isn’t getting stellar ratings, the profit made by purchasing the season discs can keep the show alive. The changes in technology from 1923, which was when the television was first invented, to today have been unbelievable, revolutionizing the world of your favorite show from a grainy black and white silent television, to a high-def, surround sound quality picture experience. The cell phone and its technology has changed the world forever. First released in 1983, the first mobile phone was the size of a brick, weighed two pounds, and cost nearly four thousand dollars. Between 1983 and today, the cell phone revolution has been a continuous and successful change. Originally, the cell phone was a luxury item to financially stable people to make spotty phone calls. Today, the cell phone is seen as a necessity for anyone over the age of ten, and is seen as out of date if it’s not able to send off a quick text or able to log onto Facebook off the mobile Internet. The size of the cell phone has also considerably decreased to the size of two of your fingers next to each other, and can weigh at the lightest just over 40 grams. The technology change for cell phones has been amazing, and has taken place in just under three decades. Going from the size of a brick to fitting in the back pocket of your favorite skinny jeans, and dropping pounds faster than this season’s Biggest Loser contestants, the development of the cell phone has been an amazing feat.

L. Robert Kohls identified thirteen American values that Americans follow and live by, one of which being the value of change. Kohl’s interpretation of change with Americans included the idea that Americans saw change as being a positive, necessary element needed in order to have a desirable society. I agree with Mr. Kohl’s on his idea. His idea can be identified with changes through culture, fashion, and technology. Each subject may not have much in common with each other, but are common in the fact that they all express great amount of changes throughout the past years. American society today is much different from American society fifty years ago, with change as the culprit of this amazing feat.

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