In late 1948, LIFE magazine revisited a topic that the popular weekly had covered a number of times in previous years, and would delve into again and again over the next several decades: namely, teenagers. More specifically, the mystifying habits, lingo and fashion choices of teens around the U.S., from Detroit to Des Moines to Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.
As LIFE wrote in that 1948 article, titled simply (hyphen and all), "Teen-Agers":
Every year as school begins boys and girls from 12 to 20 start scurrying around like squirrels after nuts, looking for games to play, new clothes to wear and new songs to sing. Every year by Christmas they somehow manage to figure out a different twist for almost every ordinary thing, like hats and handshakes, dates and dances. [Now] LIFE takes a look around the country to answer the annual question about teen-agers: what are they up to now?
In Atlanta on Thursday the boys have nothing to do with the girls and the girls have nothing to do with the boys. In Des Moines Tuesday is a special day. On Tuesday the boys wear GI shoes to school. In Detroit the boys go in for crazy haircuts, and in Seattle some football players wear hair curlers at night. This year's fashionable word for a jerk, square or schmo is "geek" in Detroit, "mole" in Philadelphia, "pine" in Atlanta, "tweet" in Chicago, "snook" in Des Moines, "tube" in Los Angeles and "scurb" or "T.W.O" (Teensy Weensy Operator) in Washington, D.C.
Above: The "politician's handshake" peculiar to Des Moines in 1948.
Above: Striped stockings are worn by all the members of a girl's club at the Austin High School in Chicago, 1948.