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In late 1948, LIFE revisited a topic that the magazine 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”:
And so it goes. One would think, reading the article in LIFE—its tone one part scornful, three parts amused—that the editors of the famous weekly had never been teens themselves. Then again, as the modern notion of the teen years as a quantifiable life stage didn’t exist in full until the early 1940s, perhaps LIFE’s editors were never teens, after all. What lucky moles, snooks and tubes they were.
Finally: Note that “Popular Guy” Earl Reum, who is featured in many of the pictures in this gallery, evidently went on to become what a tribute website calls “the ‘Master Wizard’ of student leadership training.” Dr. Reum died in 2010. Read tributes written by many people whose lives he touched.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.