Newly confident in themselves after winning World War II (1939–45) and building an economy that was the envy of the world, Americans in the 1950s began to develop a fashion sense that was independent of the rest of the world and focused on youth. The most notable youth fashions were quite simple. For boys, a pair of blue jeans worn with a white T-shirt symbolized the spirit of rock and roll and were worn by movie idols James Dean (1931–1955) and Marlon Brando (1924–). For girls, a tight sweater, a poodle skirt (a long, full skirt with the image of a poodle on it), bobby socks (ankle-high socks), and saddle shoes (sturdy shoes with a contrasting band of color) were all the rage. These looks were closely associated with the 1950s; they were featured in the wave of nostalgia in the 1970s in such movies as American Graffiti (1973) and Grease (1978), and in TV shows like Happy Days (1974–84).
Women's fashions began to grow independent of the influence of Paris and London in the decade. The "New Look," which is most associated with women's high fashion, began with French designer Christian Dior (1905–1957) in the late 1940s but was modified to suit American tastes. Women were fond of clothes that emphasized the female figure, with closely tailored bustlines, slender waists, and padded hips. Women also wore plenty of makeup.
Men, on the other hand, were not very concerned with fashion. At work, they wore what amounted to a uniform: a gray flannel suit. Conservatively tailored, and worn with a white shirt and tie, this standard suit style was so popular that it became a symbol for the businessman's conformity, as criticized in the famous book The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) by Sloan Wilson (1920–). (Conformity means acting in agreement with established social views.) Younger, less formal men made the loafer, a slip-on leather shoe, the most popular shoe in America.