The typical high school dance of the 1950s was an informal, school-chaperoned event at which compliant teens removed their shoes and danced in their socks to protect the gymnasium floor. Nicknamed sock hops, these dances proved more than just a diversion for a generation of teens [source: 1950s Music].
A new style of rowdy pop music called rock 'n' roll, combined with the liberating freedom to remove their shoes while dancing, gave teens the inspiration to jitterbug, shake, rattle and roll in ways that went far beyond the dance moves from their parents' generation.
Teens quickly embraced early rock 'n' roll songs like Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" and Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock." Many rock 'n' roll musicians booked guest appearances on the televised dance show "American Bandstand," hosted by Dick Clark. Broadcast nationwide starting in 1957, the show featured teen dancers with the latest moves. Millions of avid viewers took what they saw back to school -- literally -- spreading even further the influence of these new forms of music and dance.