Life In The 1930s – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Whether you experienced the 1930s or are just curious, Life in the 1930s will give you insight into some of the events, fads, and lifestyles that mark that decade.


Life in the 1930s - Depression

The decade of the 1930s was filled with much despair and economic turmoil. Unemployment and poverty were rampant throughout the United States. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 was followed by The Great Depression lasting through much of the 1930s.

The Dust Bowl led to an agricultural crisis across the plains (mainly Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico). Many families were forced to leave their farms looking for other employment. However, the Great Depression made it even more challenging to find work that would sustain families.

The decade ended with the beginning of World War II.


Life in the 1930s - Automobile

Though there were numerous models of cars, six new models of cars were introduced in the 1930s:

  • Bentley 8 Litre
  • Cadillac V-16
  • Chevrolet Series AD Universal
  • Mercedes-Benz 770
  • Volvo TR670 Series
  • Wolseley Hornet (1930)

It was during the 1930s that automobiles that radios and heaters became common in cars. Automatic transmissions were also introduced during this time.


Life in the 1930s - Fashion

In the 1930s, the clothing industry changed with the economic hardships being experienced at the time. Garments were now being made in factories being mass produce compared to the made-to-order fashion of earlier times.


Women’s fashion in dresses changed from the boyish fit of the 1920s to the soft, feminine silhouette of the 1930s. There became a more tailored, modest style of dress while accentuating the female curves. The natural waistline, skirts flaring slightly, fitted hips, and high neckline were the fashion statement of the decade.


Life in the 1930s - Fedora

For both men and women, hats were a definite fashion accessory of the 1930s.

  • Popular Hat Types for Men
    • Boater
    • Cap
    • Derby/Bowler
    • Fedora
    • Hamburg
    • Walker
Life in the 1930s - Veiled Hat
  • Popular Hat Types for Women
    • Berets – Marlene Dietrich was known for wearing this type of hat with men’s suits
    • Cloche
    • Fedora
    • Map cap
    • Sailor
    • Slouch made famous by Greta Garbo
    • Turban
    • Veiled


Life in the 1930s - Oxford Shoes
  • Popular Women’s Shoes
    • Oxford
    • Pumps
    • Saddle Shoes
    • Sandles – Ghillies Lace
    • T-Strap
Life in the 1930s - Men's Shoes
  • Popular Men’s Shoes
    • Monk Strap
    • Oxford
    • Saddle
    • Wingtip


Life in the 1930s - Hairstyles

In the 1930s, women went to a more feminine hairstyle than in the previous decade of the 20s. For women, one of the most popular hairstyles was that of finger waves, and pin curls parted both in the center and side.

Hollywood stars such as Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Clark Gable heavily influenced hair cuts for men. It was the norm for men to have short hair around the ear that tapered down to nothing at the nape.


Life in the 1930s - Dance


  • Popular Dances Included:
    • Foxtrot
    • Swing
    • Waltz
    • Tap
    • Jitterbug


The Jazz style of music popular in the 1920s evolved into two popular music genres of the 1930s – Swing and Big Band. The silky-voiced crooner singers remained popular throughout the decade.

  • Popular Songs of the 1930s Include:
    • A Tisket, A Tasket – Ella Fitzgerald with Chick Webb’s Orchestra
    • Boogie Woogie – Tommy Dorsey
    • In The Mood – Glenn Miller
    • God Bless America – Kate Smith
    • Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller
    • Over the Rainbow – Judy Garland/Glenn Miller
    • Pennies From Heavy – Bing Crosby
    • Putting on the Ritz – Harry Richamn with Earl Burtnett
    • Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman
    • Silent Night, Holy Night – Bing Crosby
Life in the 1930s - Crooner
  • Popular Swing Musicians Included:
    • Artie Shaw
    • Benny Goodwin
    • Billie Holiday
    • Cab Calloway
    • Ella Fitzgerald
    • Glenn Miller
    • Louis Armstrong
    • Tommy Dorsey
  • Popular Crooners of the 1930s Included:
    • Bing Crosby
    • Frank Sinatra
    • Fred Astaire
    • Nat King Cole
    • Perry Como
    • Rudy Vallee

In 1935 a new radio program highlighted the most popular songs of the week, “Your Hit Parade” debut. Shortly after, in 1936, Billboard Magazine published Hit Parade, a list of the most popular songs of the time. 


Many classic movies came out of the 1930s. The Drive-In Movie was introduced in 1933 by Richard Hollingshed, making it easier for families to watch.

Life in the 1930s - Movies - Little Women
  • Popular Movies Included:
    • It Happened One Night (1930) Starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable.
    • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) Starring Frederic March.
    • King Kong (1933)
    • Little Women (1933) Starring Katherine Hepburn
    • Cleopatra (1934) Starring Claudette Colbert and directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
    • Gone With The Wind (1939) Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, and Leslie Howard.
    • The Wizard of Oz (1939) Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Margaret Hamilton.


Life in the 1930s - Monopoly

With the depression also came ways to enjoy family entertainment. Many of the games we love and play today originated in the 1930s.

  • Popular Games Originating in the 1930s Include:
    • Monopoly (1935)
    • Sorry (1934)
    • Go to the Head of the Class (1936)
    • Canasta Card Game (Introduced in 1939)
    • Betsy Wetsy – The popular doll that would drink and wet herself. (1934)


Life in the 1930s - Goldfish Swallowing

Swallowing goldfish became a college phenomenon in 1939. The fad is thought to have begun as a $10 bet at Harvard University as part of a bid for a freshman running for class president. It then went on to become a competition between various universities.

Final Words

If you enjoyed looking back at life in the 1930s, another article you might like that explores the 1940s is:

In taking a look at Life In The 1930s – A Trip Down Memory Lane, I hope you were able to revisit some fond life events. If you hadn’t lived during that decade, my hope if you were able to learn something new about the decade you hadn’t known.

If you have any memories of the 1930s you would like to share, I would love to read them; please comment below.

Leave a Comment