Looking Back at Prom’s Origins and History


Paul Shin, Staff Writer

As my Facebook is flooded with pictures and videos of people asking their dates to prom, I think it is time to answer the ultimate questions: Where and when did prom first originate? What is the function of prom?

The term “prom” was first coined as a shortened version of “promenade”, which is a formal dance that allows guests to display their fashion and dancing skills. Prom was first introduced in the 1920s in colleges and kicked off in the 1930s. The prom craze really took hold in 1960s, when it became a serious exercise and people started to become more lavish and people started to hire services. Prom now transitioned from a high-class social event to one of unrestrained partying, highlighted by lots of bad things that your mommy would disapprove of.

Why did prom ever start? It was first created to teach teens the necessary skills to participate in high class formal events. Most high school students were sure to have prom as their first ever formal event and adults wanted to teach these youngsters how to eat and dance in a formal setting under adult supervision. Prom was a small event, usually held in a gym decorated with streamers, filled with dancers usually in their Sunday wear, back in the day when you have church as an occasion to dress your best. Prom grew bigger in the 1960s, with teens now renting lavish dresses and suits and hiring transport services to drive them to expensive restaurants before being dropped off at the dance, which is now upgraded from the gym to private institutions. Before, prom was a way for teens to assimilate into formal events; now, prom is a source of anxiety for many teens who only know grinding as their only dance move.