The Most Unhinged Dating Rules of the 1950s


Written by:

When it comes to dating and relationships, times have changed — a lot. In the 1950s, failing to follow stringent rules and dating etiquette could result in someone being shunned from society, or looked down upon by one’s peers. Back then, the dating scene was marred by a minefield of dos and dont’s — and even a small misstep could tarnish one’s reputation and potential courtships. (Talk about “Netflix and [not] chill.”)

From mandatory chaperones to strict curfews, here are some of the craziest dating rules of the 1950s, reminding us that pre-Tinder times were not for the faint of heart. 

Image Credit: Mediafeed / DALL-E 3.

1. Asking Permission for a Date

In the 1950s, it was customary for the man to ask a woman’s parents for permission before taking her out. This was seen as a sign of courtesy and respect. The potential suitor would often visit the woman’s home before the date, introduce himself to her parents, and formally request the honor of her company for a specific outing.

Image Credit: Tom Kelley Archive/istockphoto.

2. Dress Codes Were No Joke

Back then, you couldn’t just show up in sneakers for a date. Men were expected to wear formal attire (suit and tie) to reflect their seriousness and intention, while women were expected to wear dresses, often with gloves, to signify decorum and femininity. Casual attire was frowned upon, as it suggested a lack of effort and respect.

Image Credit: George Marks/istockphoto.

3. Timeliness Was Key

Punctuality was a non-negotiable aspect of dating etiquette in the ’50s. Arriving late was not only considered a sign of disrespect, but also an indication of unreliability and poor character. Men and women alike were expected to be on time — if not early — to a date as a sign of respect and commitment to the courtship process. 

Image Credit: avid_creative/istockphoto.

4. Women Had To Be Chaperoned

Many women in the ’50s, especially those who came from affluent families, were expected to be chaperoned during dates. This means that a family member or a trusted adult would accompany the couple throughout their date to ensure proper behavior and adherence to social norms. (Talk about a bad case of third-wheeling!)

Image Credit: Debrocke/ClassicStock/Getty Images.

5. PDA Was a Major No-No

If you were thinking about sneaking a kiss during a date, you could forget about it. Public displays of affection (PDAs) were heavily frowned upon in the ’50s. While holding hands might have been acceptable for couples “going steady,” kissing or hugging in public was considered indecent and could damage a couple’s reputation.

Image Credit: LifeJourneys/istockphoto.

6. Men Were Always Expected To Pay …

While we’re all for equality and splitting the check, times were way different back then. The unwritten rule was that the man should always pay for the date’s expenses, from dinner to movie tickets. Covering these costs meant that the man was serious about the relationship, and also reflected his ability to provide. 

Image Credit: ASphotowed/istockphoto.

7. … and Were Also Expected To Order

When dining out, it was common practice for the man to order food on behalf of the woman. At the time, this was not considered presumptuous or patronizing, but was instead perceived as a display of the man’s knowledge and taste. It also suggested that he was well-versed in fine dining and capable of making decisions for his date. 

Image Credit: Juanmonino/istockphoto.

8. Curfews Were Not Just a Suggestion

In the conservative societal fabric of the ’50s, a person’s reputation was everything — especially for women. As such, women were expected to abide by strict curfews. This was rooted in the belief that a woman’s virtue and respectability were closely linked to her behavior in public and private. Returning home late from a date could arise suspicions about indecency, not to mention how furious her parents would be. 

Image Credit: inkret/istockphoto.

9. Casual Dating Was Not Allowed

Back then, cultural and social frameworks were completely different from today’s standards. Dating was mainly viewed as a prelude to marriage, and the courtship process was expected to lead to a lifelong commitment. This meant that casual dating was viewed as indecent and looked down upon by upper members of society. 

Image Credit: Stockbyte/istockphoto.

10. Taboo Topics Were To Be Avoided

Back then, dating etiquette was heavily influenced by societal norms, which advocated for a polite, reserved, and non-confrontational approach to personal interactions, especially in the early stages of courtship. This meant that certain topics like politics, religion, or personal finances were considered too controversial for dates.

Image Credit: avid_creative/istockphoto.

11. Women Had To ‘Wait for the Call’

After a date, women were expected to wait for the man to call them back to affirm their interest and continue dating. Calling the man first or appearing too eager could label a woman as desperate or forward. Instead, women were encouraged to maintain a posture of passive receptivity, reflecting the era’s ideals of femininity and decorum. 

Image Credit: eclipse_images/istockphoto.

12. Walking Her Back to Her House

At the end of the night, it was expected that the man would walk the woman to her door. This was seen as a sign of respect, concern for her safety, and also reflected the values of chivalry and protection during courtship. The gesture also served as an indicator of the man’s intentions and his regard for their budding relationship. Failure to do so was considered rude and thoughtless. 

Image Credit: South_agency/istockphoto.

More from MediaFeed

10 Things Men Should Never Say or Do Around Women

Like MediaFeed’s content? Be sure to follow us.

Image Credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto.