The Rise of the UK's Prom Culture

Stateside TV shows such as Glee, 90210 and High School Musical have a lot to answer for – they’ve been injecting the concept of a traditional teen prom into the UK’s consciousness for a while now. Now considered a rite of passage for school leavers up and down the country, it seems the traditional prom is growing in popularity at a rapid rate and has been thoroughly embraced by our US-obsessed youth – but why? And what is it about prom culture that has the power to thrill and sicken our population in almost equal measure?

What Makes a ‘Prom’?
Twenty years ago, the most UK Sixth Formers could expect from their final days in education would be a school shirt signed by their peers and a boozy trip down the local for their final goodbyes. Yet now it seems kids (and, more importantly, their parents!) are encouraged to spend hundreds of pounds on prepping themselves for a glamorous, extravagant bash to mark their own ‘end of an era’.

The Rise of the UK's Prom Culture

What do you think of when you utter the word ‘prom’? You may conjure up exaggerated images of teen girls in huge, puffy dresses and sky-high heels, baby-faced boys in oversized tuxes, and a dance floor fit to burst with inebriated dancing and last-minute crush confessions. If the guests are of drinking age, that is. As the trend has evolved over the last few years, prom attendees have undeniably got younger and younger, with many primary school classes deciding to organise proms in place of the traditional school disco or summer term buffet. In fact, the definition of a prom has tended to slip into the realms of any sort of event that culminates a special part of someone’s life, much to the despair of those who don’t enjoy the over-zealous use of Americanisms.

Regardless of the age of its guests, a prom would be nothing without each and every one of its over-the-top components. The dramatic outfits, the pre-party hair and makeup frenzy, and, of course, the packed limo or party bus all contribute to a night that no-one’s going to forget in a hurry. However, as previously mentioned, the cost of the entire thing can be a burden for parents that are already struggling to meet the demands of a largely materialistic young society. So the real question is, are proms encouraging our youngsters to become fickle, image-obsessed reincarnations of the characters they see on screen within imported shows like Hannah Montana?

Perhaps. Perhaps there is room for this phenomenon to have a greater, and largely negative, impact on the way our teenagers think and act. Time will tell. But for now, we think the cynics should take the idea of a prom at face value. Those in favour of the prom tend to focus on the way such a high-profile event can break down social barriers and encourage an entire class to look back on their school years with a warm, fuzzy kind of fondness. It’s a great way for classmates to celebrate their time together and make one last, testosterone-fuelled toast towards their future as they hurtle towards adulthood and leave their school days behind.

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