If you’ve spent the last few weeks stressing about ﬁ nding a prom date, shopping for the perfect prom dress, ﬁ guring out the limo price and planning your post-prom festivities, you might be wondering how prom became such a BFD (Big Freakin’ Deal) in the ﬁ rst place. Here’s a quick primer on the untold prom history.
COMPILED BY DIANA FAITH KEMBABAZI
- Prom used to be pretty boring, tbh. No one’s actually sure how the whole prom tradition started, but the earliest known reference to a “prom” comes from a college student’s journal in 1894. Over the next few years, high schools picked up on the trend and started hosting proms as a chance for students to practice their manners while sipping tea in the auditorium. Yawn.
- Prom got a glam makeover in the 1950s. Over the next few decades, prom got a few much-needed upgrades — schools started serving full dinners and hiring local bands to play — but we didn’t reach peak prom until after World War II ended. Thanks to a post-war economic boom, schools moved their proms to fancy banquet halls and standard prom attire got a lot swankier. Today, the average student spends around 350K on prom expenses — yikes.
- Prom almost fizzled out. A few years ago, an article on the language of prom looked at how many times prom was mentioned in text over the past century and found a major lull in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Most likely, that’s because there was so much going on at that time — like the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War — that prom took a backseat while students focused on ﬁ ghting for change. But it made a big comeback in the ’80s, with the help of iconic prom scenes in movies like Pretty in Pink and Back to the Future.
- Prom has a presidential history. In 1963, the senior class at Burroughs High School in the US booked the biggest ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for their prom. Then JFK requested the same room for a fundraiser — and the venue bumped the prom to accommodate the president. But when JFK heard about the mix-up, he let the high school have the ballroom and moved his fundraiser to a few smaller rooms in the hotel. (He even made an appearance at the prom! Picture Sevo at your prom fam!) And in 1975, then-President Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, booked a seriously posh venue for her senior prom — she convinced her dad to let her class hold their prom inside the White House! Don’t picture your prom ever at any one time at the State House in Ebbz. Who knows you?
- Promposals weren’t always a thing. Apparently someone decided that asking your crush to prom wasn’t awkward enough already and there needed to be way more potential for public embarrassment — and thus the trend of extravagant prom proposals started in the early 2000s. A recent survey found that promposals cost an average of 150K — just tack that on to prom’s already-hefty price tag. (But we have to admit, some of them are pretty awesome — and there are plenty of ways to do it on the cheap.) NB: A Promposal is the act of asking someone out as your date. Many times guys go to great lengths asking chics out. Some buy expensive shoes and jewellery.
- Prom is f-i-n-a-l-l-y making progress. Prom traditions have been kind of stuck in the past — some schools still try to ban students from having prom. But there have been a few promising signs too — like Nabisunsa Girls ﬁ nally going for sosh lately — so maybe prom is slowly catching up with the rest of society