Better Than Average: A History of Skippers

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In 2011, the average groom was 29, his bride, 27. Assuming this average groom spent the average four years in college and graduated at the average age of 22, there was an average of 7 years of average bachelorhood. Tired of the word “average” yet? Skippers are.

The bachelorhood years mean gradual maturing, not because you have to but because your advancing age simply makes it natural. Once average men are mature enough to handle their own lives, they consider themselves “ready for marriage.” For skippers, and you don’t have to be married to have the heart of a skipper, seven years is a little too long to wait to get their lives under control. Average ages for newlywed skippers reflect older eras when responsibility came through work, not age. Let’s look at a few of those eras.

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This graph is the property of USATODAY.

The 1890s

The “Gay Nineties” saw the average man getting married at 26. “That’s still four years after college graduation,” you say. Yes, but they were marrying girls who were an average age of 22. And the customs of the time required men at 26 to be established, not just “ready for marriage” in the modern psychological sense.

Also, during this time, fathers largely decided who their daughters could court, so younger men weren’t really invited to come and call. Even if they wanted to be skippers, they were generally unable, so they turned to work instead. And when they were old enough to show up in young ladies’ parlors, they showed up pronto.

The Early Twentieth Century

With booming industries, American men in the next few decades became stable earlier, with average marriage age trending down to 25 in the 1910s and 1920s. This set up a new norm which stuck in the culture, even though the Depression of the 1930s took away much of the stability that caused the norm.

The Depression actually had the same affect as the affluent times. During this time, many parents were unable to care for their daughters very well, so young men who were keen often looked to be as good a stability option as Mom and Pop. These Depression-era men became the first modern skippers, braving a hard future with a family in tow. By 1940, the average groom was 24, the average bride 21.

World War Two

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The Greatest Generation had the most skippers of any modern American generation. The average man got married around age 23, and his blushing bride was only 20.

During the war years and the succeeding decade, men who participated in WWII dominated American life. These men had picked up guns at young ages, had taken their lives in their hands before they’d graduated college, had been working for a living (and a purpose!) since their early days. They knew what responsibility meant, and they didn’t think you had to achieve a certain age to take it.

Since the postwar baby boom, numbers have been trending back up. “Bachelorhood” has given way to the “bro” culture. The irresponsible have become legion. Skippers have become fewer. If you’re a skipper, be proud of your intellectual heritage. Your idea of “ready for marriage” is the same as that of the Greatest Generation.

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