I styled my hair like I was in the '50s for a week and I was surprised by how many looks I liked
- I tried five different popular hairstyles from the 1950s: a high ponytail, a fake bob, pin curls, a poodle, and a bouffant.
- Most of the styles were easy to create, requiring just a few bobby pins and my natural curls.
- I couldn't get the pin curls or the bouffant to stay put.
- I might wear some of these styles again if I were feeling whimsical.
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Like most of the world, I am currently spending most of my time self-isolating indoors. It can be difficult to maintain any sense of the passage of time when every day looks the same.
I decided to liven things up by trying a new 1950s hairstyle each day. I'm actually no stranger to the decade — I've already tried vintage recipes from a 1950s cookbook, and while I wasn't a fan of the Golden Glow Jell-O fruit salad, I did have a lot of fun.
I chose five vintage styles to try by consulting "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History" by Victoria Sherrow, as well as magazine spreads and celebrity photos from the '50s.
By the end of the experiment, I was surprised by how many of the looks I actually liked.
This is what my hair normally looks like.
With naturally curly hair, I had a head start on '50s styles — no perm required.
I decided to ease into my week of 1950s hairstyles with a classic look that I already wear often — a ponytail.
According to "Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History" by Victoria Sherrow, "a signature look of the 1950s was a high ponytail, often tied with a scarf." Teenagers in particular were fond of the style, which was featured on the original 1959 Barbie doll.
I grabbed a scrunchie and a thin scarf, pulled my hair back, and secured it with both items. Piece of cake.
It was a little tricky to loop the scarf around my ponytail, but I got it on the second or third try.
I liked how the colorful addition of a scarf made the ponytail feel more polished.
I usually wear ponytails if I'm doing something active or just need to get my hair out of my face. Taking the time to style the ponytail elevated the look for me. I'd probably wear something like this again if I were feeling whimsical.
For day two, I took inspiration from a 1957 issue of Glamour magazine featuring headbands.
Like ponytails, I'm also a fan of headbands in my everyday life. They tame flyaways and make fun accessories.
I recreated the Glamour photo shoot with the help of a pink headband, a few bobby pins, and a tree.
I like wearing headbands, and this style was very easy to construct. I simply tucked my hair into the back of the headband to create a fake bob, pulled some hair out on the sides to create large waves, and secured everything with bobby pins.
While I probably wouldn't wear this tucked-in style in my everyday life, it didn't feel too far off from my usual hairdos.
Pin curls rose to prominence in the 1940s and remained popular into the following decade.
Pin curls are created by rolling strands of hair towards the scalp and pinning them in place. Actress Betty Grable wore pin curls in the 1953 film "The Farmer Takes a Wife."
Shaping pin curls and making them stay in place turned out to be more difficult than I'd anticipated.
I managed to keep the first few curls secure, but every time I started working on another section of hair, the curls would tumble out. Maybe I should have used more hairspray.
Next came a style I'd been apprehensive about trying — the poodle.
Lucille Ball often wore the poodle hairstyle on "I Love Lucy," which ran from 1951 to 1957.
I think I nailed it.
This style was easier than I anticipated. I rolled the front section of my hair towards my forehead until it sat in a voluminous pile on my head, and then pinned it in place. I've done toned-down versions of this style for special events, so it felt like it was in my wheelhouse.
My hairstyle received rave reviews on a Google Hangout with my colleagues.
One person said it looked like a "lady mullet," but the consensus was that my hair looked pretty fabulous.
1950s Hairstyles – 50s Hairstyles from Short to Long
Classic 50s hairstyle
1950s hairstyles for women complimented the New Look fashion set in 1947 with hair that was shorter, looser, and required less work that than previous decades of waves, pin curls, and Victory rolls. Women still flocked to the beauty salons for weekly styling, but now the very popular short ’50s hairstyles were quicker to cut and style, giving many women the option of a home beauty routine. Shorter hairstyles needed more frequent trimming, so in the end, women spent just as much time at the salon as they did in the 1940s.
Women’s 1950s hair came in short, medium, and long styles, matching the personality of the wearer. Short for the typical housewife, medium for the young, long for Hollywood pin ups. Each cut was as unique as the woman, shaping her face and giving her a style that only belonged to her. While we will explore the most common fifties hairstyles below and offer some suggestions on achieving these same looks today, keep in mind most 50s hairstyles started with a very specific haircut and plan for pin-curling hair in exactly the same way, every day. Our modern haircuts with layering, texturizing, waves, and natural curls can get in the way of achieving the same results. 1950s inspired hair can be achieved with practice, a few good tools, and maybe a classic haircut to work from.
1950s Hairstyles for Short Hair
Short was in! Women chopped off their shoulder length and long locks in the early ’50s in favor of the new short bob. It was a similar phenomenon to that which took place in the 1920s, when women went from long Victorian coifed hair to boyish flapper bobs. In the 1950s, it was the full swing skirts, protruding chests, and small waists that needed short cropped hairstyles to balance out the bottom heavy fashions. Some 1950s hairstyles were as short as the flapper bob, but the ’50s bob was fuller and more dramatic like the small hats that sat on a 1950s woman’s head. Indeed, with bigger but shorter hair, hat wearing was in sharp decline. By the end of the decade, only 25% of women wore hats daily. The other 75% preferred a freshly styled bouffant.
Poodle Clip / Curly Bob
Lucile Ball’s poodle clip and dyed red hair
In 1952, salons were reporting 3 out of 5 haircuts were being cut into the Poodle clip. The trend started in the ’40s with actress Betty Grable, whose long hair was tightly curled and upswept into a poof on top of the head. Lucile Ball continued the hairstyle in the ’50s, at first gathering hair up on top, then a bit shorter with curls combed to the side, and finally shortening her hair further into an all over curly bob. Also called a bubble cut, it was worn by Jackie Kennedy on her wedding day in 1953.
Jackie Kennedy’s “Bubble” cut
For women who chose the poodle, bubble, or curly bob, they had to use 125 curlers to set the hairstyle after each washing. Hair had to be re-cut every two weeks as well. It was the ideal cut for mature women and the perfect balance to full dresses. Stars like Denise Darcel, Peggy Ann Garner, Ann Southers, and Faye Emerson all sported the poodle clip. Straight haired women turned to the permanent wave machine to get the poodle clip to hold up to 6 weeks. The Toni or the Lift perm created the best curl.
Some critics said the poodle cut belonged on poodles, not women. The very short, all-over curl was not very feminine on most face shapes. A slightly longer curly bob was more flattering. Instead of the hair piled on top, the curls filled out the sides, tapering down to the ears or chin. Hair could be swept back, parted in the middle, or brought to one side with curls for bangs. This proved to be a longer lasting hairstyle, although Lucile Ball kept her iconic poodle for most of her career.
1950s poodle clips or curly bob hairstyles
For naturally curly and ethnic hair, the poodle or curly bob was a perfect ’50s hairstyle. Even Asian ladies opted to perm hair and create voluminous curls. Look at this easy tutorial for hairstyling with naturally curly hair. If you have long straight hair, look at this tutorial starting at minute 5.
- Zola Taylor of the Platters sports a curly poodle clip
- Zhou Xuan’s curly hair
- Zola again with natural curls
The Italian Haircut
In 1953 the short, curly, but not poodle hair was introduced as the Italian cut. It was only an inch or so longer than the poodle clip, but the curls were tousled instead of tight, with spit curls to frame the face and the neckline. “Shaggy but sculpted” was the look that most women copied for the remainder of the decade. It was easier to maintain, too. The best Italian styles looked long, but never extended below the chin, with a side part and volume on top or all around.
As the decade progressed, Italian cuts blended with other styles like the bouffant to create more volume and a rounder shape. Sides also slimmed in the mid-’50s with a top-heavy design that was favored by women who preferred not to wear hats. My mom still wears this look to this day, as do many of her friends.
1950s Italian Hairstyles
Soft curly Japanese bob
You may notice in the above pictures that the Italian cut was only worn by dark-haired ladies. Blondes, redheads, and light brunettes tried the style, but they lacked the bold facial features needed to carry off the exotic look. Instead, they adapted the Italian and the curly bob into a soft bob. It had modest volume with rolled curls all over, sometimes with a part in the center. It was shaped to frame a woman’s face to her liking. Cut close to the head with volume on the sides on top (or flat on top for hat wearing), it was a very versatile and popular hairstyle.
1950s bob or boobed hairstyle
Tip: Long hair can be fake bobbed by rolling/pinning the back hair under a layer of shorter strands. This works especially well for layered hair. All one length long hair can be rolled entirely under the back with softer curls or waves framing the face.
Bouffant 1950s Hairstyle
Angie Dickinson bouffant hairstyle
The bob and the Italian cut were both short hairstyles that were quickly outdated when the new Bouffant hairstyle developed around 1957. It would take a few years to morph into the ’60s beehive, but the beginnings were formed in the late ’50s. At first, the Italian cut was grown out with more volume shaped upward on top of the crown. Gradually, it lengthened to the chin, where the hair was swept up and back. The ’50s bouffant still had a tousled look, not as smooth as the ’60s bouffant. In shorter styles, it looked like a shaggy Italian cut. Longer hair gave more options for styling the hair upwards to new heights.
Brushing the hair backward instead of around the face was also a new concept for the ’50s. Many short hairstyles in 1959 curled hair backward, exposing the forehead. These newer high top hairstyles influenced women’s hat designs. Hats were being made wider and taller than prior years, enhancing the bouffant hairstyles. Since hat wearing was in sharp decline, millinery designers were trying anything to bring women back to them. If women wanted bouffant hair, then why not have a bouffant hat too?
1950s Bouffants 1958-1961
To achieve the ’50s bouffant hairstyle, hair was set in large mesh rollers or empty juice cans, air dried and backcombed/ teased to create height on the top and sides. This teasing gave it the nickname the “Teasy Weasy” hairstyle. A lot of hairspray held the bouffant in place all day. Sales for hairspray, rat combs, and blow dryers surged during this time. It wasn’t uncommon to see women out shopping with hair set in rollers and wrapped in a silk scarf.
First lady Jackie Kennedy was the first famous woman to adopt the bouffant hairstyle. Her bouffant was relaxed but youthful. Stars like Connie Francis and Sophia Loren, who brought the “European bouffant” to the United States, also wore the new look.
Short hair had a variety of cuts in the front. Jagged layers on the Italian, long hair brushed back on the bob, and side-swept layers for the bouffant. There was one look that went with all of the short and long hairstyles – short bangs. First lady Mamie Eisenhower sported short bangs in the early ’50s. They were very short, tight, and waved. The top of her hair was flat, and the sides around the ears were curly fluff. It was an odd haircut (she wasn’t exactly a fashion icon for the young and trendy), but women copied it for years to come. Young girls, too, are often pictured with very short curled bangs and long or short straight hair.
Short fringe bangs, about an inch above the eyebrows, with longer pieces in the center tapering shorter to the sides, was another popular shape in the mid-’50s. Curly, straight, and wavy bangs were all adopted. More about ’50s hairstyles with bangs can be found here.
Bangs or fringe in the 50s
Audrey Hepburn also wore short straight fringe bangs that shaped down to the ears in the Pixie haircut. The rest of the hair tapered shortly around her thin face. She debuted the Pixie the 1953 movie Roman Holiday. It perfectly matched her and Shirley McClaine’s gamin fashion style that was sweeping the country. Boyish and young, it did not look good on most women. It was also heavily criticized by the media for being too much like a men’s haircut. The pixie had cousin hairstyles like the women’s butch cut that left the sides much shorter and the bangs evenly cut across the forehead. It took a confident woman with a long face to pull off these extra short hairstyles, but if she could do it, it gave her a very European chic / high fashion look.
Pixie and Butch Hairstyles
The Cobra was a striking bang style cut into the shape of a V or cobra fang in case a woman wanted to look a like a Vampire. Seen in 1957, it didn’t exactly take off.
1950s Hairstyles for Medium Length Hair
The difference between short hairstyles and medium hairstyles were minimal. Most short styles looked good at a longer length, while medium styles could also be cut shorter. The choice of length was made between woman and hair stylist. The following are some styles frequently seen with shoulder-length hair. Keep in mind that curling hair will shorten it. Many chin length curly styles began with shoulder-length hair.
The Side Part
Grace Kelly’s famous center part hairstyles
Another hairstyle for women with mostly straight hair involved a single length cut with a curved shape around the face and a deep side part. The length varied from chin to shoulder. Rolled curls faced inward toward the face or puffed out a bit in a bobbed effect. It was the deep side part that made this style unique. The side part was a youthful cut, perfect for teens and women who liked hats. The part was made 2/3 the way across the forehead and brushed over to the other side, flattening the top so that all the volume was around the chin and neck. Gene Tierney, Grace Kelly, and Mad Men‘s Betty Draper all used the side part style regularly.
A center part was less common, probably because it was used heavily in the 1940s, but some women did prefer the center part to gain a balanced look. Grace Kelly sported the center part beautifully with tight or loose curls kissing her strong jawline.
Several side parts for straight and soft curly hair
Tip. The side part is one of the easiest ’50s hairstyles you can do with most modern haircuts. I was able to transform my sister’s shoulder length, one layer hairstyle into ’50s side part glam in about 30 minutes. Most of the work involved was curling the ends under with a 2-inch barrel curling iron and adding some small curls around the top for volume. I followed this Betty Draper hair tutorial.
Side part modern hair turned 50s glam!
This popular hairstyle was often paired with the side part to create a look that was smooth and manicured. The pageboy was especially popular in the early ’50s, but remained in use until the ’60s, when it turned outward into the flip. The general shape was that of straight flat hair on the top and sides, with a tightly rolled bottom and front edges facing the neck. The rolls could fall from ear to neck or be one length at the shoulder only. Shorter chin-length versions were also popular with teens in the early ’50s. If hair was one length or bangs were long, they could be pulled and pinned to the sides or half way to the back of the head for a faux pageboy style. In the later years, pageboys with short bangs were the more youthful look with the hair length touching the shoulders.
1950s pageboy hairstyles for medium length hair
Tip: Pull one side back with a hair comb or both sides with a headband or hair scarf for a youthful teenage style. If you have very long hair, you can do a reverse pageboy where you roll the hair around a scarf and tie to around the head and then pin the rolls in place, just like they did in the ’40s. Here is a tutorial for a short hair pageboy.
1952 pageboy hairstyle worn by Estelle Price
1950s Hairstyles for Long Hair
While long hair was rare for women in the 1950s, but it was not unheard of. Long hair was still popular with teens and young women as well as much older women who refused to follow short hair trends. However, long hair was rarely left down. After age 20, women were encouraged to take on a mature look with hair that was styled off the shoulders. Long hair was twisted, pinned, and swept up into a look that, from the front, resembled most short hairstyles.
Horse Tail, Pony Tail
The pony tail, called a horse tail in the ’50s, was favored by teens and women in the early years. Low maintenance, simple, and chic, the horse tail remains iconic with the sock hop set. Audrey Hepburn and Bridgette Bardot each sported the horse tail in movies. It was pulled up to the center of the back head and secured with a rubber band. Bangs (fringe) and curls around the face were optional. Hair for the pony tail was usually curled under first, then pulled back, giving it soft rolled edges. Elastic bands were often covered with a thin ribbon bow or pretty hair clip.
Pony Tail Hairstyles
Headbands & Scarves Hair Accessories
Hair scarves, headbands, and bandanas were often paired with pony tails, page boys, and some bobs. A wide ribbon was placed over the crown and tied at the base of the neck. Bangs were softly draped in front with and curled ends flopping forward. Headbands could be worn around short hair too, especially going into the ’60s. In the late ’50s, it was the thin plastic headband that replaced the soft ribbon headband. A thin scarf could also be tied up on top into a big bow. Large chiffon scarves were wrapped around the head for traveling or going to the beach. They protected hairstyles from wind and looked very sophisticated while doing so.
1950s Hairstyles with Headbands
Hair flowers were still in style in the first few years of the ’50s, but were generally only worn by teens. That changed in 1955, when suddenly everything floral was in vogue. Ladies wore large roses clipped to on side of a chignon for a Spanish look. Wreaths and crowns of flowers such as carnations, daisies, posies, and chrysanthemums were wrapped around the head. The fad was short-lived, but remainsa trendy ’50s hair accessory today.
1950s Hair Flower Clips and Wreaths
The Hollywood Pin Up
Leading ladies in Hollywood, especially those that became famous in the ’30s and ’40s, could not cut their long hair. The ’40s long hairstyle favored waves with big curls on the ends. 1950s long hairstyles involved very full curls all over or a sleek top with cascading curls to one side. Deep side parts made the hair look dramatic. June Haver, Betty Grable, Jane Russel, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, and Cleo More each had similar long hairstyles.
1950s Hollywood stars long curly hairstyles
Some stars would occasionally wear long hair straight with just a soft curl or roll at the ends. Many regular women who chose to keep their long hair also preferred straight hair that they pulled back into elegant waves and chignons. Front hair was styled into soft curls, a deep side part, or long wave, while the back was arranged in a low bun, cluster of curls, braid, or twisted ropes. Many chignons, twists, or braids were arranged up the back of the head and flattened. From the front, it was not obvious a woman had long hair. Only from the back was it seen that her hair was gathered up.
- 1950s flat bun
- 1950s braided bun
- Flat french twist bun
The Bettie Page Hairstyle
Bettie Page, a pin up icon, wore long straight wavy hair with medium length straight bangs. It was the opposite of how most classy women would dress their hair, which is exactly why it appealed to counter-culture “Beat girls” in the UK and Rebel girls in the USA. Rockabilly fans have revived this hairstyle, often combining the Bettie bangs with a pony tail and bandana.
Bettie Page Bangs with long hair
50s Hairstyles Updos
For evenings and fancy afternoon events, women with long hair created a classy updo. Women with short hair usually didn’t have enough hair to make an updo so they just styled their short hair as nicely as possible. Fluffy hairstyles were often smoothed back on the sides and puffed up on top giving the illusion of an updo. The following are some of the classic 50s updo hairstyles.
The French twist is one of my favorite quick and easy updos for long hair. Hair was pulled back after styling the front with a wave(s) or sleek top (not tight, just smooth). The hair was then twisted inward, making a roll that covered the entire back of the head. It was smooth on one side and smooth to the roll on the other. For thick hair, a double French twist was a better option. Hair was divided, then twisted into a roll from each side and joined in the middle. I followed directions in the Vintage Hairstyling book with great success.
1950s Double French Twist
“Simple but effective, the chignon braid can lend distinction to very plain and otherwise unattractive hair, it makes an ideal career-girl special.” Woman’s Weekly
The classic chignon was modernized in the 1950s. It easily moved from daywear to eveningwear, making it very versatile and fairly easy to create. Essentially, it is a bun made of hair twisted and rolled into a circle. It could also be a pony tail with the ends tucked under the middle and fanned out to the sides. Some chignons were bulky, while others were flattened and pinned. They could be centered in the back or placed lower on the nape.
1950s chignon hairstyles
For women with short hair, a chignon bun or braid could be purchased separately and pinned to the hair. Some women who opted for the Italian cut chose to add chignon hair clips for evening looks. “Men prefer long-hair,” commented one movie star. The chignon hair clip made it possible to have the best of both worlds. In 1957, the chignon was so popular that hat designers made chignon caps. They were pretty covers made of knitted yarn into the shapes of flowers or chiffon pillbox hats that covered the bun. Pretty hairpins in the shapes of butterflies, birds, and flowers also decorated the tops the of the chignon.
- A flared chignon with butterfly hair pin
- 1957 Chignon caps
Upswept Updo Hairstyles
Upswept hairstyles were worn day and evening for women with medium to long hair. Taking roots from Victory rolls in the 1940s, hair was softly rolled and pinned up to the upper sides. Similar to the poodle hairstyle, piles of soft curls could circle the crown like an oversized bun, cascade down the back in a waterfall, or drape over one side of the head.
Smooth rolls, buns, and chignon also could be placed on the top of the head or to the side for an artistic high fashion look. The intention of a successful ’50s updo was always to sweep the hair off the neck and sides and bring it up to crown the head. In the early years, bangs or hair fronts were curled and pinned to match the volume of the crown, while the late ’50s preferred a smooth front or center part.
1950s updo hairstyles for long hair
African-American hair with natural tight curls were not in style in the 1950s. There were a few exceptions, but most women continued to straighten their hair at home with a hot comb and styled it into the same looks that white women were wearing. Curly bobs required straightening, then pin curling hair with a light comb-out for fullness. Even the short poodle cut required the straighten and curl method. Sleek styles like the page boy, Italian, and bouffant were a bit easier to style. For black women who were able to grow hair long, updos were especially praised. Large rolls and puffs were piled high on the head in the early ’50s, or hair was sleeked back into a large chignon or bouffant in the later years.
1950s African American Hairstyles
Hair Straightening was done at home or in a black beauty salon specializing in chemical straightening that began to emerge in the late 1950s. A lotion, pomade, or oil would be put through the hair and a hot metal comb with a round backside pressed down along the hair, transforming tight curls into thin shiny hair. Straightened hair was prone to the elements, and women frequently wore headscarves to protect their hair from the rain.
Hairstyling oils and pomades advertised as being “non-greasy” were marketed to the black beauty market. “It [hair] always must look beautiful -naturally soft and smooth and lustrous,” says the Dixie-Peach pomade ad below. “Natural” meant like white women’s hair. True natural African American hair was just starting to be worn in the 1950s, preparing for a revival in the ’60s. Some singers like Zora Taylor from The Platters wore her natural hair much earlier in the ’50s.
Angelique Noire, The Black Pinup has plenty of hair and style inspiration on her Instagram.
Easy natural curl hairstyle by Bobby pin Blog
- Dixie Peach Hair Pomade
- Ever-Perm hair straighter ad
Wearing wigs became a quicker and easier way to sport the latest black hairstyles without using permanent or temporary straightening. Singers Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington became the faces for home straighter Perma-Strate brand, but in real life, they often wore straight hair wigs styled into whatever look was in vogue that year. Other singers and actresses also wore wigs while keeping their natural hair short.
- 1954 Dinah Washington wearing a straight hair wig
- Sarah Vaughan, 1955, curly hair top with straight chignon back wig
White women also used wigs and smaller hairpieces to achieve longer hair looks, or just for perfectly styled hair without the expense of weekly salon visits. Brained buns, chignons, ponytails, rolls, and bangs were all wig piece options.
1958 wigs for sale
Hair coloring was growing steadily in the 50s. In 1950, 3% of women reported using hair color. Henna was a popular colorant that was used by Lucille Ball to achieve the auburn-red color she was famous for. Hair dyes were full of harsh chemicals that were best applied by a professional hairdresser. At home, women had the choice of hair rinses and hair creams that washed out after one or up to six washings. These added highlights, rather than dyeing the entire hair.
Clairol hair coloring
In the mid ’50s, there was a trend of unnatural hair colors in bright shades of blue, purple, aqua, yellow, green, white, silver and pink. Wearing a wig in one of these shades offered a complete color, but some hair designers would also tint a section of hair with a single color. Ladies with some grey hair were encouraged to paint a wing or streak in the front with silver, adding more grey rather than detracting from it. Bleached streaks added a swoosh of platinum blonde to hair, a color made popular by bombshell Marilyn Monroe.
Silver grey hair color for the girl at the back, purple for the girl on the left
At home, hair paint was sold for the do it yourself stylist. Metallic gold and silver powders could be sprinkled on the hair for a dusting of sparkle, or added to small pieces as a highlight. There were also small swatches of colored fake hair that could be pinned or glued into place. Watch this video from 1955 showing chameleon hair streaks, and this one in 1956 demonstrating the two-tone colored hairstyles.
1959 colored wigs. Wow!
Advice for styling 50s hair today:
- Get a good book on how to pin curl hair. Pin curls are essential to creating vintage hairstyles. For video tutorials, look at CherryDollface.
- A styling lotion like Lotta Body, hairspray, a rat tail comb, bobby pins/Alligator clips, and a pomade to tame flyaways are your basic tools.
- Study vintage pictures of the style you want – is it realistic for your hair type?
- For accuracy, avoid “pinup” hairstyling tutorials. They are usually a combination of ’40s and ’50s style, not genuine ’50s hairstyles.
- Cut your hair? Most vintage styles use shoulder length or shorter “horseshoe” cut hairstyles. Long hair is harder to style. Once I cut my long thick hair, my world was opened to many more vintage looks!
- Add hair accessories like a headband, flower, clip or scarf. Consider a wig or hairpiece. Shop here.
That concludes our look at women’s 1950s hairstyles. Which hairstyle is your favorite?
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Every era comes with iconic looks, and the 1950s were no different. A generational divide was forming after WWII, and people of all ages were embracing the glamour and charm of the American Dream. No era embodied the White Picket fence fantasy more than the 1950s, and this influenced the fashion of the time as well.
Today we will take a look at some of the most popular styles from the 1950s, why they were popular, and the famous heads that rocked them. From glamorous curls to rebellious greasers, these iconic hairdos take us down memory lane, invoking Americana as only the 50s can.
Hollywood Glamour, now at home
During the 1950s, trends were mostly set by actors and actresses. Hollywood was in an era of spectacle, and silver screen stars were larger than life icons of style. These stars pushed style forward by having their unique look - often defined by the hair. The sexy Sophia Loren brought the bouffant to fame. Lucille Ball's curls created the Poodle Cut. James Dean established the greaser as the ultimate rebel statement. And Audrey Hepburn inspired millions of women to snip their locks into a pixie cut.
For the everyday man or women, there were lots of new styles to try - and they all came with some particular styling needs. These new styles took a lot of time and product to create, but the idea was to make them look natural. New advances in hair spray and styling irons made cutting edge technology available to the average girl - or guy - at home. For the first time, the hairstyles of the rich and famous came off the silver screen and into the morning routine of everyday Americans.
Popular 50s Hairstyles for Women
Image credit: pinimg
For women of the 1950s, hair was a form of self-expression as well as an indicator of social and economic standing. Some look screamed “sexy,” while others were a sign of a rebel’s heart. One thing is for sure - they all needed at least a little hairspray!
1. Poodle cut
Image credit: cosmotologthroughtheages
The Poodle Cut was made famous by actresses with naturally curly hair, such as Lucille Ball. The look stacks tightly curled hair on top of the head while keeping either side pinned close. The overall effect was similar to the head of a French Poodle, giving it its name. Typically, older women wore this look.
Image credit: pinimg
The bouffant was wildly popular, brought into the mainstream by European actresses Sophia Loren and Connie Francis. It was a predecessor to the BeeHive and more heavily styled looks of the 1960s. The style involved a lot of product to tease curls into a structured shape on top of the head, giving height and refinement. The more volume, the better. The style showed off the cheekbones of the woman, as well as her neck. Va Va Voom!
3. Soft Bob
Image credit: stylezco
The soft bob was a natural, less product-enhanced version of the bouffant. Chin-length curls were carefully arranged, although the effect was supposed to look like naturally short, curly hair. Many actresses of the 1950s, including Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe and Eartha Kitt, embraced this shorter, less voluminous version of the classic bouffant.
4. The Pompadour
James Dean and Elvis Presley made the Pompadour iconic, but women also embraced a feminine version of the look. While some stars of the 1940’s such as Bette Davis made the look their trademark, it was young women in the 1950s to gave a look at an updated rebellious spin. This style was created by layering and teasing hair on the top front of the head, giving it “frontage” then slicking back the rest. The end look is similar to the silhouette of the paddle, but with slicked hair.
5. Short Bangs
Thick, short fringe as bangs became popular in a big way thanks to the sultry style of pin-up Betty Page. The bangs were cut straight across, low and almost to the eyebrows, and paired with a thick mane of curled hair. The end result was volume all around the face.
6. Pixie Cut
Image credit: cosmotologthroughtheages
While most women favored chin-length hair or longer, the pixie cut flew into popularity in the 1950’s thanks to Audrey Hepburn. Her cropped hair stole the show in the hit movie Roman Holiday and kicked off a trend of super short hair with soft, barely-there bangs. Young, college-aged women and high-fashion trendsetters were most likely to wear this edgy style
7. Pony Tail
Image credit: pinimg
The ponytail gained social acceptance as an appropriate hairstyle for women of all ages in the 1950s. Worn high on the head and usually with some teasing for volume, the ponytail was most popular with teens who wore it with a wide poodle skirt - often matching their hairbow to the skirt.
8. Hollywood Pinup
Image credit: wikimedia
No 1950’s women are more iconic than the 1950’s pin-up. Brought to popularity by soldiers in WWII who would “pin-up” pictures of women in their bunkers, this was the ultimate in sex appeal. The style piled curls high on the top of the head with a side part, often leaving soft curl coming down or framing the face in some way. The back of the hair was left in shoulder-length waves, again curled for volume, then brushed out to look natural. The effect was soft and feminine, with every hair in its place.
Popular 50s Hairstyles for Men
Women didn’t get to have all the fun with hair in the 1950s. New styles for men were making waves across the US - literally! These new looks meant that many men were buying and experimenting with new hair products and styles, even if it meant raiding their sisters' bathroom drawer.
Image credit: nextluxury
When you think of the 1950’s guys, you likely think of Greasers. This style is long on the top; then, the shorter side is greased back - giving it its name. The look does use pomade - not grease- but the style itself is very shiny. James Dean made this style all the rage after his hit film in 1955 Rebel Without a Cause.
Image credit: pinimg
The Pompadour is best known as the style made famous by Elvis, but many icons wore the look, including Johnny Cash and Lucile Ball’s husband Desi Arnez. The look featured a large poof in the front then slicked downsides, like a more highly styled greaser cut with more hair. Both styles were often worn by the same person depending on hair length and amount of teasing done to the top of the hair.
3. Side part
Image credit: menhairstylesworld
The side part is a classic look where the hair is short, then tapered along the sides. This look was considered clean-cut fashion and preferred by parents and school authorities. The sleek style also made use of pomade for the smooth look. Clark Gable was famous for rocking this style.
4. Duck Tail
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The ducktail is related to the Greaser and Pompadour, but instead of the hair is slicked back or teased up, it is combed together from either side with pomade. The end result looks like the rear of a duck in the back, with a more touseled look on top. Actor Tony Curtis is credited for popularizing the style after he sported the look in his 1958 film “The Defiant Ones.”
Image credit: menshairstylesweekly
The quiff was popular in the 1950s as a style that combines elements of a pompadour and the shorter, more conservative looks of the 1940s. The look is short all along the sides but leaves just a little bit of fun on top - a longer section left wild, dubbed the quiff. Sometimes for a more edgy look, the bit of hair was styled up, mimicking a mini-pompadour. The look was very popular with teens who wanted a little bit of rebelliousness but not the full-on effort of more time-intensive. This style is still popular today!
The timeless glamour of the 1950s, today
These styles may have defined the 1950s, but men and women still rock them with as much flair as ever. Rockers have embraced the pompadours, girls are still wearing their pixie cuts, and burlesque performers channel their inner pin-up girl. While it’s rare to see such complicated styles every day, there is no doubt the spirit of Americana defined by the 1950s is still alive and well today.
Hair Through History: 9 Memorable Hairstyles of the 1950s
It's clear that hair plays an important role in popular culture. Hair trends help to define each new generation and separate it from the one that came before. The 1950s saw drastic changes in hair styles as teenagers and young adults strove to break free of the previous, more conservative World War II era. Everything from rebelliousness to full-on glamour was embraced by movie stars and singers, and was reflected in new fashion and hair trends seen across the country.
Scroll down to see our list of 9 of the most iconic hairstyles of the 1950s!
1. The Poodle Cut
Made popular by actresses like Peggy Garner, Faye Emerson and Lucille Ball, the poodle cut was given its name due to the fact that the permed, tight curls closely resembled the curly hair of a poodle.
Lucille Ball; Image Source: Columbia Pictures
2. The Bouffant
Perhaps one of the most prevalent styles of the 1950s, the bouffant, which would later give way to the amped-up, towering "beehive" style, involved dramatic volume, backcombing and ample use of hairspray. Stars like Connie Francis and Sophia Loren, who brought the "European bouffant" to the United States, were fans of the look.
Connie Francis; Image source: Getty
3. The Pompadour
Rebelliousness was celebrated by the younger generation of the 1950s, and nowhere was this so greatly reflected than in the widely-popular pompadour hairstyle. Stars like Elvis Presley, James Dean and Sal Mineo adopted the look - longer hair that was greased up on top and slicked down on the sides, earning wearers of the trend the fitting nickname, "Greasers."
4. The Pixie
Though the pixie gained even greater momentum during the 1960s, Audrey Hepburn's closely-cropped hair in the popular film Roman Holiday began a trend of super short hair coupled with soft, wispy bangs that remains popular today.
Audrey Hepburn; Image source: Paramount Pictures
5. Thick Fringe
Short, full fringe began to grow in popularity during the 1950s, especially when paired with long, curly locks made to look natural. Pin-up model Bettie Page popularized the sultry look in her signature dark shade.
Betty Page; Image source: Getty
6. The Duck Tail
Also known as the "DA," this popular 1950s men's hairstyle was named for its resemblance to the rear view of a duck, and is often considered a variation of the pompadour. Though the look was developed in 1940 by Joe Cerello, actor Tony Curtis is widely credited for reviving the style, which involved slicking the hair back, and then parting down the center from the crown to the nape of the neck. The top was then purposefully disarrayed, with long, untidy strands hanging down over the forehead.
Tony Curtis; Image source: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
7. Short & Curly
Many actresses and female singers of the 1950s, including Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Eartha Kitt, favored this shorter, slightly less voluminous version of the classic bouffant. Perfectly curled and coiffed hair was the signature of this look, though great care was taken to make hair appear to be naturally curly.
Eartha Kitt; Image Source: Sony Pictures Classics
Though the look was often seen on young girls and teenagers and commonly paired with poodle skirts, the ponytail began to become popular for women of all ages during the 1950s, as evidenced by singer Billie Holiday.
Billie Holiday; Image source: Bill Spilka via Getty Images
Another men's hair trend that went hand in hand with the pompadour and a sense of rebelliousness was the sideburn. The look was seen on actor Marlon Brando in the film The Wild One, as well as on actor James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, and soon made its way into mainstream culture.
Marlon Brando; Image source: Photofest
Hairstyle 1950s bouffant
Hairstyles in the 1950s
The 1950s were a decade known for experimentation with new styles and culture. Following World War II and the austerity years of the post-war period, the 1950s were a time of comparative prosperity, which influenced fashion and the concept of glamour. Hairstylists invented new hairstyles for wealthy patrons. Influential hairstylists of the period include Sydney Guilaroff, Alexandre of Paris and Raymond Bessone, who took French hair fashion to Hollywood, New York and London, popularising the pickle cut, the pixie cut and bouffant hairstyles.
The American film industry and the popular music industry influenced hairstyles around the world, both in mainstream fashion and teenage sub-culture. With the advent of the rock music industry, teenage culture and fashion became increasingly significant and distinctive from mainstream fashion, with American style being imitated in Europe, Asia, Australasia and South America. Teenage girls around the world wore their hair in ponytails while teenage boys wore crew cuts, the more rebellious among them favouring "greaser" comb-backs.
The development of hair-styling products, particularly setting sprays, hair-oil and hair-cream, influenced the way hair was styled and the way people around the world wore their hair day to day. Women's hairstyles of the 1950s were in general less ornate and more informal than those of the 1940s, with a "natural" look being favoured, even if it was achieved by perming, setting, styling and spraying. Mature men's hairstyles were always short and neat, and they were generally maintained with hair-oil. Even among "rebellious youth" with longer, greased hair, carrying a comb and maintaining the hairstyle was part of the culture.
Popular music and film stars had a major influence on 1950s hairstyles and fashion. Elvis Presley and James Dean had a great influence on the high quiff-pompadour greased-up style or slicked-back style for men with heavy use of Brylcreem or pomade. The pompadour was a fashion trend in the 1950s, especially among male rockabilly artists and actors. A variation of this was the duck's ass (or in the UK "duck's arse"), also called the "duck's tail", the "ducktail", or simply the D.A.
This hairstyle was originally developed by Joe Cerello in 1940. Cerello's clients later included film celebrities like Elvis Presley and James Dean.Frank Sinatra posed in a modified D.A. style of hair. This style required that the hair be combed back around the sides of the head. The tooth edge of a comb was then used to define a central part running from the crown to the nape at the back of the head, resembling, to many, the rear end of a duck. The hair on the top front of the head was either deliberately disarrayed so that untidy strands hung down over the forehead, or combed up and then curled down into an "elephant's trunk" which might hang down as far as the top of the nose. The sides were styled to resemble the folded wings of the duck, often with heavy sideburns.
A variant of the duck's tail style, known as "the Detroit", consisted of the long back and sides combined with a flattop. In California, the top hair was allowed to grow longer and combed into a wavelike pompadour shape known as a "breaker". The duck's tail became an emblematic coiffure of disaffected young males across the English-speaking world during the 1950s, a sign of rebellious youth and of a "bad boy" image. The style was frowned upon by high school authorities, who often imposed limitations on male hair length as part of their dress codes. Nevertheless, the style was widely copied by men of all ages.
The regular haircut, side-parted with tapered back and sides, was considered a clean cut fashion and preferred by parents and school authorities in the United States. The crew cut, flattop and ivy league were also popular, particularly among high school and college students. The crew cut style was derived from the military haircuts given to millions of draftees, and was favored by men who wished to appear "establishment" or mainstream. Daily applications of "butch wax" were used to make the short hair stand straight up from the head. Celebrities favoring this style included Steve McQueen, Mickey Mantle and John Glenn. Crew cuts gradually declined in popularity by the end of the decade; by the mid-1960s, long hair for men had become fashionable.
Black male entertainers chose to wear their hair in short and unstraightened styles.
In southeast Asia, a variation of the quiff that was popular was the "curry puff", styled by a bob of wavy hair just above the forehead. "Geek chic" was a fashion trend for intellectual types, with a bouffant or greased-back hair and black glasses, exhibited by the likes of Buddy Holly and Bill Evans.
It originally it was frequent in beach areas, like Hawaii and California.
- Crew cut and Ivy League
The Platters, 1950s, with variations of the crew cut and ivy league
Women generally emulated the hair styles and hair colors of popular film personalities and fashion magazines; top models played a pivotal role in propagating the styles.Alexandre of Paris had developed the beehive and artichoke styles seen on Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, and Tippi Hedren. Generally, a shorter bouffant style was favored by female movie stars, paving the way for the long hair trend of the 1960s. Very short cropped hairstyles were fashionable in the early 1950s. By mid-decade, hats were worn less frequently, especially as fuller hairstyles like the short, curly “elfin cut" or the "Italian cut" or "poodle cut” and later the bouffant and the beehive became fashionable (sometimes nicknamed B-52s for their similarity to the bulbous noses of the B-52 Stratofortress bomber). Stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Connie Francis, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn usually wore their hair short with high volume. In the poodle hairstyle, the hair is permed into tight curls, similar to the poodle's curly hair (curling the hair involves time and effort). This style was popularized by Hollywood actresses like Peggy Garner, Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern and Faye Emerson. In the post-war prosperous 1950s, in particular, the bouffant hair style was the most dramatic and considered an ideal style in which aerosol hairspray facilitated keeping large quantities of “backcombed or teased and frozen hair” in place. This necessitated a regimen of daily hair care to keep the bouffant in place; curlers were worn to bed and frequent visits were made to the hair stylist's salon. Mouseketeer Annette Funicello dramatically presented this hair style in the movie “Beach Party”.
Short, tight curls with a poodle cut known as "short bangs" were very popular, favored by women such as first ladyMamie Eisenhower.Henna was a popular hair dye in the 1950s in the US; in the popular TV comedy series I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball (according to her husband's statement) “used henna rinse to dye her brown hair red.” The poodle cut was also made popular by Audrey Hepburn. In the 1953 film Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn's character had short hair known as a “gamine-style” pixie cut, which accentuated her long neck, and which was copied by many women. In the film Sabrina, her character appears initially in long plain hair while attending culinary school, but returns to her Paris home with a chic, short, face-framing "Paris hairstyle", which again was copied by many women. When the rage among women was for the “blond bombshell” hair style, Hepburn stuck to her dark brown hair color and refused to dye her hair for any film.
Jacqueline Kennedy wore a short hair style for her wedding in 1953, while later she sported a “bouffant”; together with the larger beehive and shorter bubble cut, this became one of the most popular women's hairstyles of the 1950s.Grace Kelly favored a mid-length bob style, also influential. There were exceptions, however, and some women, such as Bettie Page, favored long, straight dark locks and a fringe; such women were known as "Beat girls". In the mid-1950s, a high ponytail became popular with teenage girls, often tied with a scarf. The ponytail was seen on the first Barbie dolls, in 1959; a few years later Barbies with beehives appeared. The “artichoke cut”, which was invented by Jacques Dessange, was specially designed for Brigitte Bardot. Compact coiffures were popular in the 1950s as less importance was given to hairstyling, although a new look was stylized by Christian Dior’s fashion revolution after the war.
In the 1950s, lotion shampoos with conditioning ingredients became popular precursors of the shampoo/conditioner rinse pairing of two decades later. The Clairol ad campaign, "Does she ... or doesn't she?" boosted hair color product sales not just for their company, but across the hair dye industry.
The bouffant style relied on the liberal use of hairspray to hold hair in place for a week. Hairspray lacquers of this era were of a different chemical formula than used today, and were more difficult to remove from the hair than today's products. But even less extreme styles, such as parting hair on the left and the right before pulling the bangs to one side, required holding the style in place with hairspray. One ingredient in 1950s hair spray was vinyl chloride monomer; used as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), it was subsequently found to be both toxic and flammable.
Hair gels, such as Dippity-do, came in a variety of forms such as spray or jelly, and were referred to as "setting gels".African American hair products promised natural-looking hair to black women, with natural in this context defined as straight, soft, and smooth; these products, such as Lustra-silk, were advertised to not be heavy, greasy or damaging like pressing oils and chemical relaxers of the past.
Only a small amount of Brylcreem was needed to make a man's hair shiny and stay in place; Brylcreem's tag line was "Brylcreem, a little dab'll do ya." It was also used by those who suffered from dandruff. While the conk was still popular through the end of the decade, Isaac Hayes switched to going bald. Hair growth products for men were first introduced in the 1950s, in Japan.
The 1950s had a profound influence on fashion and continues to be a strong influence in contemporary fashion. Some of the world's most famous fashion icons today such as Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, and David Beckham regularly wear their hair or indulge in a style of fashion clearly heavily influenced by that of the 1950s. Aguilera is influenced by Marilyn Monroe, Beckham by Steve McQueen and James Dean.
The pompadour style became popular among Italian Americans and the image became an integral part of the Italian male stereotype in the 1970s in films such as Grease and television series such as Happy Days. The Fonz, played by Henry Winkler, with his greased pompadour, white T-shirt and leather jacket, has been cited as the "epitome of the 50s bad-boy cool". In modern Japanese popular culture, the pompadour is a stereotypical hairstyle often worn by gang members, thugs, members of the yakuza and its junior counterpart bōsōzoku, and other similar groups such as the yankii (high-school hoodlums). In Japan the style is known as the "Regent" hairstyle, and is often caricatured in various forms of entertainment media such as anime, manga, television, and music videos.
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