Beauty

1950s Hairstyles - Most Popular Hairstyles Of The 1950s

1950s Hairstyles - Most Popular Hairstyles Of The 1950s

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 

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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

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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. 

2. Bouffant

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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. 

1. Greaser

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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. 

2. Pompadour

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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

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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.” 

5. Quiff

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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.