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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Lucille Ball; Image Source: Columbia Pictures2. The BouffantPerhaps 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: Getty3. The PompadourRebelliousness 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.\"
5. Thick FringeShort, 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.
6. The Duck TailAlso 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 Images7. Short & CurlyMany 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.
8. PonytailsThough 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.
In the Western world, 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.
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.
Short, tight curls with a poodle cut known as \"short bangs\" were very popular, favored by women such as first lady Mamie 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 a