Hairstyles of the 50s
by Jo Gray
When one thinks of the hairstyles of the 50s, it is usually the ponytail that comes to mind. The
hair was pulled back, secured at the base of the skull and wrapped with a pretty chiffon scarf.
But that wasn't the only style worn by young ladies during the 50s. It was all about soft curls. No one wanted long or straight hair.
When home permanent kits were made available, we suffered the strong, smelly lotion and the hours it took to get the curls that were promised to provide soft, bouncy hair. Even after suffering through the unpleasant ordeal, we still had to roll the hair to keep the “frizzy” look away.
That meant using rollers and bobby pins and usually sleeping on the rollers. Blow dryers were not available at this time.
By the end of the 50s, the poodle cut
was made popular by TV actress Lucille
Ball. The short hair required a lot of curl and spray. Other stars whose styles were imitated included: Audrey Hepburn, Sophia
Loren, Brigitte Bardot and Doris
Day. And each style required rollers and hair lacquer.
As demands for hair lacquer increased, hair salons became popular with those who could afford the luxury of having their hair done professionally. It became easy for women to create more complex hairstyles. As a result, the
beehive became popular by the end of the 50s.
The hair was backcombed from the scalp and sprayed heavily to create the height required for this style. Liberal use of heavy lacquer would hold the style for a week if it were not touched by a comb or brush.
If a touchup were needed, the women usually had some hair lacquer at home that had been purchased from the salon and decanted into nylon puffer spray bottles.
Young men had their hair styles too.
While Hollywood made the duck tail (known as the DA) haircut a popular symbol of young men during this period, in reality most teenagers wore a crew cut or a
flat top. Those wanting to appear to be a rebel no doubt chose the DA. This style required hair spray or grease. No “real” man would use hairspray or hair grease was a large item when wearing this style. The hair was combed straight back on the sides and made into a duck tail with the use of a rat tail comb.
In the crew cut, the hair was cut short all over the head. It was similar to the hair cut received when one goes into the military and was often called a
The flat top was different in that the sides were shaved close but the hair on the top of the head was longer and cut too one level, producing a “flat top”.
Sideburns were made popular by James Dean and
Elvis Presley but after a few years, this popular fad proved to demand too much time and effort.
This was a time to branch out, to try new fashions while making sure you didn't stray too far from the norm.
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