History's Mirror Project: Hairstyles



Hairstyles in the first half of the 1940s were adapted from styles of the 1930s to meet wartime requirements. As women took over jobs in factories and on the land, more practical styles were required.

A group of styles known as Victory hairstyles became popular, where hair was pinned up or cut shorter. The Vingle was one of these, where the hair was cut short and partings formed four V's at the back of the head. The Liberty Cut met the need for an attractive and practical style. The hair was cut short and waved diagonally across the head ending in flat neat curls with a few flattened roll curls at the side and top. The Horseshoe roll suited longer hair and could be curved back for a neat look. The Victory Roll was also for longer hair, the name being taken from a combat fighter plane manoeuvre. The hair would be parted to best suit the woman's face. It was then rolled up over foam hair rats, these having been made from rolled up shed hair that, you have collected. Rolls were then positioned and secured with pins.

Bleaching hair was also popular and many women did this at home.

Unlike other articles of clothing, hats weren't rationed. However, there was a decline in the wearing of them. Scarves became more popular, with fabric being knotted around the head to make a turban or a square headscarf was tied in a peasant fashion. This can also be attributed to the need for safety when working in environments where uncovered hair could be dangerous. Snoods and hairnets were also other ways of keeping longer hair out of the way, but looking attractive as well.

The influence of the movie star was also prevalent, and the peek-a-boo, made famous by Veronica Lake was widely copied. Cascading hair over one eye was thought to be rather hazardous, so Miss Lake very kindly and publicly changed to an upswept style.


Men's hairstyles were also influenced by the war. Military cuts were seen in the first half of the 1940s. A popular style of the time was one where the sides and back were cut short and tapered to blend into the top. This was left longer so it could be parted and combed back. It was then kept in place using a variety of hair products such as Brylcream. Fringes were actually grown out long to allow them to be able to style them appropriately for this hairstyle. Again, these styles were influenced by movie stars of the time such as Clarke Gable and Errol Flynn. The wearing of pencil thin moustaches was also popular and can be attributed to these stars too.



The 1950s was the era of volume and glamour. Curly or wavy hair was all the rage. This was achieved by regular visits to the hair salon or wearing rollers or pin curling. Unlike the 40s, dominated by the need to work, women were more likely to be returning to their homes. Hairdressers were becoming increasingly skilled and this business became bigger as the decade progressed. New shampoos for all types of hair came onto the market. Tints, dyes, lacquers, setting lotions and preparations of every description also became available, all to improve the condition and appearance of hair. Home permanent waving kits could also be bought for those too busy or not able to afford regular visits to the hairdresser.

In the early 50s, short hair was very fashionable. The Poodle, made famous by Lucille Ball, was one of these styles. The hair was cut close to the head and then given a tight perm. The ponytail was also popular, with hair being pulled back smooth and high, the fringe short and tail curly. A popular accessory was a chiffon scarf tied around it. French pleats were a sleek and chic style for evenings. The hair was gathered sleekly to one side and then rolled up and inwards vertically against the back of the head. The Pixie, made famous by Audrey Hepburn, featured layers and spikes that framed the face.

From the mid-50s, the trend moved towards longer hair and the introduction of the bouffant styles. The style was achieved by using large rollers to set the hair. The hair was then backcombed to achieve height and fullness. The invention of heavy-duty hairspray helped the style to become popular. The iconic Beehive was also a bouffant, but maintains a status of its own. This was bigger hair, achieved through lots of backcombing and made sturdy by lacquer spray.


Men's hairstyles were influenced by popular personalities during the 1950s. Dean Martin and Elvis Presley helped create popular hairstyles like the Ducktail and Pompadour. The Ducktail was created with slicked back hair, and the top cut in jagged edges. When the sides were brushed back, they appeared to look like an actual ducktail. Another common style was The Pompadour. To create this style the hair had to be cut so that the front was longer than the back. The front would then be combed forward and then flipped back over the head. It was then held in place using a hair cream. Of course, there were more conservative styles, where men had their hair cut short, parted to one side and then applied cream to keep it all neatly in place.



At the beginning of the1960s, big hair was still in favour. The Beehive continued to be popular and was worn by celebrities such as Dusty Springfield. Jackie Kennedy's style was extremely popular, her bouffant hairstyle being copied by many. However, as the decade progressed, softer more casual styling and no styling at all became the norm.

In the early 60s upswept styles became popular for evening using hairpieces; these had become cheaper as they could be produced in a factory. Flips were popular both on short hair or long hair, rollers being used in the ends of the hair to flick it up. The fringe was kept thick. The 1960s also became a period when more precise cutting to create styles became more normal. Vidal Sassoon could be said to have become the first celebrity hairstylist, creating the iconic five point bob cut worn by Mary Quant and being a stylist to the famous. He had wanted hairstyling to be 'wash and wear' and so concentrated on a good cut, which would allow women to do this. Twiggy's Pixie Cut, by Vidal Sassoon, also became iconic and was also adopted by Mia Farrow. Longer hair became popular amongst younger women and was usually parted down the middle. They could wear these in various ways such as bunches, plaits or just straight.


As with women's hairstyles, men's hair also became more casual. At the beginning of the decade, hair for older men continued to be more conservative. Younger men, on the other hand, were influenced by the social group they were associated with.

The Beatles, Mop Tops were highly influential and mod culture also impacted on the hairstyles of young men. As the decade progressed, hair got longer as did sideburns and beards.



The 1970s saw a less formal look in hairstyles. Major improvements in hand-held hair dryers meant both women and men were better able to style their hair at home. The decade also saw more unisex styles in hair fashion.

One iconic style, or it may be considered no style, was long and straight with a centre part. If you didn't have naturally straight hair, an iron could be used to attain the smooth look that was desired. Straightener's hadn't yet been invented. Many young men let their hair grow out too and this style was reinforced by rock bands.

The 'Shag' was another popular unisex style for medium length hair. It was heavily layered on top and thin at the bottom. This style was quite popular with both men and women and can still be seen today.

There was also a reworking of the Bob, or 'Wedge', as it was known. It has been described as a bowl cut, tapering up from the back of the neck.

When thinking of 70s hair, Farah Fawcett's hair always comes to mind. In this style, hair was cut into choppy layers and then flicked back at the sides. These cuts required a great deal of attention, using a curling iron or hair dryer and a circular brush to maintain the wavy curls. Farah had long flicked back locks, but this style could be achieved on shorter hair too. Men could also have this sort of cut, although it was shorter and not as stiff.

In the early part of the decade, 'mutton chop' sideburns were popular among men, and Elvis Presley was one of the most famous to sport this style. Beards were also more common at the beginning of the decade.

Other styles that became more popular were Afros, Page boys and Punk styles at the end of the 1970s.



This decade has a reputation for its concern with wealth and influence and it may be said the clothes and hairstyles reflected this idea. Of course, popular culture also played its part in influencing what people wore. The main thing that can be said about the 80s was that whether it was long or short, hair was all about volume and size.

'Big hair' was all the rage and new hair products such as, mousse and gel helped to shape the style. Like the 70s, this was a unisex phenomenon. Long spiral perms were popular. Hair was teased, gelled and moussed to push it up higher and fuller. The introduction of crimpers allowed young women to get the big look they desired, without going to the hairdressers.

Madonna influenced teenage girls with her dishevelled wavy, shaggy hair and blonde highlights during the early 80s.

Mullets, which started to be worn in the seventies, became even more popular in the eighties. This style was cut short at the front and sides and worn long at the back. The back length would vary.

Princess Diana's iconic layered Bob also became very popular. As with all hair at this time, the Bob was cut in various ways to attain volume. It could be permed or teased to attain fullness. Other variations were to have it spiky on top and add gel to make it stand up or have it short around the back and longer around the face and crown of the head.

Asymmetrical styles, which were associated New Wave music, became popular with young people. This involved hair being cropped on one side and kept longer on the other and then styled to fullness.

The eighties also had a more conservative side in the yuppies (young urban professionals), a group who sported more sleek hairstyles.