Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (2022)

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (1)

Here’s a look at women’s 1950s hairstyles. Following on from the hardship of World War II and rationing, the fifties was a time of relative prosperity. Disposable income combined with an increase in mass media encouraged the consumption of fashion. New hair care products were designed to allow women to do their hair easily at home – and ladies did everything possible to change their hair.

Influences on Women's 1950s Hairstyles

Film Stars

Leading ladies like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Dorothy Dandridge, Debbie Reynolds, and Doris Day influenced the latest hairstyles.Others likeMarilyn MonroeandJayne Mansfieldhad their trademark looks.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (2)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (3)

Television

While movies and the people in them were still very influential, television was the next big thing. More and more people were now devoting their free time to staying in and watching the box. Subsequently, this influenced how people saw themselves and the world around them.

Lucille Ballis arguably the biggest star of television during the 1950s. Her sitcomI Love Lucy(1951-7) was one of the most-watched programmes in America.

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Mass media influenced beauty ideals and fashion.Hair and makeup advertsfeatured in all forms of media, including TV, cinema and magazines. The biggest stars of the day adorned the covers, such as Lucille Ball, who appeared on moreTV Guidecovers than any other person to date.

Italian Passion

There was a love for Italian fashions, attitude and lifestyle during the 1950s, particularly in the USA.Italian filmslikeLa Strada(1954) sparked the ‘storia d’amore’.

Hollywood films with an Italian connection also sparked the love – for example,Three Coins in the Fountain(1954),The Rose Tattoo (1955), andSummertime(1955).

Hairdressers

Hairdressers were making their mark, creating styles for their wealthy clients and helping to popularise fashion styles.

Raymond Bessone(also known as Mr Teasie-Weasie) wastheBritish hairdresser during the 1950s. He often appeared on television and could be considered the first celebrity hairdresser with clients such as Diana Dors. He loved to use bold colour in his clients’ hair, and his chain of hair salons was very successful.

Louis Alexandre Raimon(known as Alexandre de Paris) was a famous French hairdresser who styled various stars of the screen, including Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, and Lauren Bacall.

The prominent hairdresser for the Hollywood movie industry wasSydney Guilaroff– the first hairdresser to get a screen credit for their work. Since the 1930s, Guilaroff had done the hair on many films. His status was such that iconic 1950s actressGrace Kellychose him to style her hair for her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

The Teenager

Teenagersbecame a recognised demographic in the 1950s. Having less pressure to grow up as quickly as their parents, they could dedicate more time to leisure and had money to spend. Consequently, the hair companies noticed and made products specifically geared towards the teen market.

(Video) Great Gatsby FAUX BOB || 1920's Inspired Hair!

Teenagers, in particular, wereinfluenced by music, especially whenrock and rollrocketed into the charts in the mid-’50s. Rock and roll was the music upstart of the decade, defining the 1950s teenager.

However, it was more than just a music style, meaning it also influenced attitudes, fashion, hair and lifestyle. It also divided the younger and older generations but brought young black and white audiences together.

Here is a video from 1956 showing some styles for teens using accessories:

Popular 1950s Hairstyles

The Poodle Cut

This short and tightly curled hairstyle resembled a poodle’s coat, hence the name. It was also known as a bubble cut. It was popular in the first half of the 1950s and was a good hairstyle for women with naturally curly hair.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (4)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (5)

The Italian Cut

The Italian cut hairstyle emerged in 1953, predominantly inspired by the stars of Italian movies, and became a popular choice for women.

It was a short and curly style like the poodle cut, but less tightly curled. It was a shaggy and loose yet sculptured hairstyle featuring all-over waves, soft curls and fluffy kiss curls.

Italian screen sirensGina LollobrigidaandSophia Lorenhad the Italian cut.Elizabeth Tayloralso adopted it at one point.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (6)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (7)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (8)

Soft Bob

This women’s 1950s hairstyle was for medium length hair. It was a softer and slightly fuller version of the poodle cut. Here, the curls were looser and more brushed into waves. It could also have a little lift and volume to it.

It was a popular and versatile hairstyle that the wearer could adapt to suit their face shape.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (9)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (10)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (11)
(Video) Teenage Hairstyles of the '50s: Techniques & Accessories (1956) | British Pathé

The Cube Cut

The cube was a very short haircut with a fringe that was popular in Britain in the mid-1950s. The hair at the sides was cut across at mid-ear length, creating an angular and stepped look.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (12)

Video from 1955 looking at the cube cut and temporary hair colouring:

The Gamine Look or Pixie Cut

It was a short layered hairstyle with a high fringe that emerged in the early 1950s.

Several actresses wore this style, most noticeablyAudrey Hepburn. Her long hair was cut short during a scene inRoman Holiday(1953) as a mark of her character’s independence.

There were also other short, masculine haircuts, such as thebutch cut.

Pageboy or Brushed Under Bob

This fashionable and versatile hairstyle could vary in length from quite a short bob to shoulder-length.

The hair was styled to be sleek and smooth, possibly with a slight wave at the front or the sides – that all depended on the wearer’s choice. Ultimately, the hair was always curled under to form a continuous and smooth U-shaped roll around the back and sides.

Grace Kellyoften wore her jaw-length hair in a sleek pageboy.Marilyn Monroesometimes styled her hair this way too.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (13)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (14)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (15)

Long Hair & Horsetails

Most women over the age of 20 would generally wear their hair in a shorter style. However, some women did have long hair, particularly teenagers, students and “Beat Girls” likeBettie Page.

While long hair could be left down (like Bettie Page), tying it back into a ponytail was also fashionable – known in the 1950s as a horsetail.

Theponytailwas a popular look for Western teenagers. It was so fashionable for young women that it was the hairstyle seen on the first version of Barbie in 1959.

It remained a popular look throughout the 1950s.Audrey Hepburnwore her long hair in a pony with a short fringe inFunny Face(1957). The 1950s fringe was short, finishing no longer than the middle of the forehead.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (16)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (17)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (18)
(Video) Everyday Vintage (1950's) Hair Tutorial

Bouffant

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (19)

The modern bouffant started in the mid-’50s, becoming more popular by the end of the decade. It increased in size as the decade came to a close and started to see hair piled high on top of the head – a forerunner of the beehive.

Themain elements of a bouffanthairstyle were volume and height. Backcombing and hairspray were needed to keep this look set rock solid. Ultimately, women might not touch their bouffant until their hair needed washing out.

Large wire mesh rollerswere now on the market and were used to help set the hair with the lift needed for a bouffant style.

Black Women's 1950s Hairstyles

Straighteningwas carried out at home or in a black beauty salon.

The hot comb method(as used in previous decades) was still the primary method of straightening until chemical relaxers became more available. Firstly, a protective pomade or oil was put through the hair, followed by a heated metal comb. It transformed tight curls into glossy straight hair. The straightened hair was styled as required, staying this way until it got wet or washed.

Chemical hair relaxerswere a permanent solution, as the hair stayed straight even after contact with water. It eliminated the need for hot combs.

Wigswere also popular as a quick and easy way to have the latest fashionable style. They removed the need for the time-consuming and potentially painful process of straightening.

Towards the end of the 1950s, a tiny minority of women started toleave their hair naturaland not straightened. It would set the ball rolling for the politically charged afro revolution of the1960s.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (20)

Setting & Perming Hair

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (21)

There were two main ways to create curls and waves in hair – a wet set or perm.

The more traditional wet set techniques include using pin curls or rollers. First of all, a setting lotion would be applied to the wet hair, then the hair and set in pin curls or rollers. A drying hood baked the set into place.

Permingcreated longer-lasting sets, avoiding the need to wet set the hair as frequently.

Temporary & Fashion Hair Colours

Colouring products and techniques advanced in the 1950s, allowing women to change their hair colour on a whim at home. For example,one-step productsthat allowed hair to be bleached, shampooed and dyed easily at home came onto the market in 1950.

Some products allowed women to add bleached or coloured streaks to their hair. As a result,women became experimental with hair colourand liked to change it whenever it suited them.

Women didn’t just dye their hair in natural colours either – fashion colours were popular. As well as dying their hair one colour, women would also havetwo-tone hairstyles. For example, the front may be dyed green, and the back of the hair a dark grey.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (22)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (23)

Temporary colouring products were also popular. They allowed women to spruce up their hair in no time to match their outfit – as well as remove it without hassle. Products included sprays, paints, powders, and little hairpieces called flashes.

Gold and silver streaks painted onto the hair dressed it up. There were also metallic powders that could be were sprinkled or puffed into the hair to create an all-over shimmer effect. These coloured sprays and paint-on lacquer products were washed or brushed out easily.

The small flashes of coloured hair could be attached to someone’s hair with a grip or glued onto the front hairline with spirit gum. Also known aschameleon streaks, they came in a multitude of colours. Hair flashes were easily removed for use again at some point.

(Video) allie hamilton "the notebook" vintage hairstyles | 40's

Two-tone hair demonstrated here by hairdresser Raymond Bessone:

Video from 1955 demonstrating hair flashes, or chameleon streaks:

Hair Accessories

False Hair

Hairpieces were used to add detail, like a chignon or a plait. They alsoadded length or volume, as sometimes hair fashions changed quicker than hair could grow. Therefore, a woman could easily turn short hair into an updo for the evening.

Pieces came in all sorts of colours so they could be colour-matched to the wearer’s hair colour. Likewise, a fashion colour could create contrast. Some hairpieces came ready curled and styled – they just needed pinning onto the head and dressing in with the natural hair.

Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (24)
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (25)

Flowers

Wearing flowers in the hair was popular with teens. In the mid-1950s, flowers became quite trendy and wreaths of carnations and daisies were worn around the head. A rose corsage was worn on the side of the head or pinned into a chignon.

Headbands

Headbands were made of plastic, metal and material. They could be plain or decorated with things like flowers, jewels or fur.

Headbands helped when growing out shorter hairstyles like the Italian cut. For example, a thin headband was placed over the front hair, pulling it smooth. The back hair would then be fluffed out.

Scarves

Made from material like silk organza, headscarves were loosely draped over the head and tied under the chin. If the material was long enough, they were also tied around the neck.

Women's 1950s Hats

Hats were essential for all but the most casual occasions in the early 1950s. However, by the mid-’50s, hats became worn less often, as the formality of having a hat, gloves and bag was tailing off.

Most 1950s hats were small and compact. The exception was sun hats – a wider-brimmed cartwheel type hat designed to keep the sun off the face in summer.

Hats came in various colours and could feature all sorts of decorative items, like feathers, rhinestones, pearls, or a veil.

Popular 1950s hats included:

  • Lampshade or flowerpot hat.
  • The circle hat – a very flat and thin circular hat that could consist of a few layers.
  • French berets – especially liked by Beatnik college students.
  • The pillbox – popular throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s.
  • The mushroom – a full hat with a mushroom-shaped brim.
  • Juliet caps – a small skull cap type hat designed to show off hairstyles like the Italian cut.
  • Bouffant Brims – a flying-saucer-shaped hat designed to be worn with a bouffant hairstyle.
Women's 1950s Hairstyles: An Overview - Hair & Makeup Artist Handbook (26)

Find Out More

  • Women’s 1950s Makeup: An Overview.
  • – getting the colours right is all part of creating an authentic vintage look.
  • Read aboutthe 1950son Wikipedia.

Sources:
Corson, R. (2000).Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years.Peter Owen.
Sherrow V. (2001).For Appearances’ Sake: The Historical Encyclopedia of Good Looks, Beauty and Grooming.Greenwood.
(Video) Vintage Hair Tutorial

FAQs

What hairstyles were in the 1950s? ›

Hairstyles in the 1950s were all about curls that curled under and towards your face. To achieve this soft bob look, create a deep side part and curl your hair towards your face and then lock the style in place with hair spray.

How do 50s curl short hair? ›

How To: Soft Retro Waves and 5 Ways To Accessorize Your Short Hair

Why did flappers have short hair? ›

1920's. After the personal freedom allowed them during the World War 1, young women go out to work, get permission to vote, play sports and demand to leave the house unchaperoned. New financial independence and emancipation followed and cutting long hair became a symbol of independence and strength equal to men.

How did the girls wear their hair in the 50s? ›

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.

How do you do 50s glam hair? ›

Hairstyle For The Holidays - 50's Old Hollywood Glamour - YouTube

How do I get vintage curls in short hair? ›

Styling Short Hair | Easy Vintage Curls for a Chin-Length Bob | GHD Curls

How do you make vintage soft curls? ›

vintage curls tutorial & timeless second day hairstyles - YouTube

What is the best haircut for a 70 year old woman? ›

A pixie cut is undoubtedly one of the best hairstyles for women over 70, for anyone with fine hair or rapidly thinning strands. Rather than spiking layers up, keeping them angled downwards can help mask the areas where the hair is sparse, and also allow for bangs to blend seamlessly into the rest of the style.

What is the hair color for 2022? ›

10. Anime Pink. "Bright, bold hues are all the rage for 2022," says Kirsten Stuke, a hair colorist at Sally Hershberger in New York City. "Hot pink will be super trendy since clients are looking to express themselves, and bright pink makes such a statement."

Does short hair make you look younger? ›

A sleek and simple pixie cut is a great way to get rid of damaged hair and will make you look healthier and younger. A short haircut is the best tool to visually balance your face shape and draw attention to your beautiful features.

Why do they call it a bob? ›

Many women wanted to follow suit, but hairdressers in the beauty salons often refused to comply with the controversial request of chopping hair off at the ears. Women found barber shop owners slightly more amenable to the idea, and so typically went their for the bob.

What does bobbing your hair mean? ›

The perimeter of the cut is curved rather than being a straight line. This cut is also commonly called a "graduated bob". Shaggy bob: A messy bob layered with a razor. Shingle bob: a cut that is tapered very short in the back, exposing the hairline at the neck.

What is shingled hair? ›

Shingling is a styling technique where you apply a curly hair product, like a curl cream, hair gel, or a leave-in conditioner, through each curl to separate and smooth it into a bouncy coil. When working products through your hair, shingling requires attention to detail.

What hairstyles were popular in 1950s men? ›

Since for styling 50's hairstyles men used to apply a lot of oil, they were known as greasers. Among the most common styles, there were a pompadour, a duck tail, a jelly roll, a slicked back and any combination of them.

Are victory rolls 50s? ›

Victory rolls are a 1940s hairdo that was very popular at that time. During the 1950s, this haircut was still popular. The stylists of that time came up with a lot of various styles. Some of these styles were so fascinating that they are still in use today.

How do you do a 50s ponytail? ›

Pin Up Ponytail - Easy & Practical Vintage Hairstyle - YouTube

Videos

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2. Hairstyles for *actually* short hair //
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4. 1950's Makeup | Vintage Tutorial by Ern Westmore 1951
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6. Vintage 1950s Makeup Tutorial & Hair Care Routine | 4K 60fps
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