Headwear, 1946–60

views updated May 29 2018

Headwear, 194660

The late 1940s and 1950s were a time in fashion history when many people were concerned with dressing just right, and the way they styled their hair and chose their hats was no exception. As with other areas of fashion, hat styles had been simplified during World War II (193945) in order to conserve precious materials that were needed for the war effort. French designer Christian Dior's (19051957) New Look, introduced in 1947, called for a range of accessories. Dior's New Look outfits and the many imitations that followed all featured hats chosen to match the outfit. These hats could be highly ornate, with wide brims and veils that hung around the head, or they could be as simple as a pillbox hat, a smallish, brimless round hat. It is estimated that the typical American woman in the 1950s owned four hats. Fashion-conscious women probably had many more.

Perhaps the only thing that kept women from wearing hats during the period was the need to display their carefully tended hairstyles. Throughout the 1940s Hollywood stars led the way in setting popular hairstyles. Actress Veronica Lake (19191973), for example, was famous for her long hair that trailed in front of one eye. Magazines tracked the hairstyles of the stars, and women went to their hairdressers to keep up with the latest styles. Hairdressers were aided in their quest to offer women perfect hairstyles by a new invention called hair spray, a sticky spray that held ornate styles in place. Beginning in the late 1950s hairdressers used curling irons and hair spray to create elaborately curled and piled hairstyles called bouffants and beehives. The era of big hair had begun.

Hats were an important part of every man's wardrobe and were worn nearly every day by men in the West. Men's hats included the homburg, the panama hat, and the porkpie hat. These hats were made of felt, straw, or man-made materials. The exact style of hats changed from season to season, varying in color, the width and bend of the brim, and the height of the crown.

Men wore a variety of hairstyles during this period. Perhaps the most popular was the crew cut, in which the hair was cut short all over, military style. By late in the period, however, young men began experimenting with longer styles, held in place with hair gels, pomades (perfumed ointments), or sprays. The more adventurous wore a jelly roll or a ducktail, two of the more elaborate male styles. Young men who carefully gelled their hair were known as greasers. Facial hair was generally not popular during this period. Some speculate that the mustache worn by German dictator Adolf Hitler (18891945), who led the Germans in World War II, killed the popularity of the mustache for decades in the United States and western Europe.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Jones, Dylan. Haircults: Fifty Years of Styles and Cuts. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1990.

Lord, M. G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: William Morrow, 1994.

Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Weissman, Kristin N. Barbie: The Icon, the Image, the Ideal. Parkland, FL: Universal Publishers, 1999.

Beehives and Bouffants
Crew Cut
Hair Coloring
Hair Spray
Jelly Rolls and Duck Tails
Pillbox Hats

Headwear, 1919–29

views updated May 17 2018

Headwear, 191929

After the end of World War I (191418) both men and women were inspired to change their hairstyles. For men the changes were not too drastic, but for women hairstyles were dramatically different. Nevertheless, both men and women prized neatly groomed hairstyles during this period.

Soldiers came back from the war with military cuts, hairstyles trimmed close on top and shaved up past the ears in the back. Men grew their hair out a bit but maintained neat, short hair. It was not the cut but the dressing that distinguished men's hair in the 1920s. Men smeared grease on their hair to create a shiny patent leather look popularized by movie stars. Only older men wore beards, while young men shaved daily, leaving only a pencil-thin mustache, if any facial hair at all.

Women, having experienced independence from men during the war, marked their continued desire for independence with a new hairstyle. Snipping off the long tresses that men so admired, women signaled their desire for liberation from their old roles in society. The bob, or short haircut, became the most popular style of all classes of women. Usually only old women and men did not like bobbed hair. In Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years Richard Corson quotes an article in a 1926 Good Housekeeping magazine that remarked about "How pleasant they are to look atthe proud, smoothly-coiffed, youthful, brave, bobbed topknots of today, hair brushed and clipped until it outlines charmingly the back of the head! So different they are from the grotesque shapes and sizes we have seen since the twentieth century ushered in the towering pompadour. Here is simplicity and a lightness of head. Hats are easy to buy, headaches from hairpins and heavy coils disappear, and hairdressing takes less timethough more thought." Bobs were styled in several different ways, teased to look windswept, slicked close to the head, or sculpted into flat waves. Actress Mary Pickford (18931979) summed up a good reason women cut their hair, writing, "Of one thing I am sure: [a woman] looks smarter with a bob, and smartness rather than beauty seems to be the goal of every woman these days," according to Corson. In 1926 the most daring and controversial of hairdos, the Eton crop, came into fashion. This was a severe, masculine style with hair slicked back close to the head. Many older, more conservative women and the majority of men disliked the Eton crop as a move against traditional femininity. Haircutting had become such a phenomenon by the end of the decade that in the United States alone the number of barber-shops had increased from eleven thousand to forty thousand.

Both men and women wore hats between 1919 and 1929. For women the cloche hat and bandeau were stylish additions to a bobbed head. For men the fedora and derby hats topped men's neat styles.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

Clean-Shaven Men
Cloche Hat
Patent Leather Look
Short Hair for Women

Headwear, 1961–79

views updated May 23 2018

Headwear, 196179

Women's hairstyles in this period transformed from the stiff, artificial styles favored at the beginning of the 1960s to striking, short mod styles of the mid-1960s and then to the longer, loose, feathered tresses of the 1970s. Whether the styles were dramatic geometrically-shaped bob styles, longer bobs with flipped out ends, or the soft layers of the Farrah Fawcett look, the general trend in women's hairstyles was toward freer, softer styles. Hats and hair ornaments were not as important during this period, as the focus turned toward the color and styling of hair.

One of the most unique aspects of 1960s and early 1970s hairstyles was the merging of men's and women's styles. Young men and women wore styles that resembled each other. Highly fashionable young women clipped their hair short and close to their heads in the early 1960s, making them resemble boys. The styles women adopted looked very much like the bobs worn in the 1920s and passed quickly, as many fads do. But a trend toward longer hair for both men and women later in the decade brought much public comment, as many in society criticized men for growing their hair long. The longest hairstyles were worn by hippies, or young people who rejected social customs throughout the 1960s. Hippies distinguished themselves by wearing old or homemade clothes and growing their hair long. They parted their long hair in the center and left it to hang naturally over their shoulders and back. They distinguished themselves from the rest of society by rejecting established fashion trends altogether. Hippies were heavily criticized, not only for the way they looked but for their political beliefs as well, as most vigorously protested the Vietnam War (195475).

While the long tresses of the hippies were adopted by a relatively small group of people, longer hair had become fashionable for all by the end of the 1970s. The members of the British rock band the Beatles helped usher in a new fashion in men's hair by wearing a style called the mop top. The mop top was a messy, casual style that featured hair grown to cover men's shirt collars with full bangs that brushed the eyebrows. The mop top was a dramatic shift from the crew cuts of the previous decade. Some fashion trends limit themselves to the very wealthy or the young, but the mop top became popular for men of all ages and social classes.

Longer hair required more styling. Many men started to have their hair styled by trained stylists instead of simply cut by barbers. They began using hairdryers and special combs and brushes to achieve their desired looks. Some even had their hair set in permanent ringlet curls. By the end of the 1970s all styles of hairlong, short, straight, curlywere seen in mainstream society.

As looser styles were adopted by the majority of both men and women, an extreme style was adopted in 1976 by a group who called themselves punks. Punks were young people who identified themselves by their dramatic hairstyles, clothes, and music. Punk hairstyles were distinguished by their artificial qualities and unusual shapes. The most distinctive style was the tall mohawk. Both young female and male punks shaved the sides of their heads and left a long mohawk down the center, which they dyed a variety of colors such as bright pink or green and coated with glue to spike it out away from their heads. The stiff, artificial styles of punks inspired the creation of many new gels and hair sprays strong enough to hold long hair on end for hours.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

Farrah Fawcett Look
The Flip
Geometric Bob Styles
Long Hair for Men

Headwear, 1900–18

views updated May 11 2018

Headwear, 190018

During the first years of the twentieth century, women continued to wear their hair and hats much as they did in the previous century, but after about 1908 styles began to change and the first of the styles that would become so popular during the 1920s and 1930s appeared. In terms of hair and hats, then, this period was an age of transition.

Hair historian Richard Corson claims in Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years that "the first half of the twentieth century was, perhaps, the least colourful period in history for men's hair styles." Men wore their hair short as a rule, and the widespread use of pomades, or oily hair dressings, tamed even the most naturally curly hair into standard styles, parted on the side or in the middle. It became the custom in the twentieth century for men to visit barbershops regularly to receive a haircut and a shave. Barbershops were a common feature of American towns, but they were also very popular in France, where men could get their hair cut very cheaply. Beards and mustaches went out of style in this period and were generally worn only by older men. The mark of the modern man was to be clean-shaven. Though their hairstyles may have been bland, men brought real variety to their wardrobe by choosing from amongst a wide variety of hats, from derbies to fedoras and panamas to top hats.

At the beginning of the twentieth century women wore their hair much as they did in the previous century: very long, then braided and piled into elaborate hairdos that were topped with richly decorated hats. The key to women's hairstyles was size, with hair reaching both high and wide. To achieve the coveted size women draped their hair over pads or wire frameworks, or they used false hairpieces called rats. Some women spent hours working their hair into the desired styles. Hairstyles did grow smaller and less elaborate after 1910, and entertainer Irene Castle (18931969) introduced the first short hairstyle for women in 1913, the precursor to the bobbed styles of the 1920s.

Modern hair care products had still not been invented, so most women cared for their hair with homemade shampoos and treatments. A beauty manual published in 1901, for example, recommended washing the hair once every two weeks with a shampoo made from eggs and water. Women used petroleum jelly, castor oil, and other sticky substances to soften their hair and hold it in place. The introduction of the permanent wave process in 1906 allowed women to curl their hair, though the process was costly and time consuming. The first hair dryer was introduced about the same time, though it wasn't perfected until the 1920s.

Hats were an essential part of every woman's wardrobe, and the size and variety of hats available during this period are nothing less than astonishing. Hats were big in the first years of the century and, contrary to the simplifying trend in women's dress that occurred after 1908, they grew bigger and more ornate over time. From the Gainsborough chapeau to the Merry Widow hat, women's headwear during this period represented the pinnacle of the headdresser's art.


Castle, Irene. Castles in the Air. New York: Doubleday, 1958.

Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

Castle, Irene
Men's Hats
Permanent Wave
Women's Hats

Headwear, 1980–2003

views updated May 29 2018

Headwear, 19802003

The early 1980s brought a return of interest in high fashion after the comfort trend of the 1970s, which saw many people rejecting designer clothing. Fashion designers became celebrities by marketing collections of ready-to-wear (off-the-rack) clothing, cosmetics, and accessories to the huge middle class. Hairstylists became similarly celebrated, creating looks for film stars and television actors and then marketing hair care products for the general public. The wealthy also continued to influence fashion. One of the most celebrated trendsetters for hair and clothing was Lady Diana, princess of Wales (19611997).

With the formality of business attire so popular at the beginning of the 1980s, hairstyles were more rigid. Women wore stiff, perfectly styled hair. Either short or long, these styles were noted for their careful styling and the liberal amounts of gels and sprays that held them in place. Men adopted hairstyles that were meant to look casual and carefree but actually took a lot of work. The stars of the popular television show Miami Vice (198489), Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas wore the latest hairstyles for men, including the carefully maintained shadow of stubble on Johnson's chin.

By the 1990s hairstyles became more casual and more differentiated. Both men and women embraced individuality. In general, people abandoned the stiff styles of the 1980s and wore more natural, loose hairstyles. Women's styles, whether long or short, were worn loose and straight. Men, for the most part, kept their hair clipped short and their faces clean-shaven.

Hair coloring, for both men and women, was a popular and accepted way to change or enhance a particular hairstyle. However, wigs had dropped from fashion. Those with thinning hair relied more frequently on hair-growth stimulants such as Rogaine.


Carnegy, Vicky. Fashions of a Decade: The 1980s. New York: Facts on File, 1990.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Feldman, Elane. Fashions of a Decade: The 1990s. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Rachel Haircut

Headwear, 1930–45

views updated May 18 2018

Headwear, 193045

The severe hairstyles of the 1920s were replaced with softer styles between 1930 and 1945. Men and women grew their hair out slightly from the short styles popular in the previous decade. Men abandoned their slick, flattened styles in favor of clean, loose hair. Women, for the most part, wore their hair cut neatly above their shoulders, but some experimented briefly with longer styles inspired by glamorous movie stars such as Veronica Lake (19191973).

The most characteristic look of this period was waved hair. Both men and women encouraged any natural wave their hair might have or visited hair-dressers for permanent or temporary waved styles. Men might not admit to professional help, however, as fashion trends favored natural waves for men. Women could freely wave their hair in many different ways: naturally, with the help of a variety of curlers, or with a professionally styled permanent.

Most men were clean-shaven, except for older men who could not bring themselves to part with their beards. Negative attitudes about beards during this time were vividly described in the New Statesman and Nation in August 1935 and quoted by Richard Corson in Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years : "a bearded man in America enjoys all the privileges of a bearded woman in a circus." The sentiment seemed to be true throughout the Western world. Although men shaved regularly, many kept neat mustaches, which they waxed, ironed, or trimmed daily. Eager for any way to make shaving even easier, men quickly embraced the electric shaver introduced in 1935, which allowed them to shave without water.

Both men and women wore hats during this period. Men continued to wear fedoras, a soft, crowned felt hat, but in many more colors than before. Felt hats came in a wide variety of colors: brown, dark or light gray, grayish blue, green, and even lilac. The most unusual colors were popularized by the flashy outfits worn by gangsters, members of criminal gangs, who were prominent in the news of the time. Women's hats remained small but not as close-fitting as the cloche hat of the 1920s. Women wore small brimmed hats or flat berets perched at an angle on top of their heads.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Lister, Margot. Costume: An Illustrated Survey from Ancient Times to the Twentieth Century. London, England: Herbert Jenkins, 1967.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

Electric Shaver
Peek-a-Boo Bang
Waved Hair