Retro hairstyles for women from the 1950s

Written by carrie burns
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Retro hairstyles for women from the 1950s
Foam rollers are a convenient modern-day tool for replicating 50s styles. (curlers image by Lily Forman from

The end of World War II saw an end to wartime rationing of fabrics and cosmetics. As a result, the 1950s experienced a resurgence of made-up faces and high-maintenance hairstyles.


Ponytails were one popular exception to the otherwise curled and hair-sprayed styles of the 1950s. The high ponytail was popular with women especially in the early part of the decade and remained popular with younger women. Girls tied silk or chiffon scarves around the base of the ponytail to accessorise this otherwise low-maintenance style. In the evening, the ponytail base was sometimes pinned up into a chignon or a twist for a more formal style.

Poodle Cuts

While ponytails were popular among younger ladies in the 1950s, older girls gravitated toward the poodle cut. Poodle cuts were 1 to 2 inches long all over and given a permanent curl at the beauty shop. Women combed and brushed their poodle cuts to perfection with lots of volume and waves framing the face. Women who didn't want permanents were weekly customers in the beauty shop to have their hair set in rollers. Women looking for an edgier style might sometimes put spit-curls around the perimeter of the face as a delicate accent, à la Betty Boop.

Pin Curls and Roller Sets

Pin curls and roller sets allowed women to have long lasting, natural looking curls. The 1950s were an era of curly hair, and sleeping in rollers allowed women who had straight hair to hold a curl all day long. Women went to great lengths to avoid being seen with straight hair. Pin curls were rolled wet and pinned close to the scalp in different directions so that when dry would uncurl in a natural-looking pattern. Hair was often left straight on the top or crown of the head to mimic the weighed-down hair of naturally curly-haired women.

Curled Bobs

Many women cut their hair to shorter lengths in the 1950s, as the 1940s had been an era of practical haircuts and long, romantic styles. Styling themselves after 1950s stars like Grace Kelly and Ginger Rogers, women cut their hair up to shoulder or chin-length. If hair wasn't curled all-over using pin curls, it was often brush-curled under at the bottom of the style or up in a flip. Large rollers and brushes gave bobs larger, bouncy curls.

Popular Up-Styles

Formal hairstyles in the 1950s were elegant up-dos. Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn wore high buns and twists with formal wear, and women followed suit. Side parts and combed perfectly smooth, the hair was swept up in a high ponytail before being twisted and woven into intricate styles. By the end of the 1950s, the beehive had begun to see popularity and women began to backcomb their hair to achieve the structured volume such styles demanded.

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