The 1950s saw the practical hairdos of the '40s swapped for something more glamorous and styled. A time of supposed domestic bliss and affluence, 1950s hair styling reflected this. Styles of the era have since been used to make a play on this idea, with films such as "Far from Heaven" critiquing the image we associate with the 1950s housewife. Yet 50s hairstyles are still often employed to represent the perfect, glamorous woman. For both men and women of the 1950s, hair was highly styled and an important part of image.
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Bouncy ponytails were a popular way to style long hair. Wearing a scarf tied around the base of the ponytail was also common. This style is often copied for '50s costumes, but was considered casual, popular with teens, and not smart enough for dress-up eveningwear. Rockabilly style saw hair adorned with cute, kitsch clips and high ponytails with heavy curled-under fringe. Spit curls were also popular, which were fine, slicked-down curls, usually worn on the forehead. Ponytails were a great way to wear straight hair, rather than getting a permanent wave.
Most women in the '50s set their hair with rollers and pin curls to maintain a style. This meant a lot of work at home or frequent trips to the hair parlour. Hand--held blowdryers were invented in the 1920s, but had not come into general circulation by the '50s. Yet 1950s vogue style was all about curls, so home-perms were popular, as was sleeping in rollers. Curls in the '50s were smooth and controlled, unlike the natural wavy locks we wear today. So maintaining the essential curly style took a lot of work. Rockabilly pin-up girl Betty Page wore long, wavy hair with distinctive heavy, curved fringe. Doris Day exemplified the wholesome American housewife with short, blonde set curls.
1950s poodle cuts were the forerunner of larger coiffures, such as the beehive. This was a short cut of 2 to 3 inches, with a permanent wave to set the curls piled on top of the head. Curls were worn large and smooth, and framed the face. The most famous advocate of this style was Lucille Ball.
Ivy league hairstyles epitomise the American preppy look of 1950s college boy. Styles such as the college cut were clipped short at the back and sides, then left to grow a little longer on top. The top of the cut swept into fringe, which were combed up and to one side with styling cream. The fashion alternative to this was the slicked back hairstyle known as a ducktail. Men combed the back and sides of their hair flat, then slicked it back with grease. The top fell forward into a rolled quiff. Worn by Elvis and James Dean, fans of this cut also often sported sideburns. Both the Ivy League styles and the Greaser look had implications of social status.
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- "Far From Heaven"; Tod Haynes; 2002