Beehive Hairstyles of the 50s

Written by emily watson
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Beehive Hairstyles of the 50s
The beehive is all about height and volume. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

The beehive hairstyle is an iconic fashion and beauty symbol of the 1950s and 1960s. What began with a bouffant style in the early 1950s then developed into larger and larger hairdos until, quite literally, it resembled a beehive. The term was coined. Still a popular hairstyle, at least on the red carpet, the beehive has stood the test of time, travelling through the decades and seeing various adaptations of the original style emerge along the way.


The beehive, also known as the B-52 because of its likeness to the bulbous nose of the B52 Stratofortress Bomber, made its first appearance in 1958. American hairdresser Margaret Vinci Heldt created the style in her salon after a magazine prompted her to create a completely unique and modern hairdo. She wanted to create something that gave women the illusion of greater height and also reflected the glamour of the time, according to the RetroGalaxy website.


The beehive is created by sculpting all of the hair on top of the head, so that it sits neatly in place in the shape of a beehive, about 4 inches tall. To achieve the look, wet hair was placed in large rollers and then women sat under hooded dryers for to an hour until their hair was dry. Next, the hair was backcombed to create more volume and height and then pinned in stages to the top of the head. The advent of the beehive also marked the emergence of aerosol hairspray on a widespread scale, a product essential to creating and maintaining the beehive hairstyle.


The beehive was a national success in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It also spread to other parts of the western world, becoming a favourite hairdo of many women across Britain and Europe. The hairstyle appealed to women of all ages. Heldt herself was 79 years old when she created the hairdo, and it gained a following in a range of women -- those who visited the salon every Friday to have the style professionally done to high school girls who created it for themselves using makeshift rollers and hairspray.


After the beehive first emerged, variations and modifications of the style appeared during the next decade. What started out as a 4-inch beehive developed into hairstyles resembling anthills and even hornets' nests. Women added hairpieces to the style to make it even bigger and also to add colour and depth. Those who didn't have hair long enough to create the beehive naturally used synthetic hair called Dynel to create the beehive look.

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