It was unthinkable for a man in the 1930s to have long hair. Film stars such as Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Spencer Tracey, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper epitomised the look of the decade. One basic short style was worn by the majority of men, and it had a few distinct features and variations.
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The dapper, slicked-back hairstyles men wore in the 30s were neat, but not as severe as in the 20s. Hair was short on the sides and in the back, but left longer on top and in the front than the decade prior. This gave the "slicked-back" style a softer, more casual, carefree appearance. Men combed their longer hair over the top of the head, or sometimes slicked it to one side. Hair products, such as grooming creams, pomades, and oils kept the hair in place.
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The Classic Part
An important feature of a classic 30s hairstyle was a distinct part. It was always perfectly straight, as if made with a ruler. Even when hair was slicked back, parts were usually clearly visible. Film icons Clark Gable and Cary Grant wore a severe side part. The legendary Humphrey Bogart wore one slightly off-centre. .
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Wavy hair was another defining feature of the decade. A slight, controlled curl was more popular than the sleeker, pin-straight looks of the 20s. Pomades formed these types of waves, which were easier to achieve on naturally curly hair. Sometimes the look was similar to a women's Marcel curl or fingerwave style. Film stars who sported wavy tresses were James Cagney, Dick Powell, and Errol Flynn.
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The "Short Back and Sides" Cut
In a typical 30s haircut, the ears are neatly framed by cutting the hair around them precisely. Another defining feature of a 30s cut is leaving the nape of the neck visible. Hair was cut very short in the back, tapering down to the skin. In later years, this became known as a "fade." The tapering graduated, extending to much longer lengths on top of the head, in the front. The goal of the cut was to create a smooth graduation from the very short cropped parts to the longer parts. Frequent visits to the barber shop were necessary to maintain this look. If any hair at the back of the neck barely touched a man's collar, it was time for a trim.