Popular 1940s hairstyles

Updated April 17, 2017

Hairstyles during the 1940s were heavily influenced by World War II. Rations were placed on many fabrics due to the war, so women sought to express themselves with glamorous everyday hairstyles such as victory rolls or peek-a-boo fringe. Men's hairstyles during this decade were also a reflection of wartime. Men's popular hairstyles included military styles as well as styles made popular by celebrities.

The Peek-a-Boo Bang

The peek-a-boo bang hairstyle is characterised by long, wavy, side-parted hair that covers part of the face, including one of the eyes. While its name suggests fringe, the layer worn over one eye isn't shorter than the rest of the hair. Veronica Lake wore this popular style. The style was seen as sexy, but it was often impractical, as the vision of the woman wearing her hair in this style was obstructed by the hair. According to the Fashion Encyclopedia website, the style caused many factory workers to have hair-related accidents on the job. While the peek-a-boo bang was popular, the shelf life of the style was short-lived.

Victory Rolls

The name of this hairstyle was taken from a combat fighter plane manoeuvre and worn in part to show support for the troops fighting World War II. Women who wanted to wear victory rolls slept in rollers to set their hair. In the morning, they would remove the rollers. According to the 1940s Hairstyles website, the woman would create a roll by holding a front section of the hair on one side of the head, folding it backwards until the roll was turned in on itself, and pinning it in place. The procedure would be the same for the hair on the opposite front side of the head. Victory rolls could be worn either with cascading waves in the back or as part of an up-do.

The Pompadour

Pompadours were popular for both men and women during the 1940s. To achieve the signature pouf of hair associated with the pompadour, a person would start out by sectioning off the hair at the front of the forehead. Then the hair was combed straight down about midway from the roots on the side opposite the forehead. The hair at the front of the section was combed through and smoothed to hide the backcombed strands. The backcombed, or teased, section of hair is what gives the pompadour its volume. Men's pompadours were often worn with slicked-back sides held in place with hair grease. Women could wear a pompadour with curled ringlets or as part of an up-do hairstyle. Joan Crawford was one celebrity who often wore a pompadour in the forties.

Men's Hairstyles

In addition to the pompadour, other hairstyles were popular for men during the forties. Military hairstyles such as the flattop and the crew cut were worn by many men. A flattop haircut is cut very short on the sides and back of the head, but the hair on the top is longer to give it an even, flat appearance. In a crew cut, hair is longer at the front and gradually tapered shorter along the sides and back. The Hudson's Guide suggests that the crew cut had a more round appearance than the flattop. Another popular forties men's hairstyle was the slicked-back look made popular by celebrities such as Clark Gable. Men who wanted this look would grow out the top layers of their hair and then slick them back with hair grease.

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About the Author

Jennifer Denese brings experience in the areas of education, crafts, pet care, body modification, movies and wedding planning. She has been teaching special education since 2000 and freelance writing since 2009. Denese holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice/sociology from Averett University and a Master of Education in special education from Old Dominion University.