In the 1950s, women sported soft, feminine hair and make-up while men were either conservative or rebellious. Television, movies and music stars inspired fads such as the poodle cut and sideburns. Women spent lots of time and money trying to look natural after they put on their make-up. Men's hairstyles were conservative in the beginning of the decade but evolved to be longer and greasier.
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1950s Women's Hair
Generally, women's hair was soft, short, curly and feminine. Home hair dryers were not yet available and ladies had to set their hair in pin curls and wait for it to dry or sleep that way. Sometimes they used hairspray to set the curls, as they had to be smooth and elegant, not wild. For casual wear, women put their hair in a ponytail with a scarf tied around the head for flair. The bouffant, a puffy hairstyle, evolved late in the decade.
Television and movies showed the average person the latest haircuts. Lucille Ball sported a poodle cut, which was short and combed back with a curly puff just above the forehead. These popular hairstyles needed to be cut and shaped frequently.
Audrey Hepburn made the pixie cut famous. This short, soft cut was straight, and had soft points that framed the face. "Italian" cuts, seen in foreign films, looked like short curly hair on a boy. Older women sported "Mamie Bangs" like first lady Mamie Eisenhower.
Women's make-up was soft, feminine and natural. They preferred slim eyebrows and little blush or eye shadow. Bold lips were emphasised with lip liner. Liquid or powder foundation created the illusion of a fresh face. Red was a popular lipstick colour for evening but most women, especially younger women, wore pastel colours. No-smear lipsticks were first sold in 1955. Also, Elizabeth Arden cosmetics came on the scene and were very popular.
The Average Man's Hair
In the 1950s, most men were clean-shaven and wore hair that was long enough to be parted on the side and combed back from the face. Crew cuts were popular, with the hair shaved evenly over the entire head. This was different from a flat top, which was shaved on the sides and left longer on top. Then, the top was cut flat.
While most men wore conservative hair in the 1950s, others rebelled. At the beginning of the decade, sideburns were an edgy style, but as Elvis Presley popularised them they became more mainstream.
The ducktail was a long, greasy style that was a symbol of a rebel or "greaser." Young men combed their long hair back and used a rattail comb to emphasise the back. The front was left shaggy or combed into an "elephant trunk."
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