Hairstyles from the period 1900-1960

Written by kay whittenhauer
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Hairstyles from the period 1900-1960
Short hairstyles for women were popular in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Like everything else, hairstyles change with the times. Often influenced by fashion trends, political events, and Hollywood stars women's hairstyles reflect the social, political and economic climate of their times. For instance when fabric, clothing and nylons were rationed during World War II women shifted their focus to hairstyles as a way to express personal fashion.


This period of fashion is known as La Belle Epoque, which translates to Beautiful Era. A sophisticated up-do such as a large, soft, high bun was very fashionable. To achieve a full, soft look women placed frames on their heads and styled their hair around them. If the hair didn't seem high enough, women added feathers or other embellishments to increase height. Toward the end of La Belle Epoque buns got lower, much like a chignon, with hair covering the ears.


The 1920s saw a surge in popularity of a very short blunt haircut for women called a bob. The bob hairstyle was cut directly below the ears and could be worn with or without fringe, curly or straight. It was a style that was easy for women to maintain, and remained popular for two decades. In an era when women had just been granted the right to vote, the bob was controversial as it stood to symbolise women's rights and personal freedom.


The 1940s saw a departure from the boyish, nonconformist bob. Longer hairstyles with soft flowing waves and peek-a-boo fringe, such as Hollywood icon Veronica Lake wore, became fashionable. Up-dos came back into style as the general trend was toward more feminine looking hairstyles. There wasn't one particular up-do that represents the 1940s hairstyles as a low chignon was just as stylish as an array of curls pinned to the top of the head.


Two words best describe the most popular women's hairstyle of the 1950s: short and curly. Women set their hair on rollers to achieve a look that was anything but natural looking. While some women preferred a softer look that featured more wave than curl, other women wore their hair in what's known as a poodle cut. As the name implies, the poodle cut was short and very curly. Actress-comedienne Lucille Ball was known for her poodle cut hairstyle.

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