When it comes to hairstyles for men, the 1950s were influenced by two things – movie and music stars as well as the desire to rebel against the traditional system. The decade saw the rise of megastars such as Elvis Presley and James Dean which would go on to become living legends and inspire some of the most famous 1950s hairstyles of all time. But the decade also saw the birth of what we call the ‘greaser’ style, forever immortalized by John Travolta in the eponymous movie Grease.
So let’s dive straight into one of the most glorious decades of all time as far as hairstyles for men are concerned and find out as much as we can about 1950s hairstyles. Where did they come from and what inspired them? What were the actual hairstyles of the 1950s for men and how can you wear them today?
The History of 1950s Hairstyles
To be able to understand better how 1950s hairstyles for men appeared and why they were considered to be so flamboyant and controversial, we need to take a look back. Just a little bit though, through the decades that came before.
The 1920s were a time of austerity so to say for the male hairstyle. Men were supposed to wear very short haircuts that didn’t need any grooming at all. Apart from that, men had to wear hats with a wide brim that usually hid away any hairstyle they might have had.
The 20s, 30s, and 40s were also the infamous decades of the War when everything was austere and cut back, including hairstyles. Most men were influenced by their time spent in the War. In other words, while they were on the frontline, they were given crew cuts or buzz cuts which they continued to wear even when the war was over.
However, when the 1950s came, they appeared as an age of rebellion against the severity of the past decades. Tradition dictated that men should wear their hair as short as possible and not spend any time at all in front of the mirror like women did. Teenage boys and young male adults had a different opinion. This is one of the main reasons the famous flamboyant 1950s hairstyles were born.
Why Did the 1950s Hairstyles Appear?
Apart from the simple reason of rebelling against tradition and showing that boys deserve just as much time in front of the mirror like girls do, there was also this. During that time, a large number of hair care products were being invented or developed.
The 1950s were the first time when people started using hair oil, setting sprays and hair cream. Therefore, the mere existence of these products encouraged men to grow their hair to medium length and try more a dramatic style that could incorporate theatrical 1950s hairstyles.
Of course, we cannot forget about the major influence movie and music stars had on the general population. The first huge stars to wear 1950s hairstyles were none other than the now larger than life Elvis Presley, James Dean, and Frank Sinatra.
All three stars wore variations of 1950s pompadours with a very high quiff, slicked back 1950s hairstyles that needed a lot of pomade or the very famous ducktail. The latter was also known as the D.A. and it’s not a hairstyle that has survived to our present moment, as opposed to the first two.
Evidently, you can still see it on the catwalk if a designer needs it for a collection or on an occasional hipster with a love for the rockability past. But the D.A. is not a hairstyle worn by masses of men such as the pompadour is today.
Hair Styling Products for 1950s Hairstyles
One of the most important parts of getting those coveted 1950s hairstyles are the products you need to style your hair. But don’t worry because we’ve got you covered! We’ve divided this section into two parts. Hair styling products that were, in fact, available during the 1950s and which you can still find today. That’s if you want to be as accurate as possible. And hair styling products for 1950s hairstyles fit for every hair type.
Vintage hair styling products you can still use today
· Murray’s Superior Hair Dressing Pomade
Believe it or not, not only was this hair pomade available in the 1950s, but it was actually formulated in 1925! It was named after the man who invented it, an African-American barber named C.D. Murray.
Here’s a tip. If you want to use Murray’s pomade, be careful. It’s highly greasy as well as thick. Therefore, you need to take a little in your hands and warm it up. After you apply it, you will need to blow dry it to make sure your pompadour keeps in shape. It will also not be able to wash it off with your typical shampoo. You will need a bit of dish detergent.
· Groom and Clean
This particular product claimed it could not only work as a pomade but also clean your hair. How? If you use it and then pass a wet comb through your locks, Groom and Clean will remove all your dirt and dandruff. We don’t know if it’s actually true, but give it a go and see for yourself! At least it’s water-based so it will be easy to wash off!
Probably the most famous of all hair styling products for men of all time, Brylcreem has entered pop culture being referenced many times even after the 1950s. For example, there’s even a joke on Seinfeld between Jerry and George when the latter confesses he still has some Brylcreem in his medicine cabinet. The joke being that he’s far too young for this product since the series was shot in the 90s. And, possibly, he has far too less hair to use it in the first place.
Back in the 50s, Brylcreem was simply adored. And we can see why. Just take a look at the lyrics of the jingle in the ad for this pomade. “Brylcreem – A Little Dab’ll Do Ya! Brylcreem – The gals’ll all pursue ya; they’ll love to run their fingers through your hair!” You can still buy Brylcreem today if you want 1950s hairstyles.
Hairstyling products for 1950s hairstyles
Let’s take a look at the best hairstyling products you can use if you want a pompadour like Elvis’ or a ducktail like Sinatra’s!
· Hair pomade
Let’s start, of course, with pomade. That’s what your great-grandfather would have used and that’s what you should use now. However, be careful and choose a water-based pomade. It’s a lot easier to wash off and you won’t get pomade acne from using it all the time! You can choose between shiny or matte pomade.
· Hair wax
This works best if you have short hair. Use it when the hair is dry to get a tousled look. It has medium hold and just a little bit of shine.
· Hair gel
This used to be a favorite back in the 90s and early 2000s. You can still use it if you’re a fan of 1950s hairstyles. However, remember that you need to buy a high quality gel, otherwise you risk ruining your hair. Plus, hair gel will dry your locks because of its formula. It’s also super shiny!
· Hair cream
Cream usually has a light hold, which is why men with longer hair are in love with it. It will not lock your hair into place. However, it will provide a bit of light control over your hairstyle, making it look as if you’ve just woken up.
Johnny Cash 1950s Hairstyles
Here’s country singer Johnny Cash modelling a perfect example of a 1950s classic pompadour. The pomp in the front is extremely high, almost like a wall of hair rising from the singer’s forehead. It is also the only portion of his hair that is medium in length. The rest is cut short and feathery on the sides and in the back.
In fact, his hair is so feathery on the sides that it almost creates the illusion of movement. The high pomp also gives his round face some much needed height. All in all, an iconic portrait!
Elvis Presley 1950s Hairstyles
There was no way we could have talked about 1950s hairstyles and not mention Elvis. Whenever someone says the word pompadour, your mind immediately goes to the King. That’s how iconic his look has become. It’s like Marilyn Monroe and red lipstick!
Elvis’ pompadour was not a clean, perfectly poised quiff like many men wear today. In fact, the King of rock and roll preferred a tousled look. It went perfectly well with his sweet, boyish face, and even amplified his teenager features. He definitely had what we would call today an ‘I woke up like this look.’ Except that it probably took him hours to create it.
If you want to recreate the famous Elvis pompadour, you will need two types of pomade. One that is shiny and with a medium hold for the sides and the back. And a matte one with a medium hold for the front. Oh, and as much charisma as you can muster!
· Hair clay
The main reason why men prefer clay to pomade or cream is that it has a matte finish. In other words, you can recreate all your favorite 1950s hairstyles but with none of that greaser look that is a bit out of place today. Clay will also give you a super strong hold.
· Hair fiber
If you love messy styles that have a lot of texture, than this is the product for you. Hair fiber has a very high hold and a matte finish. Use it only on clean and dry hair and watch yourself turn into a movie star!
· Hair paste
This is also a product that has a matte finish and is meant to be used on clean, dry hair. The only difference is that it has a medium hold as opposed to a high one. You will also need to take your blow dryer to it to finish the look.
Humphrey Bogart 1950s Hairstyles
How many hearts did Humphrey Bogart steal or break, for that matter, in Casablanca? Or in Sabrina alongside Audrey Hepburn in 1951? Too many to count. Here is the man himself in a dashing closeup portrait. He’s wearing a simple, slick back hairstyle with just a touch of pomade that is not too shiny.
You may be wondering why Bogart didn’t go for a pompadour or a more ornate 1950s hairstyle? Evidently, it would be hard to tell. But one of the reasons could be the fact that he has an oval toward elongated face. Therefore, a high hairstyle such as the pompadour would simply pull his face even more, making it look even longer. Take note!
· Sea salt spray
A product that has to be one of the easiest to use since the 1950s. All you need to do is spray it lightly on your hair while it is still wet from the shower. It will absorb the grease from your hair and make it a little crunchy and much textured. In fact, you will actually look like you took a dip in the ocean and then allowed your wet hair and the salt in it to dry in the sea breeze!
Frank Sinatra 1950s Hairstyles
Here is the one and only, the legend Frank Sinatra! We’re already mentioned him and said that he was one of the earliest superstars to influence men during that decade to start wearing 1950s hairstyles. Here he is wearing a greased up slick back with a few finger waves. As you can see his hair is shiny and thick with pomade. Who’s to say it wasn’t actually Brylcreem?
What about you?
Does your heart still beat to the drum of rock’n’roll? Do you still think that Elvis is the king of music and James Dean the king of movies? If so, than these 1950s hairstyles are definitely for you. Let us know in the comment section below which one was your favorite!