Originally intended for women, the pompadour haircut reappeared in modern history and made a name for itself when Elvis wore it in the 50s. Since then, it has become a mainstream hairstyle popular mostly with men. They have paired with an undercut or a fade in the 2010s. As we move toward the end of this decade, the haircut continues to be one of the most beloved hairstyles on the planet. But let’s find out more about its history, how to style it, the celebrities who wear it, and what products you need to get that perfect texture!
What Is a Pompadour Haircut?
The first thing we need to define is this. What exactly is a pompadour haircut? As you will see from its extremely lengthy history below, the pompadour has been through many changes and variations. Therefore, it would be difficult to actually pinpoint one single definition.
Still, since today the pompadour is a hairstyle for men and most people and cultures across the globe understand a single thing when referring to this hairstyle, and since all its other versions are out of style, this is what we will define it as.
The pompadour haircut is considered to be a short hairstyle mostly because of its sides. Even though the top is quite long or medium. So, the sides and the back are cut short while the top is medium or long. It needs to be combed back and raised high so that it has a lot of volume. This is called ‘the pomp.’
It’s also the one feature that makes this hairstyle so unique. The massive wall of hair sitting in a glossy scoop on top of the head adding height and looking imposing.
There are no rules when it comes to the size or volume of the pomp. You can make it as big or as small as you like. As long as it has the required shape, it’s a pompadour.
The History of the Pompadour Haircut
Believe it or not, the pompadour haircut was actually a women’s hairstyle when it was first introduced. In fact, not only that, but it was invented especially for a woman. She was the famous Madame de Pompadour, she lived in the 1700s in France, and she was the mistress of King Louis the XVth.
Madame de Pompadour was infamous herself but she gave birth to and lent her name for that matter to a hairstyle that lived for more than 300 years. Her hairstylist was the man who actually invented the haircut for her. She wanted to attract attention at the French court. Her stylist also wrote a number of books on how you could do the pompadour yourself. This lead to other members of the royal court embracing the style which became the thing ‘du jour.’ And so its lengthy journey through time began.
Marie Antoinette, another one of France’s most famous queens, also wore a very elaborate pompadour. She used to adorn it with flowers as well as expensive jewelry and theatrical accessories.
The Gibson Girl
However, the pompadour didn’t see much success outside the French court and its rich followers and when the hype died out, so did the pompadour. In fact, it took a very long time before the hairstyle was resurrected. It would be another 200 years before another type and class of women would find the pompadour attractive and start wearing it on a daily basis.
The Gibson Girl was the name given to women in the late 19th century and very early 20th century that looked in a specific way. They embodied an ideal of feminine attractiveness, they were fragile and slender, with beautiful features and a perfect hourglass figure. The name ‘Gibson Girl’ stems from a set of drawings of these girls by Charles Dana Gibson. He was trying to represent the perfect American girl. She had a super skinny waist, an ample bosom and, of course, a new type of pompadour hairstyle.
The idea behind the Gibson Girl was that of ephemeral beauty with the thin neck of a swan ending in the bouffant of the pompadour and a chignon or small bun on top. She would also have waterfalls of curls falling on her shoulders sometimes. That’s because she would always be elegant, but at ease, as if she were not trying too hard to look beautiful. The Gibson Girl pompadour remained in vogue until World War I.
The 1940s and 1950s
After the war, the pompadour became a preferred style for women once more. You could see huge movie stars of the time wearing it in their films. A great example is Bette Davis who wore a superb modern pompadour in Now, Voyager, in 1942. Betty Grable was also depicted as wearing a very high and curly pompadour when she posed for pin-up shots for World War II campaigns in 1943.
It’s not exactly clear how the haircut made the transition from being one of the oldest hairstyles for women to being a hairstyle so loved by men. But it did. And it all started, of course, with celebrities.
It’s probably safe to say that the likes of Elvis Presley, James Dean, and Marlon Brando were not exactly the first to wear the pompadour again in the 40s and 50s. Most likely, they saw the hairstyle being used in the street and adopted it themselves. However, seeing as they were the most famous and most handsome men of the moment, they are recognized now as being the ones who brought the pompadour back in the spotlight.
It’s very important that we also mention the Greasers because they played a crucial part in the history of the pompadour. Not only that, but men are wearing a modern version of the greaser pompadour right now, in the second half of the 2010s. So let’s see where the inspiration came from.
The Greasers were a subculture that emerged in the 1960s as a counterattack or a form of rebellion against the tradition of the decades before. Young men in America completely changed the way they dressed, looked, accessorized, and styled their hair. It was a symbol of the fact that they didn’t want to be like their fathers and grandfathers before them.
Where their older generations used to wear suits and hats as well as short hairstyles, the Greasers now wore blue jeans, white T-shirts, leathers jackets, and, you guessed it, pompadours. They took their cue from Elvis Presley and James Dean as well as other early rock’n’roll musicians, preparing the revolution that would come in the 60s and 70s.
The young men had the nickname the Greasers because they used petroleum jelly or pomade, in other words, grease to style their hair into a pompadour. They would also spend hours in front of the mirror and would always carry a comb with them. The reason is that the pompadour would need to be reshaped at all times. A perfect example of a greaser is John Travolta in the movie Grease.
The Legacy of the Classic Pompadour
When it comes to the legacy of the classic pompadour of the greasers, you can see that it has definitely been reborn today. Many men have been wearing it including a lot of celebrities. One example is rapper G-Eazy who sports a modern greaser pompadour with a long top and a fade. His entire image is actually based on that of the Greasers of the 50s and 60s with skinny jeans and a leather jacket.
The Modern Pompadour Haircut
Since we’re on the topic of the modern pompadour, let’s see what it looks like today. As we mentioned previously, the classic version, meaning the one men used to wear in the 50s and 60s, on which we are going to focus, was a short haircut with all the sides slicked back.
That meant that men used a lot of hair products that were available at that time, such as petroleum jelly to simply slick their hair back. They also had a small and narrow comb that helped them in this process.
The modern pompadour haircut is a little different from that in the sense that it has been coupled with a fade. Therefore, instead of slicking the sides back with hair products all the time, men have opted to cut the hair short into a fade and then tease the top as high as possible and slick it back.
The modern version is a lot more practical than the original one from the 50s. You don’t have to worry about slicking your hair back all the time. Also, you don’t have to carry a comb with you everywhere. Plus, you definitely don’t have to spend that much time retouching your hairstyle throughout the day. It also helps that we now have much better hair styling products than our grandfathers did back in the day.
The Pompadour Haircut with a Fade
What types of fade can you pair with a pompadour? Simply put, every type of fade you can imagine or think of. But, in broad terms, there are three main versions of the fade that you can use. Here they are.
- A high fade with pompadour – with this hairstyle the fade itself or taper starts right at the top, below the line of your pompadour. This means that the sides of your head as well as your back will be cut very short.
- The medium fade with pompadour – the fade starts in the middle, between the pompadour itself and your hairline above the ear or nape. Consequently, half of your hair will be very short, like in a crew cut or an induction cut. The other half can be as long as you want.
- The low bald fade with pompadour – this is the hairstyle in which there is just a small line of fade barely visible above your nape or ear. The rest of the hair is a simple, traditional short hairstyle. It rises to meet the pompadour on top.
Still, you should know you can get any combination of these you want, because there are no rules. You can even get a bald fade with pompadour or a high fade with a hair design. It’s entirely up to you and what you fancy having for a hairstyle!
The Messy Pompadour Haircut
One of the most remarkable inventions in terms of hairstyling of the second half of the 2010s is the messy pompadour with a matte finish. Are you intrigued? Don’t worry. We’re here to help, as always!
The traditional pompadour was made famous by its slicked back locks with the signature volumised pomp in the front. While the pomp could be as high as the wearer wanted it and as shiny as possible, the hair still needed to be slicked and oiled to perfection until none of the locks moved.
Modern times, however, have made the pompadour a lot easier to handle and definitely more palatable. With these hairstyling ideas in mind, we have been introduced to the messy pompadour. What does this mean and what are the differences?
For one, the hairstylists and wearers alike find no more use for the almighty comb. Instead, the pomp is now styled using your fingers. In his way, you get the sense of freedom and a casual style as if you’ve just rolled out of bed.
Second of all, there is a lot more texture to the modern, messy pompadour. Whereas the traditional one was simply very greasy, hence its name, the new version brings a lot of texture. It has feathery strands of different lengths that sit in a haphazard but gorgeous manner on the crown of your head.
And thirdly, there is a matte finish. As mentioned before, our grandfathers used hair pomade to create the traditional pompadour. Since it was based on jelly or Vaseline, this also meant it was very greasy or shiny. It was a source of pride for men of the 50s and 60s but times have changed.
We now use other hair styling products such as hair wax or hairspray which provide a matte finish to the pompadour and a much more natural one instead of the inorganic one given by the shiny creams of old.
How to Style a Pompadour Haircut
The pompadour haircut receives a great deal of love for a lot of reasons. It has a huge history behind it and it was revived in the 50s and 60s as a sign of rebelliousness against tradition. Plus, it was the number one hairstyle of some of the most iconic figures of movie and music ever – Elvis Presley and James Dean.
But most important of all, modern men love the pompadour haircut because it’s so versatile. We now live in an age where society has accepted this haircut and you can wear it everywhere without being considered a rebel or a ‘greaser.’
In other words, you can sport a pompadour at the office, to a formal event, to graduation, on your wedding day, on a night out on the town or even down the red carpet. It’s suitable for every occasion. And it still hasn’t lost it cache as a rockability hairstyle! How cool is that?
How does one style a pompadour? Evidently, the focus needs to be all on the volumized pomp in the front. To create it, you must first choose whether you want to go for the traditional shiny and slick greaser style or if you want the more modern messy pompadour.
What products to use?
Once you’ve made up your mind, you will also be able to choose the appropriate styling products. For the greaser style, we recommend a hair gel based on natural ingredients such as coconut water. It will keep your pomp in place while still moisturizing it. Add a touch of hairspray to make sure it doesn’t frizz out throughout the day. Wear a comb with you at all times because you will need to readjust the pomp and the sides whenever you can.
As far as the messy pompadour is concerned, you can use some hair wax. Take a bit of product, rub it between your hands and then run your fingers through your hair all the while pushing your locks to the back of your head. This will, in time, create the pomp and give you that rebel look.
Sweep it all up throughout the day. There will be no need to add extra wax or hairspray because this is a messy style. The messier or more casual it gets, the better.
It’s important to remember that you can get a pompadour haircut independently of what type of hair you have. This hairstyle works perfectly well with curly, straight, fine or thick hair. All you need is the right length on top to make sure you have enough hair to create the pomp.
When it comes to the sides, a fade will always be the best way to go. If you want a more theatrical approach for your pompadour, you can always try a bald fade. You’ll get a lot of attention, especially from the ladies!
Celebrities Wearing the Pompadour Haircut
If we’re talking about celebrities wearing the pompadour haircut and, of course, the inspiration you can draw from them, we have to start with the promoters of this haircut.
Despite popular belief, Elvis didn’t just wear one type of pompadour. Sure, he went for the traditional polished high pomp when he was in his twenties. The hairstyle elongated his features and added a spotlight on his amazing cheekbones and his masculine jawline. If you want to copy it, you can use some forming cream, good old-fashioned pomade, defining paste if you want a natural finish or some crew fiber for no shine.
But the King also wore a pompadour with a tousled texture which we can definitely say is the granddaddy of the more modern messy pompadour. The only difference is that Elvis didn’t have a fade to go with it and he probably used something like a blow dryer to get the high shape in the front.
Elvis also used to sport a carefree coif which also counts as a pompadour. This meant a more relaxed hairstyle in which pieces of the pomp were allowed to fall onto his forehead as he was dancing, singing or performing other physical activities.
The James Dean Pompadour
Apart from Elvis, the other most celebrated pompadour haircut in history belonged to actor James Dean. He had a distinctive version of the haircut which he made completely his own by combing back the sides and then blending them seamlessly into the high top. He was also a cut apart from everyone else in the era because he didn’t really use a lot of hair pomade to make his hair shine. In this way, he obtained a much more natural look.
James Dean would also comb the strand at the very front toward the back. Consequently, he would create a very soft curl hanging above his forehead. This was a precursor of the messy pompadour as well, which many modern celebrities have adopted.
Modern Celebrities Wearing the Pompadour
We need to start with Zayn Malik whose pompadour made headlines in 2014. As he walked the red carpet at the AMAs that year, he wore a modern version of the greaser pompadour with one single difference. He had a lone strand of hair hanging on his forehead and Twitter went mad for it. It became the most talked about thing of the moment and made everyone realize just how famous the former One Direction member really was.
Other celebrities who have worn the pompadour include David Beckham, who loves a good messy pomp, Bruno Mars, who is more partial to a curly, traditional one, Johnny Depp who was very fond of the greaser style when he was young and, of course, Justin Bieber who opted for a blonde pompadour.
What about you? Are you thinking about getting a pompadour haircut? Or do you already have one and are simply looking for advice on how to style it? Let us know in the comments below what you think about this amazing haircut with such a long and wild history!