^Vfter the end ofWorld War II (1939-45), many people considered the 1950s to be the beginning of a modern world, full of new products that would make their lives easier. The bright, the shiny, and the new were valued above all, and fashions reflected this. Hair spray, made of liquid plastics and vinyl that harden when they are sprayed on the hair to form a kind of shell that keeps the hair from falling out of its style, became very popular during the 1950s and early 1960s. Styles were crisp and clean, and hairstyles were held in place with aerosol hair spray. Aerosol sprays, substances dispensed from a pressurized can, had been developed for use with insecticides during World War II, and they were quickly adopted by the hair-care industry. Women of the 1950s used products such as Helene Curtis Spray Net to hold their hair neatly in place.
By the end of the decade, hair sprays had inspired the creation of hairstyles that would have been impossible without them. The beehive, popular in the early 1960s, involved teasing the hair into a tall pile on top of the head and holding it in place with hair spray. Beehives were so difficult to style that most women just left them up overnight and reapplied hair spray the next day. The bouffant hairstyle, popularized during the 1960s by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994), wife of U.S. president John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), also required lots of hair spray to keep its full, puffy look.
The late 1960s and the 1970s saw the arrival of a much more natural style, with hair left long and loose. Hair spray sales dropped as stiffly styled hair became an object of ridicule. At the same time, environmentalists began to discover that the chemicals in aerosol hair sprays were damaging both the environment and the health of the women who used them. Some of these chemicals were outlawed.
The popularity of hair spray revived again in the 1980s, when punks, young fans of punk rock music, used it to lacquer their spikes and mohawks (a ridge of hair sticking straight up, running down the center of the head from the forehead to the nape of the neck) in place, and it has remained a part of many women's hair styling routine through the twenty-first century. Since the 1980s many men have begun to use hair spray products as well. However, it is the
late 1950s and early 1960s that will always be identified with hair spray. A lighthearted 1988 John Waters film, made into a Broadway musical in 2002, captures the atmosphere of the early 1960s in its
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Hoobler, Dorothy, and Thomas Hoobler. Vanity Rules: A History of American Fashion and Beauty. Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First Century Books, 2000.
Turudich, Daniela. 1950s Hair: Hairstyles from the Atomic Age of Cool. Long Beach, CA: Streamline Press, 2003.
^During the mid- to late 1950s, a number of young people began to rebel against the clean-cut image of a well-scrubbed teenager with a crew cut and a bright smile. Jelly rolls and duck tails were the names of two hairstyles popular with some nonconformists, or rebels, during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Both required large amounts of hair oil or grease to shape the hair into the required style, therefore those who wore them were given the name greasers. Greasers were considered rebellious, dangerous, and a little vain, since their jelly rolls and duck tails required a lot of attention to keep them slick, smooth, and shaped correctly. They wore white T-shirts, straight-leg blue jeans, and black leather jackets, and they grew their hair long and slicked it back with various hair pomades (perfumed ointments), such as Brylcreem and Vaseline. For a jelly roll, boys combed their hair up and forward on the sides, to roll it together at the top of the head. This left a single large curl in the middle of the forehead. The duck tail, also called duck's ass or D.A., was created when both sides were combed together in the back of the head, then the tail of a comb was pulled down the center, creating a feathery look, which to some resembled the back end of a duck.
Various movie stars and rock 'n' roll musicians popularized the two greaser hairstyles, the most famous of which were actor James Dean (1931-1955) and musician Elvis Presley (1935-1977).
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