The pompadour, an elaborate hairstyle where long hair is swept up into a tall arrangement of curls or smooth waves on the top of the head, has been popular at many different times in history, mostly among women, though some men have worn pompadours too. During the early 1940s many fashionable women wore their hair in a pompadour style, brushing their hair up into a roll worn high on the forehead. Sometimes, the pompadour was just worn at the front of the hair, with the back left in long curls, and sometimes all of the hair was pulled up behind the front pompadour roll.

The pompadour took its name from an eighteenth-century Frenchwoman, Jean Antoinette Poisson (1721—1764), the Marquise de Pompadour. The marquise, as a woman of noble ranking in Europe was often referred, was the mistress of Louis XV (1710—1774), king of France. She was famous for her vast and expensive wardrobe and was the model for much of French fashion at the time. Her hairstyle, brushed straight back and lifted high above her forehead, was given the name "pompadour" after her. In the court of Louis XV and throughout the centuries that followed, many women have imitated the Marquise de Pompadour's elegant hairstyle.

The early 1940s still felt the pinch of the economic depression that had marked the 1930s. One result of the almost universal financial hardship was that many people looked to the movies for escape and entertainment. Copying the glamorous hairstyles of film stars became a way to rise above the grim reality of day-to-day life, and an elaborate hairdo did not cost much more than a simple one. During World War II (1939-45) many fabrics and other sewing supplies were rationed, that is, the government needed them for the war, and civilians could only obtain limited quantities. As during the Great Depression (1929—41), women could still express their sense of individuality and fashion cheaply by changing their hairstyle. Many popular hairstyles of the day involved elaborate arrangements of curls and waves. Film stars such as Joan Crawford (1908—1973) and popular singers like the Andrews Sisters charmed audiences with their hair swept up in a pompadour, and many women of the 1940s imitated their look.

During the late 1940s a more masculine and military look took over women's fashions, and the glamorous hairstyles were abandoned. The pompadour would return in a surprising way on the heads of rebellious young men of the 1950s and early 1960s. One of the most famous male pompadours was worn by rock idol Elvis Presley (1935-1977).


Turudich, Daniela. 1940s Hairstyles. Long Beach, CA: Streamline Press, 2002.

^Vomen adopted more feminine hairstyles between 1930 and 1945, growing out the boyish, short styles that had been popular in the previous decade. Though their hair was longer during this period, especially throughout the 1930s, women still wore what would be considered short hair; their styles were just softer and less severe than they had been during the 1920s. To soften their look, women waved their hair. They created waves at home by wrapping their damp hair around cloth strips, their fingers, or by securing their damp curls with bobby pins until they dried. Fake curls could be pinned to the head and were especially popular to wear with hats to accent the temples or in back of the head to make the hair look longer. At salons women could permanently wave their hair or get a wave made with a heated iron and held in place with Macassar oil (made from the seeds of a plant from the district of Macassar in eastern Indonesia) that would last nearly a week.

Men also wore wavy hair at this time. While women created unnatural waves and curls all over their head, men's waves were made to look more natural. Any natural wave in a man's hair was often created by running the fingers through the hair. This created more body, or wave, in the hair instead of being plastered down as it had been in the previous decade. If a man had naturally straight hair he might go to a hairdresser or barber for help, but he would probably not admit to this if asked, because it was not considered appropriate for men to get permanent waves at this time. However, straight hair was almost never seen on either men or women during this period.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

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