Headwear 194660

^The late 1940s and 1950s were a time in fashion history when many people were concerned with dressing just right, and the way they styled their hair and chose their hats was no exception. As with other areas of fashion, hat styles had been simplified during World War II (1939-45) in order to conserve precious materials that were needed for the war effort. French designer Christian Dior's (1905-1957) New Look, introduced in 1947, called for a range of accessories. Dior's New Look outfits and the many imitations that followed all featured hats chosen to match the outfit. These hats could be highly ornate, with wide brims and veils that hung around the head, or they could be as simple as a pillbox hat, a smallish, brimless round hat. It is estimated that the typical American woman in the 1950s owned four hats. Fashion-conscious women probably had many more.

Perhaps the only thing that kept women from wearing hats during the period was the need to display their carefully tended hairstyles. Throughout the 1940s Hollywood stars led the way in setting popular hairstyles. Actress Veronica Lake (1919-1973), for example, was famous for her long hair that trailed in front of one eye. Magazines tracked the hairstyles of the stars, and women went to their hairdressers to keep up with the latest styles. Hairdressers were aided in their quest to offer women perfect hairstyles by a new invention called hair spray, a sticky spray that held ornate styles in place. Beginning in the late 1950s hairdressers used curling irons and hair spray to create elaborately curled and piled hairstyles called bouffants and beehives. The era of big hair had begun.

Hats were an important part of every man's wardrobe and were worn nearly every day by men in the West. Men's hats included the homburg, the panama hat, and the porkpie hat. These hats were made of felt, straw, or man-made materials. The exact style of hats


During the 1950s Ruth Handler, one of the owners of the Mattel Toy Company, noticed her daughter putting dresses on her paper dolls and got the idea for making a three-dimensional fashion doll that girls could dress and undress. Mattel introduced their new doll, named Barbie after Ruth Handler's daughter, at the 1959 American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie was popular with girls right away, though some parents worried that she looked too sexy for a child's toy. The first Barbie came wearing a black and white striped bathing suit. Soon, dozens of outfits were available for her, including a bridal gown, tennis dress, and ballerina costume. Although Barbie was marketed as a "teenage fashion model," she had many of the clothes of the ideal 1950s housewife, such as a crisp party apron for cooking and entertaining, and a fashionable Paris gown. Within the next few years, Mattel introduced Ken, Barbie's boyfriend; Midge, her best friend; and Skipper, her little sister. Each had a variety of fashionable outfits.

Barbie's image has changed frequently over the years, in an effort to keep up with changing clothing styles and the changing image of womanhood. During the 1960s she wore stylish designer suits like those worn by First Lady

Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994), as well as miniskirts and white go-go boots. During the 1970s the clothes for "Barbie and Ken Superstars" fit right in with the glitz and glamour of the decade. By the 1980s women's liberation had affected society's view of women, and girls could choose from a wide variety of careers for Barbie, such as doctor, police officer, or astronaut, all with appropriate outfits. The eighties also saw the introduction of ethnic Barbies, such as Black, Latin, and Asian Barbie dolls. Feminists grew angry with Barbie again in the 1990s when "Teen Talk" Barbie said things like, "Math is tough," which seemingly insulted the intelligence of a woman.

Even Barbie's face and body have changed with the styles. The first Barbie dolls had heavily made-up eyes that looked to the side, but by 1961 she had a more natural look, and her big, blue eyes looked straight out. Early Barbie dolls had feet molded in permanent tiptoes for wearing high heels, but by the 1980s a Barbie with more natural feet was available. Many people had criticized Barbie's figure as being impossible for a real woman, so in 1999 Mattel introduced a doll with a more realistic shape. Like the changes in her fashions, these changes reflected the changing look of women through the decades, evolving from the made-up and glamorous look of the 1950s to the more natural look of the 1990s.

changed from season to season, varying in color, the width and bend of the brim, and the height of the crown.

Men wore a variety of hairstyles during this period. Perhaps the most popular was the crew cut, in which the hair was cut short all over, military style. By late in the period, however, young men began experimenting with longer styles, held in place with hair gels, pomades (perfumed ointments), or sprays. The more adventurous wore a jelly roll or a ducktail, two of the more elaborate male styles. Young men who carefully gelled their hair were known as greasers. Facial hair was generally not popular during this period. Some spec-

ulate that the mustache worn by German dictator Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who led the Germans in World War II, killed the popularity of the mustache for decades in the United States and western Europe.


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

Jones, Dylan. Haircults: Fifty Years of Styles and Cuts. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1990.

Lord, M. G. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: William Morrow, 1994.

Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Steele, Valerie. Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

Weissman, Kristin N. Barbie: The Icon, the Image, the Ideal. Parkland, FL: Universal Publishers, 1999.

■ Beehives and Bouffants

O ne of the most popular women's hairstyles of the late 1950s and early 1960s was the lavishly teased bouffant. The bouffant first surfaced in the 1950s, reflecting a return to big hair for women following a period of plain wartime styles. Two innovations of the late 1950s helped revolutionize hairstyling and paved the way for the bouffant age: the roller, used to lift and wind the hair (which was then backcombed or teased to give it maximum height); and lacquer

Woman with hair styled in a medium-sized beehive. Hair spray and rollers brought big hair to new heights with the beehive.

ermission of Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

ermission of Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Late 1950 Girls Fashion

spray, a heavy hair spray which held the style in place. Bouffants began to catch on in the United States following a Life magazine article touting the "aristocratic" European look. First lady Jacqueline Kennedy's (1929-1994) adoption of the hairstyle in the early 1960s helped popularize it even more.

By 1964 hair spray had become the nation's number one beauty aid, surpassing lipstick. Around that time young girls took the bouffant to new heights with a style called the beehive. Teenagers would set their hair every night in huge rollers, using a gel solution called Dippity Do, and proceed to sleep in them. Those with extremely curly hair used large frozen cans in place of the smaller rollers. Some women even wrapped toilet paper around their heads at bedtime in order to preserve the increasingly ornate, sculpted styles.

Although their popularity during the early 1960s was immense, bouffants and beehives proved difficult styles to wear, involving extensive preparation and a great number of tools. In the mid-1960s the fashion tide began to turn toward more natural hairstyles. Women who had spent hours teasing their hair just a few years earlier now began ironing it in an effort to achieve optimum straight-ness. The bouffant soon became a comical symbol of an earlier era. The outrageous beehive was mocked in popular culture by the flamboyant rock band The B-52s and in the film and Broadway musical Hairspray.


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

Turudich, Daniela. 1960s Hair. Long Beach, CA: Streamline Press, 2003.

Also known as a G.I., or government issue, haircut, the standard crew cut is a variation on the buzz cut, a regulation haircut given to servicemen in the U.S. military in which the entire head

is sheared, typically with an electric razor. In the crew cut a thick bristle of hair less than an inch long is left at the top of the head. A variation on the crew cut, in which this strip of hair is allowed to grow out and cut in a straight, flat style, is called a flat top. When the top is slightly longer and tousled, it is known as a feather crew or Ivy League cut since it was often worn by students of Ivy League schools, the American universities with the highest academic and social prestige. Outside the United States the term crew cut has a much narrower meaning, denoting a cut that is short all over (about one-fourth inch), perhaps tapered a little at the back and sides. Crew cuts gained a following in Great Britain in the 1950s.

The crew cut did not originate in the military. In fact it first gained popularity on college campuses, where college crew, or rowing, teams adopted the style to differentiate themselves from other undergraduates. The crew cut's association with these elite organizations helped make it the hairstyle of choice for those who respected authority. As self-styled rebels, nonconformists, and antiestablishment types began to adopt longer and longer hairstyles beginning in the 1960s, those who still sported crew cuts were often ridiculed as "squares," in part a reference to their angular haircuts. By the 1990s, however, those cultural divides had largely faded into the past. Short hairstyles made a comeback, led by the buzz cut but also, notably, the crew cut, now seen as a symbol of toughness and an uncompromising personal style.

Johnny Unitas Haircut

Football great Johnny Unitas sporting a crew cut. Reproduce, by permission of© Bettmann/


Football great Johnny Unitas sporting a crew cut. Reproduce, by permission of© Bettmann/



Cooper, Wendy. Hair, Sex, Society, and Symbolism. New York: Stein and Day, 1971.

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

■ Hair Coloring

Hair coloring dates to ancient times, when Greeks, Romans, and others altered their hair by applying soaps and bleaches. Many Romans preferred a black dye that consisted of leeks and boiled walnuts, while Saxons added such unlikely colors as orange, green, and blue to their hair and beards. The initial chemical hair coloring was produced in France in 1909. It consisted of a mixture of ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and the chemical paraphenylenediamine.

During the post-World War II (1939-45) years, millions of American families were entering the middle class and more women had the luxury of spending money on themselves, including their hair. Initially, however, American women were reluctant to use hair dyes. Hair coloring products were purchased in stores and applied at home, or they were put on by a hairdresser at a salon. A disadvantage of home coloring was that instructions could be misread or a mishap might occur, resulting in the hair turning an unwanted or even garish color. Another downside to early commercial hair coloring products was that they smelled awful, often like rotten eggs.

In 1950 only seven out of every one hundred women colored their hair, with most doing so primarily to eliminate gray and restore their natural color. In 1956, however, the introduction of a dyeing product called Miss Clairol brought hair coloring into the mainstream. Accompanied by a well-known advertising campaign that said "Does she or doesn't she? Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure!" Miss Clairol made hair coloring very popular.

For years only small numbers of men, in particular, aging movie stars, were known to dye their locks, but the process became increasingly popular among males in the 1990s. Still, hair coloring mostly is the domain of women. In the twenty-first century over 75 percent of all American women reportedly color their hair.


Adams, David, and Jacki Wadeson. The Art of Hair Colouring. London, England: Macmillan, 1998.

Gladwell, Malcolm. "True Colors." New Yorker (March 22, 1999): 70-81. [See also Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Hair Coloring]

^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


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).

title, Hairspray.

Rolls and Duck Tails

In the late 1950s Presley combed his hair into a softer, less greasy version of the jelly roll. Soon teenagers everywhere sported T-shirts, jeans, and greaser hair. Boys were not generally supposed to spend much time worrying about their looks, but a comb in the pocket became a necessary part of their wardrobe, since the jelly roll or D.A. required grooming throughout the day.

The new male obsession with hairstyle became the subject of many popular jokes of the time. The 1959 humorous hit song, "Kooky, Kooky, Lend Me Your Comb," by Ed Byrnes and Connie Stevens, was based on a duck-tailed private detective in the television series 77 Sunset Strip (1958—64). One 1959 episode of the popular television show Leave It to Beaver (1957—63) was titled "Wally's Hair Comb" and involved a teenager and his parents' response to a jelly roll fad at school.

1957 Pop Culture

In the late 1950s singer Elvis Presley combed his hair into a softer, less greasy version of the jelly roll. Reproducec of AP/Wide World Photos.


Salamone, Frank. Popular Culture in the Fifties. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

In the late 1950s singer Elvis Presley combed his hair into a softer, less greasy version of the jelly roll. Reproducec of AP/Wide World Photos.


Pillboxes are small containers used to hold pills. Beginning in the 1930s the basic pillbox design was employed by milliners, or hatmakers, who created a new style of head covering: the pillbox hat, a smallish, brimless round hat that featured straight sides and a level top. Pillbox hats were popular because of their simplicity and elegance. They most often came in solid colors and were usually unadorned with accessories except for a colored net veil, or a single pin or jewel. They were, however, made of an array of materials, some of which were elaborately designed. These included green wool with

Ladies Wearing Pink Pillbox Hat

Woman wearing pink pillbox hat. With its simple-yet-elegant design, the pillbox hat could be worn unadorned or accessorized.

Reproduced by permission of © Bettmamn/CORBIS.

Woman wearing pink pillbox hat. With its simple-yet-elegant design, the pillbox hat could be worn unadorned or accessorized.

Reproduced by permission of © Bettmamn/CORBIS.

ornate gold cording; black velvet, smothered in black beads; and white organdy, a transparent fabric, with attached overlapping organdy petals and silk rose bouquets. Pillbox hats might also be made out of the furs of mink, lynx, fox, or leopard skin. Musician Bob Dylan (1941—) incorporated the image of the latter into a song about a jilted lover, "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" (1966).

The popularity of the pillbox hat increased during the post-World War II (1939-45) era and reached its peak at the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), when his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-1994), wore a simple, unadorned bone wool pillbox hat designed by Halston (1932-1990). Previously, Mrs. Kennedy did not favor hats of any kind, but she was so taken by Halston's design that the pillbox hat became her trademark. She even was wearing a pink one on November 22, 1963, as she cradled her husband in her arms moments after he was shot while riding in a Dallas, Texas, motorcade. The cheerful femininity of Jackie Kennedy's pink suit and pillbox hat are ironic reminders of that tragic day.


Garland-Dewson, Ruth. Hats for Every Head: The Language of Hats. Fort Bragg, CA: Cypress House, 2003.

McDowell, Colin. Hats: Status, Style, and Glamour. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.

Probert, Christine, ed. Hats in Vogue Since 1910. New York: Abbeville Press, 1982.

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