Hairstyles have changed dramatically over the years and play an important part in popular culture. It’s easy to identify a specific era by observing the styles most popular at the time. Let’s look at 10 eras and styles that were popular and the reasons why.
The Edwardian era saw a feminine overall in hair fashion, and the “Gibson girl” was the ideal that ladies everywhere were aiming for.
For those blessed with natural curls and ringlets, this style was easy to encompass, with half the hair pinned on top of the head in loose casual fashion and the rest flowing around the shoulders. By this time, hairdressers had developed chemicals as well as curling and waving irons that could be applied to hair to produce permanent curls. For the straight-haired ladies, they could artificially create wavy hair to fit in with the middle-class fashion that many aspired to.
By the 1920s, ladies were embracing the bob. This exciting decade saw a rebellious deviation from the feminine norms and hairstyles were a figure of independence during an era of jazz music and flapper dancing.
The bob was paraded perfectly by the famous Louise Brooks, a stunning sex symbol of her time, she was admired by the female population of the 1920s. Women were able to wear their hair in a style generally considered manly. A giant stride in the pursuit of equality as it challenged the gender roles that were hard-wired into society at the time. Today, many people favor the bob, and it’s a great style to adopt when you’re old and your hair has lost the luster of youth!
When the bob had lost its appeal and women wanted a softer less harsh hairstyle, the wave came in with ladies hair getting longer and regaining some Edwardian influences. Long hair just below the shoulder became common, and bangs began to gain popularity.
The famous actress Bette Davis was known for her changing hairstyles throughout the decades. She wore the wavy, smooth look effortlessly and was a glamorous representation of women of the time.
Wartime had a big influence on hairstyles in the 1940s. At this point, many women were working in factories and farms and long hair posed a dangerous risk around the large machinery that was used, causing needless accidents. Having said that, women were concerned with beauty during wartime as a means of escape so short hairstyles weren’t appealing.
For women serving in the armed forces, shorter hairstyles were encouraged as there were rules requiring hair to be pulled back from the face and off the collar.
Supplies were scarce during wartime, so hair washing was considered a luxury, as a result, short hair was practical for workers and those at home. In those times, women would steam hair over hot water and rub off oil or dirt with a towel. For upper-class families, women would attend the beauty parlors for hair washing and styling.
For women keeping the home fires burning, hair tended to be shoulder-length, straight, and without bangs. Layering became popular as a way of adding volume. There were similarities between haircuts, such as pristine styling with curls and volume. Women went to great lengths to ensure their hair was set, pinned, and perfect. Non-white women were concerned with acquiring hair the same as white women, so they used chemicals and tried to tame their natural hair.
For older ladies, they still wore their hair with a traditional low bun and a curly top which drew attention away from the gray hair creeping in.
The 1950s saw massive changes in fashion, and much of this was influenced by the invention of TV. Actresses such as Doris Day, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor were rocking a variety of styles.
The poodle or bubble cut, named as it was reminiscent of a poodle’s coat, was the style often worn for ladies with naturally curly hair. Another popular choice, influenced by Italian start, was the Italian cut, which was a curly style but looser and softer. Dorothy Dandridge carried it off superbly.
The soft bob also became popular and was worn by ladies everywhere, easily adapted depending on face shape; natural and flirty, ideal for ladies wanting to make a statement.
The 1950s saw the new style called the pageboy or crushed bob, smooth at the top and curled under. Marylin Munro and Grace Kelly looked glamorous and gorgeous with this style along with their intense facial features and piercing eyes.
This was the era that the ponytail became fashionable. A practical yet female look, the ponytail has survived into modern times.
That brings us to the swinging 60s. The 60s saw cultural changes that influenced numerous things in society, including hairstyles. Hair became a symbol of men’s and women’s individualism. Men grew their hair long and women did what they wanted.
The beehive was a common style in the 60s, which was an extreme swept-up look influenced by music groups and TV shows.
The 60s saw an era of sexual liberation and as a result, hair became bigger, sexier, and more extreme. Famous actresses such as Jane Fonda and Raquel Welch were famous for their big hair full of volume and life, which became a representation of beauty.
Whilst some women were expressing their sex appeal others were rebelling against the norm and boasting the pixie cut, short, straight, and sharp they were embracing boyish styles.
Then, of course, the famous hippy hair — long, messy, and unstyled the hippy movement embraced freedom, nature, and no rules.
The 1970s were a continuation of the 60s, with the introduction of hair of varying lengths in one style. The layered look added volume to otherwise fine hair and created a shaggy look worn by men and women alike.
The 70s saw an increase in both genders wearing hair long and straight without products, a follow on from the hippy 60s. It also saw more women preferring straight hair and taming naturally curly hair with straightening irons and the like.
The pageboy look was a style of choice, and actresses such as Joanna Lumley and sportswomen were seen with the new short hairstyle shoulder-length and prominent bangs.
Who doesn’t remember the 80s as the era of crazy hair and bad music? Young people of the 80s were focused on creating their own identity and music TV and pop culture influenced style choices greatly. Hairstyles were BIG — we’re talking big curls, hairspray, volume, crimps, and perms. Pop stars such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper became icons of crazy hairstyles, and many young people followed suit.
The punk culture was also big in the 80s and different genres saw an increase in extreme styles, punk, spikes, Mohawks as well as weird and wonderful colors. The 80s were certainly wild and can be described as the era of self-expression.
1990 — modern-day
It’s hard to specify the most popular hairstyles of modern times. With so many cultures merging together and eras reemerging, fashion comes and goes. Young and old of both genders everywhere are choosing to be free spirits and decide what their own style is, whether it originates with the past or is more contemporary.
The joy of being alive in modern times is we have the benefit of choice. Perhaps you can invent a new hairstyle that will cotton on and be the subject of a future article.
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