Hairstyle: the Story Behind the Beatles Mop Top Haircut

A mop
A mop
Raggedy Ann and Andy
Raggedy Ann and Andy
Beatles: mop top phase
Beatles: mop top phase

The Beatles Cut

Since I'm a Beatles fan, it makes sense for me to write on the hair style that still gets associated with them.

The mop top hairstyle gets its name because it reminded the older generation of a wet mop. For me, I associate the mop with Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, but you decide which looks more like a mop.

The moptop was started by Beatle-friend Jurgen Vollmer in the 1950s. One day Jurgen left his hair hanging over his face after he had gone swimming. The Beatles met Jurgen when they were in Hamburg, Germany.

At the time, Jurgen was a student at Hamburg's Institute of Fashion. Jurgen became one of the Beatle's photographers. So, technically, the "Beatle Haircut," should really be called the "Jurgen Vollmer Look".

Prior to the moptop, the Beatles sported the popular hairstyle of the day which was known as the Tony Curtis cut or the d.a (duck's arse) haircut.

The "official story" (from the Hunter Davies Biography) was that Stu Sutcliffe was the first Beatle to get the moptop, followed by George, and then Paul. John Lennon and Pete Best stayed with their d.a.'s. Unfortunately, the story is not true. When the Beatles returned from Hamburg, they still had their original cut.

In September, 1961, Paul and John traveled to Paris to visit their friend Jurgen Vollmer whom they had met in Hamburg. The first "Beatle haircut" of Paul and John happened in Paris. George got his haircut when Paul and John returned.

 

Ed Sullivan, a once very popular TV host, wearing a moptop wig
Ed Sullivan, a once very popular TV host, wearing a moptop wig
The Beatles with crew cuts
The Beatles with crew cuts
Laurence Olivier as Hamlet: does he look like a moptop?
Laurence Olivier as Hamlet: does he look like a moptop?

The Moptops come to Amercia

The moptop became a symbol of youth and being cool. Today, it is also a symbol of the 60's and the Beatles.

In fact, there was a rumor that the Beatles got so sick of the publicity of their moptop that they went to a crew cut. Of course, it wasn't true.

The moptop haircut made its big splash in 1964 when the Beatles came to America. Soon, it was possible to buy Beatle wigs. In other countries, the mop top had different names. In Sweden, it was the 'Hamlet' cut. In Germany, it was called the 'mushroom' cut.

I think that the Sweden name is very suspect. Yes, Hamlet was a Dane which is very close to a Swede but at least judging by Laurence Olivier, I am not sure that Hamlet was a moptop.

The mop top has remained a staple in hairstyle possibilities. Recently, Javier Bardem took on this hair cut to portray the villain in No Country for Old Men. In this case, the hair style was selected by Paul LeBlanc who was very proud of its choice.

Jon Stewart remarked that the haircut mixed "Hannibal Lecter's murderousness with Dorothy Hamill's wedge-cut."

Jurgen Vollmer today: no moptop
Jurgen Vollmer today: no moptop
Paul McCartney today: still with moptop
Paul McCartney today: still with moptop

Jurgen Vollmer no longer wears a mop top.  Paul McCartney has recently returned to his moptop look.  

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Comments 11 comments

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Larry!!! A fellow Beatlemaniac!!!

This was a great story, the details of which I did not know. You can't use the words, "mop top" without knowing the Beatles reference. I'd be willing to bet that even my grandma and grandpa knew the association, it was just a given.

Ummm......I think it looked better on Paul when he was 18 than it does now. Just my opinion.

Thx for writing about this, Larry. See ya round The Beatles hubs!


larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 8 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Thanks for the comment. :-) Glad to hear from a fellow Beatle fan.


Ananta65 8 years ago

Nice and informative hub, Larry :) Never knew that the beatles haircut has German roots.


funride profile image

funride 8 years ago from Portugal

Great hub Larry. I´m more of a crew cut guy and I wouldn´t bear to see that mop like hairstyle on myself :-)


dineane profile image

dineane 8 years ago from North Carolina

Cool hub, Larry - thanks for the French tidbit, too...I feel an edit of my hairstyles hub coming...


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Excellent hub.


aorAki 7 years ago

Why does Paul's nose change shape when he's older. It's a veritable beak and no amount of hair can change that!

when he's young it looks a lot different!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

What's interesting to me is what an impact those haircuts made... they were such a big deal! These days, hair is such less charged- at least when it comes to variation (NOT when it comes to attention and expense. Have you seen "Good Hair"?).

I had no idea there were Beatles wigs though. Insanity!


larryfreeman profile image

larryfreeman 6 years ago from Fremont, CA Author

Hi Simone,

Yes, it's funny to think that Hair was ever such a big deal. Of course, if you see the films from the 50's, especially the documentaries, it is clear that the great "hair battle" was badly needed. :-)

When you mention "Good Hair", are you talking about this documentary:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1213585/

No, I haven't seen it.


Awais ali shah 6 years ago

thanks friend i like mop top


Mike Marks profile image

Mike Marks 3 years ago

my how the story changes in the retelling... as some one who bought Meet the Beatles before the Beatles appeared for the first time on Sullivan, I recall the first story appearing in the fan magazines to be George was swimming in that pool... then the Stu story story followed (when the Hunter Davis book came out I was in the middle of my first read of Bram's Dracula... at the time I was always intent on finishing one book before starting another... I made an exception with the Davis book... I was in a book store with my uncle when I first saw it and he was kind enough to buy it for me... I'd have to hide it beneath my grammar school desk to read it there) then I think, if I remember right, that it was after John's death that Paul started the Paris story that along with the haircuts they discovered avante garde there, he was making a point of John not being ahead of him with the avant garde, and existentialism and the beat movement which gave rise to beat-tles)... when speaking of first impressions of the moptop we can't neglect the early Beatle board game Flip Your Wig and that crew cut pic you posted was one of that first series of Beatle trading cards... hope you don't mind if I link more of my Beatle memories to my hub series Beyond the Beatles parts 1-4 http://hubpages.com/entertainment/Beyond-the-Beatl... which also includes other pop culture 60's memories... and I have my Beyond the Beatles book in progress complete at http://cosmicpainting.com/BeyondtheBeatles.pdf ... its actually an easy write, I love recalling my Beatle memories and sharing them with people who were alive at the time and younger people... I honestly don't think any book has actually captured the Beatles in the 60's accurately, too many facts and figures and not enough essense, I hope to change that with my book, but in the meantime I would recommend another writers book titled The Gospel According to the Beatles which does a good job of capturing the belief of spiritualism thru psychodelics that the Beatle embodied in regards to world affairs and so on... thanx Larry for letting me share my memories and feelings... sometimes, even today, I think that another group as great as the Beatles would have better affect or fixing the world community than all the politics and intellectuals and experts... we saw in the 60's that the soviets weren't the evil ones but just other Beatle fans, that kind of effect on world community can go along way... I also saw their effect, love peace and understanding, thwarted by a counter campaign to turn all that positive energy into "stupid hippy shit" that young people did not want to be associated with by the early 70's, but that's another story...

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