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Classic 1950s Hairstyles. Vintage Hair

Updated on August 17, 2013

Mamie Van Doren

The Marilyn Monroe

Hairstyles of the 1950s were for the most part shoulder length and tightly curled.

The complex hairstyles of the 40s were on their way out, and loose hair without any clips, for the first time in history, was coming into style. The 50s hairdo that we consider the "Marilyn Monroe" look was actually worn by a great many women in the 50s, and was not really originated by Marilyn Monroe. Monroe was simply being fashionable by wearing the "in" look of the 50s, and she wore it so well during her prime that it will be forever associated with her.

Elizabeth Taylor, Mamie Van Doren, Grace Kelly, and numerous others wore this popular and versatile look. The "Marilyn" style was as popular in the 50s as the "Farrah" style was in the 1970s, just about every woman tried it at some point, but this look was not associated with Marilyn Monroe as its originator during its popularity. It was just a sign of the simpler and less dressy style of the 50s, as opposed to the highly styled and coordinated look of the 40s.

Elizabeth Taylor, Early 1950s

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The 1950s Glamor & Elegance to Casual

The 1950s was a decade of transition in many ways, but one of the most significant fashion changes was that the hat began to sharply lose popularity. They were still widely worn, but the younger generation could be seen regularly going hatless to dances, and formal events in the late 1950s. Prior to this decade, hats were the finishing touch to every outfit. In the 1860s men wore top hats, and women wore bonnets, in the 1900s women wore huge wide hats with flowers, and by the 1920s the flapper wore the unique bucket hat. For well over 100 years we could consistently see a new hat style to mark that period in time, until the late 1950s.

The solidity of American culture took a nosedive by 1959 as divorces became more common, men also slowed down on trips to the barber for the old fashioned shave and a haircut, and women were gradually cutting back on beauty parlor appointments. Morality was losing ground and the family was becoming displaced for the very first time. There were groups who protested the negative changes and wanted to do something about the declining times, but the majority pointed to the changes as progress, and clinging to the old fashioned values as simply going back in time.

In the early 1950s it was standard for men and women to groom themselves well at all times, and a man could still be seen wearing a single breasted suit while a woman could be seen wearing a dress and a well manicured hair style, by the late 1950s men and women were often sporting jeans with a much less coiffured headdress. The ponytail for girls and the DA for the boys would hit the scene of the late 50s as rock n roll took over the teenagers.

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly, Princess Style

Grace Kelly often wore a more sophisticated version of the Marilyn Monroe hair style. She had tighter waves and the hair was elegantly brushed away from her perfect face. She is considered to be a Vintage icon of the 1950s due to her always polished and sophisticated attire. Grace Kelly sought the best of everything, having been raised in a well to do family and become an actress not out of financial desperation, but due to her desire to be more than just another good looking girl with money. Grace Kelly usually wore her hair just above the shoulders in a loose permed fashion, but was also known for wearing a very tight, extreme looking bun, that only the face of a princess could get away with.

1950s Glamour

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Shorter Styles than the 1940s, with a Mature Elegance

This style was also created by using pin curls, but the overall cut is short and the pin curls were rolled with less hair for each pin curl.

Pin curls were the rage in the 50s, as it represented a no nonsense style that could easily be created without the aid of a beautician by simply purchasing a pack of pins to set the hair before bed. When awakening in the morning the hair would be tightly curled on the head, and would slightly loosen after a brushing.

The DA Hairstyle for Men

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Elvis With a DA Pompadour

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Men With Long Hair

One of the major changes for hairstyles in the 1950s was among the younger men. The crew cut, butch, and traditional well groomed styles were still being worn, but the DA was suddenly in vogue for the rock n roll crowd.

The reason for the name DA was that with the hair being on the longer side and bot sides being combed in towards each other, the center of the back of the head looked like a duck's A**, or duck tail.

This hair style was not well received by the older set who liked a well groomed look and appreciated the distinct differences between men and women. Men should have short, easy to care for hair, and women can have longer hair that requires regular styling. Men were supposed to be less fussy and more rugged, and therefore this long hairstyle for men was frowned upon as being feminine.

If those manly men and male loving women had a clue what was to hit in the 70s, they might have done more than simply state their distaste.

50s Ponytail

The 1950s, Changing Times

While the rock n roll boys had a more complicated hairstyle, the rock n roll girls had a more casual look. Girls in the 1940s were wearing their hair gloriously long and curled, with waves everywhere, and the up styles were a mass of styled waves and tight curls.

The 50s teenage girl was wearing flat shoes and a pony tail. Not the thoughtless ponytails of today, but a curly or wavy ponytail with a slight pompadour on top would be the classic 50s ponytail.

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    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      I really wish I had the hair for these great hairstyles. All my life, everything I've tried to do with my hair has failed. I have very fine hair and it looses all body in under an hour. The only time my hair has been different was when I had a hideous early 90s perm. Yikes! I would love to look so polished and pulled together, but I just don't think it's possible.

    • profile image

      ElleBee 5 years ago

      I LOVE 50s hairdos! These are great, love all the pictures! Now I just have to manage to create them on myself.

    • Cathyrin profile image

      Cathyrin 5 years ago from Philippines

      Love the hair of Grace Kelly. Her beauty is not just a classic one but even her style. :)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Since I was in high school during the late '50s, this article resonated with me. I didn't let my hair grow long until the '60s, and a short 1950s "do" for girls was the "ducktail" that flipped up in the center of the back of a girl's head. It looked exactly like a real duck's tail and was not easy to achieve if one's hair was naturally straight and fine as baby hair (as mine was), but I kept trying anyway.

      By the time I was 21 (1964), I'd lightened my hair color and had let it grow almost to my shoulders, but styled it (and I use that phrase loosely) to wear in what I can only call a tightly-curled "flip" on the ends. You'd have to see it to believe it, and you can. It's part of the slideshow of my changing hairstyles from age 2 to my 60s, all on my hub, Hair Color: Pros and Cons, or "Why I Stopped Coloring My Hair." It's sort of a personal time capsule of female hairstyles from the 1940s until the first decade of this century. A real hoot! (Needless to say, I never looked remotely like Mamie, Elizabeth or Grace, although when I was young my eyes, while not violet, were once compared to Liz's.)

      This was fun! Thanks for the great hub which I thoroughly enjoyed, voted Up+++ and will share.

      Jaye

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Interesting hub. I enjoyed the photos. I quite like the fifties hair style popular with the women. Not too sure about the DA though! Voted up!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Great information on past hairstyles. Thank you for sharing this.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      You know how to get MY attention. Just write about ANYTHING from the '50's/'60's era......Baby Boomers Rock!.......My favorite of those you have featured is Mamie VanDoren's style. I had forgotten how beautiful she was......sort of a fly-by-night starlet, but gorgeous......Of course, Elizabeth and Grace would be exquisite with a MOHAWK!! The women...other women love to hate!! LOL....

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub!.................UP & shared

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 5 years ago from California, United States of America

      Changes in fashion are very interesting to me, and I appreciate style very much. It is interesting how the look evolved to a more relaxed fashion in the 50s, compared to the 40s. That is also very interesting how the DA style got it's name.

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      they're so gorgeous! i agree with conservative lady, women way back looked classier and very elegant.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      This was a trip down memory lane. Love the photos of these gorgeous women. wow...Natural beauty back then. Fun Hub.

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Truly beautiful women and love the hair back then - looks like work though. Women looked so much classier back in those times. I enjoyed your hub and the great pictures. Voted Up and Beautiful!