Ashley Rubell is an editorial hair stylist and beauty writer covering hair for Byrdie.
Updated Jan 20, 2020
Fashion and beauty trends are reflections of culture in a fragment of time. They have the power to showcase everything from behavioral norms to economic stability. Sometimes what's being communicated through hair, makeup, and wardrobe can be so impactful and significant that it echoes through history and leaves us with looks that recycle themselves time and time again.
In the 1950s, folks were settling down after the war had ended (the baby boomer years). In doing so, they displayed their patriotism in part by trying to uphold the idea, and the image of "the perfect American family" (which, ya know, obviously doesn't exist). But as a result, there was a trend to be adequately groomed at all times.
With the resurgence of jobs, consumerism came in full swing. TV sets became a popular household commodity and it not only changed the way people received the news, but the images they saw on the screen impacted their daily behaviors and opinions. Hair and makeup was mimicked by what was seen in magazine “pin-up” photos, as well as in television and in film.
Despite the circumstances we have adopted in 2020, the hairstyles of the '50s are still relevant today. With icons like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, it's hard to imagine the industry without their beauty marks (so-to-speak).
Below, we've rounded up ten classics that have recently been done so well, we can't help but pay a tribute to their history.
Made popular in the early '50s by Audrey Hepburn in the films Roman Holiday and Sabrina, the cropped, face-framing pixie was copied by many women. It was tres chic and seen as a fashion forward trend from Paris. At a time of conformity, Hepburn refused to follow suit to the blonde preferences in film and instead kept her brunette going strong.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
There was a time, pre-Dry Bar, when going into the salon on a weekly basis to get your roller set and wash was more common than not. Today, plenty of red carpet 'dos are still beautifully shaped and fluffed out. A favorite take on this perfectly primped look was definitely Mandy Moore's big and soft, voluminous waves at the 2019 Emmy's.
Bouffants, Beehives, and French Twists were popularized updos that consisted of lots of hairspray and backcombing, giving the hair both lift and structure. Getting their start in the mid-50s, these structured shapes have lasted throughout history. Here, Mary J. Blige wears a clean, modern hybrid of the beehive and a classic french twist.
A simpler look that caught on in the '50s was the ponytail, though it still required a brushed out roller set to get that perfect flip or roll on the ends. Popular among younger girls, ponytails were worn with poodle skirts and milkshakes in hand (think of good girl Sandra Dee). Reincarnated, we love this modern, flirtatious pony on Zoey Deutch (poodle skirt not included).
Short and Sculpted
Short hair with fluffed out or structured curls were one of the most popular hairstyles of the '50s. Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe were among the notable starlets that wore the iconic style of their time. Not many are following suit with the drastic short haircuts today, but the faux bobs remain a trick to be kept up your sleeve. Here, Janelle Monae wears her short hair fluffed out yet still structured, channeling her inner '50s starlet.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Largely made popular by Lucille Ball, the Poodle was a notable hairstyle in the 1950s. It was characterized by its bouffant-like volume in the front and its fluffed out curls pinned up in the back. Kate Winslet's red carpet updo many not consist of fluffed out curls per se, but its shape is very much in line with Ball's. This modernized version worn by Winslet deserves a much more suave and up-to-date name, in our opinion.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
More often than not, pin-up girls in magazines were seen wearing victory rolls, a hairstyle that took voluminous curls and pinned them up to frame the face and add height. Still relevant today, stars like Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese frequently sport beauty looks like this one from the era. Here, Tessa Thompson wears one elongated victory roll above her long, flowing tresses for the MTV Video Music Awards.
We can't get away with a post about 1950s hair without mentioning this number. Inward, forward facing curls were a very common roller set, softly brushed out and held up with hairspray. Think Lauren Bacall. The vintage wave is easy to replicate with rollers by simply wrapping your ends up towards the face and stopping around the ears (exactly where you stop depends largely on your length). Lily Collins' red carpet appearance in this look has kept it alive, relevant, and lust-worthy.
This classic, old Hollywood style worn by Lucy Boynton at this year's Oscars are an obvious ode to Grace Kelly, who was known for her soft, blonde hair and face-framing waves. While Boynton has turned down a bit of the volume, with asymmetrical curls and clean, structured ends, this modernized style hasn't lost one bit of its glamour.
All Rolled Up
Tim Whitby/Getty Images
Many women who participated in WWII (though they kept their hair pinned up for safety) didn't slack on the effort behind their hairstyles. With styles like the pompadour and victory rolls, stylized updos were frequented by many women in service during the war. While it may not be how working women show up for the job today, Rihanna displays a '50s inspired updo as one of pure glamour and glitz.