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Decades of Hairstyle – Defining eras through hair

From the poufed up-dos in the 1900s to the diverse styles of today, hairstyles have changed over the past century. We go down the memory lane and see how hairstyles have evolved in last century.

As InStyle aptly puts it, the best trick to guess the year the picture was taken is through looking at the hairstyles. From curly bobs to poufs, from flicks to straight lengths, hair styles have evolved through an entire century.

The 1900s

For women - This decade in terms of hair fashion, revolved around heavy and fuller hair dos. The shorter hair was curled and poufed into attractive up-do styles. The longer locks on the other hand were left in loose but with heavy curls. Elaborate hats were worn to take the style quotient up a notch.

For men - Men liked their hair slicked back. Side and middle partitioned hair made with shiny with perfume oils, were also quite the range. The lengths were longer on the top and on the sides.

The 1910s

For women - Wavy hair was still very much in. The use of accessories like big bows, jewel pins and bedazzled headbands to further style the hair had begun. Eventually, Irene Castle’s ‘bob’ haircut came in and created quite frenzy. ‘Curtain hair’ was another popular hair style worn by women during this decade.

For men - No major change was seen in their hair style. Short hair and a classy moustache was their ideal way of staying stylish.

The 1920s

For women - With the birth of technological advancements- the handheld blow dryer and perm machine in this decade, the hair styling concept just got more modernized for women. The ‘bob’ became one of the most viral hair styles and depending on their personal style choice; women carried it sleek or wavy. More fashionable women sported heavy bushy fringes and kiss curls, and decorated them with floppy bows, pretty headbands and feathers.

For Men - Short cuts were famous not only for women, but also for men in the roaring twenties. Military cuts were amongst the most preferred short hair styles. Nevertheless, middle length was also popular and just as in the 1900s; men liked their longer top locks slicked back with a cream or gel. Gel set hair was one of the major style trends contributing to their classic look.


For women - From this decade onwards, women had started to see Hollywood starlets as embodiments of style. Blonde was not considered to be a ‘nice girl’ thing until the original blonde bombshell - Jean Harlow came into the picture. Her toxic acid dipped curls unfurled a new leaf in the industry of hair fashion, and more and more dark-haired women started to go blonde.

Jean started the legacy and actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford took it a step ahead by going platinum blonde for a while. The blond twirls were here to stay as a major hair fashion trend. Sharp partings, pin curls, and the Marcel wave look were the women style standards. To look stylish at their best and to keep their abundant curls set in up do fashions, they used pomade support.

For men - The hair styles of men were no majorly different from the previous decades. Longer locks at the top and sides with shorter hair at the back, was still the standard hair style they followed. Off-centre parting, or longer fringes with of course shorter hair at the back, was how they kept the fashion on.


For women - In the 1940s, women wanted their hair long and dark. The longer locks were pin curled and then brushed through to fashion the classic wave effect. The Raven hair of the classic beauty Ava Gardener further popularized the trend of darker longer hair.

For men - The retro style that never ceases to bore us no matter what year we progress into is a gift of this era. Growing fringes and setting them back in a way that wave effect is created, was a hairstyle seen as the trademark of the sophisticated and fashionable men.


For women - Hair experimentation had become a usual thing by the mid-century for women. The classic beauty Audrey Hepburn started the trend that never went out of style. Cocktail hats on short curls and waves, was the best way to go classy. And to get that chic quotient, ponytail with fringes was the best foot forward.

For men - Popularized by Elvis Presley and James Dean, pompadour style was the men’s favourite during the 1950s. The style involved heavy use of Brylcreem or gel to slick back the hair on the top front in various styles. Some liked the flipping back in a disarrayed style, so that the strands hung down over the forehead or, were combed and curled to create an “elephant’s trunk” like form that may hang down up till the top of the nose.


For women - By this decade, more and more women had started to enter the workplace and hence, started to prefer styles that were easily manageable and required less time to get ready. Natural hair colours were also starting to become a favourite thing of women. Ursula Andress and Bridget Bardot popularized natural darker blondes with highlights. For darker hair, the sun kissed look was achieved by letting the strands soak in lemon juice while relaxing under the Sun.

For men - The 1960s was when men had started to experiment with their hair more freely. The conservative standard styles of slicked back hair had taken a back seat in the 1960s and more free and stylish cuts were seen as trending male hair fashions. Crew cut, buzz cut, and flattop were most liked by stylish men.

popular hairstyles


For women - “Charlie’s Angels” fame Farrah Fawcett’s golden locks are world known for the major buzz they had created. Free falling curls, long fringes, soft partings had become women’s new favourite. And to further enhance the angelic effect of the hairstyle, women would wear bronze makeup.

For men - Early and mid-1970s saw men sporting longer hair as a sign of rebellion. Men used a lot of grease or Brylcreem to keep their hair in place. Some of the famous hairstyles of this decade were Long and Luscious, mod haircut, and the buzzcut.


For women - Large hair-dos, puffed-up styles, permanent waves, and softer cuts were especially popular among women in this decade. Many young women preferred permed hair. Women used scrunchies and headbands made of elastic and cloth to style their hair. Banana clips were also used to pull hair back into a fanned out style.

For men - Totally shaved heads became popular among men. Sideburns that declined in 1960s and 70s made a comeback but this time they were kept slightly thinner and shorter. The punk movement popularized spiked hair, teased hair, brightly coloured hair, and shaved hair sections. Michael Jackson’s Jheri curl style became popular among African Americans for some time.


For women – 90s was all about natural looking hair. The ‘Rachel’ cut made famous by Jennifer Aniston was imitated by most women. Posh Spice redefined the Bob cut and Keri Russel made ‘Felicity curls’ a style statement. Women of the 90s also preferred colouring their hair in a lighter colour with blonde highlights

For men – Long hair remained popular among the men even in the 90s. In the mid-90s, young men started sporting short undercut hairstyle and the Caesar cut, which was popularized by George Clooney. By the end of 90s, the trend of long hair waned and curtained hair, spiky hair, bleached hair, crew cuts, and variants of the quiff became popular.


For women - Long and straight hair with zig-zag partings was the trend in the early 2000s. Chunky highlights popularised by Kelly Clarkson in 2006 marked a revival of Farrah Fawcett hairstyles. In later years, the longer version of bob cut, known as the lob, was imitated by many women.

For men – As popular bands like The Strokes, Jet, The Killers and Coldplay moved away from punk rock and rap metal to indie or garage rock sound, men went on to sport long, shaggy Mod or surfer hair and Bed head. In later years, many young men opted for a clean-cut 1950s inspired hairstyle and kept it in place with pomade.


For women – Most women now chose to wear their hair straight with a side parting. Retro styles such as the bun or French braid inspired by the Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen are also making quite a buzz. Solid-coloured hair or ombré style is also considered stylish.

For men – Working men are going for more professional haircuts with side partings, quiffs or slicked back hair. For boys, teenagers and college guys, the layered short hairstyle, the buzzed short hairstyle, side swept bangs, quiff, and the layered longer hair look are in.