Popular Hairstyles of the 1940s

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During World War Two, fashions that mimicked military styles were all the rage. It was no different for hairstyles - short, neat cuts reminiscent of those worn by the military were quite in style. Societal trends also impacted the fashionable hairstyles of the day. With many women working outside the home in support of the war effort, short haircuts were quite practical. These short styles kept women's hair off their faces while working in the factories or doing housework and required less time and effort than longer cuts. Of course, Hollywood influenced women's tastes in hairstyles, as well, and many Hollywood stars were wearing their hair long.

Short hairstyles of the era were usually curly and trim. In one popular hairstyle, the woman parted her hair on the side and styled it so that the curls remained largely in place close to the head. Alternatively, she could smooth the curls into short waves all around her head. This type of hairstyle lent itself easily to being worn under a hat or scarf - necessary with military uniforms for those in the waves or wacs as well as for workplace safety for those working in factories. Another fashionable style for short hair was achieved by finger-combing freshly curled hair and parting the hair from one central spot on the crown of the head. The hair was then curly all around the woman's face, with no part visible from the front.

Mid-length hair was likely the most flexible, enabling its wearer to pull it back or leave it long as she chose or as circumstances dictated. A common hairdo for this length of hair was to roll the sides up in large sausage rolls, leaving the back curly or wavy. Bangs were either pulled back into the sausage rolls or left curly. Alternatively, the front and sides were styled into large waves extending over the ears. Pageboys were popular during the 1940s, as well, with the hair parted on the side and smoothed down to the ends, which were left wavy or curled under. The pompadour was as popular with the ladies as it was with the gentlemen of the era.

To achieve this look, a woman backcombed the front section of her hair, then smoothed it over into a pouf in the front. The back section was both left loose and wavy or was pinned into a smart chignon. The most popular style for longer hair was undoubtedly the smooth and wavy style of Veronica Lake. This hairstyle was parted on the side and was styled very smooth and shiny right down to the slight curls at the ends.

If a woman wanted to be particularly seductive, she could style her hair so that it fell slightly over one eye, lending her an air of mystery. During the day, longer hair was often pulled up and out of the way. However, the 1940s woman strove for a stylish appearance even then. She might braid her hair with the sides and front pinned up in neat waves. Or she might choose to roll the front and sides into sausage rolls and contain the rest of her hair in a snood or hairnet. For an ultra-casual look, she could choose to pin her hair up and cover it with a scarf or handkerchief tied on the top.

Of course, updos weren't reserved for daytime only. Dressy occasions also called for an upswept look, often achieved by pinning up individual curls and waving the front and sides. No matter the style, 1940s hair was rarely straight. If your hair was not naturally curly, you either had it set in the salon or you curled it at home, using pin curls, rag rolls, curlers, or a curling iron. Above all, 1940s hairstyles were neat and stylish. Not letting the appearance falter was generally considered to be a patriotic gesture - typical of the American attitude during wartime.

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