By Mark McConville
THESE GUYS were crazy for curls as these stunning retro pictures from 1953 reveal that gentlemen preferred perms.
The incredible images show a young man looking at various styles in a shop window before entering a salon, a stylist neatening up the quiff after the hair was permed and another man admiring the finished hairstyle in the mirror.
Other striking shots show a young man with his hair set in perming rods before having them removed to reveal wavy locks of hair and a stylist concentrating on his work while he sports a similar style to the man whose hair he is cutting.
The remarkable black and white photographs were taken at the Hounslow salon of Leonard Pountney, London in October 1953.
The young men of the 1950’s became more hair conscious and started thinking in terms of hair styling including permanent waves.
A permanent wave, commonly called a perm or “permanent”, involves the use of heat and/or chemicals to break and reform the cross-linking bonds of the hair structure. The hair is washed and wrapped on a form and waving lotion or ‘reagent’ is applied. This solution reacts chemically softening the inner structure of the hair by breaking some of the cross links within and between the protein chains of the hair.
The hair swells, stretches and softens, then moulds around the shape of the form.
The 1950s was a decade known for experimentation with new styles and culture. Following World War II and the austerity years of the post-war period, the 1950s were a time of comparative prosperity, which influenced fashion and the concept of glamour.
Hairstylists invented new hairstyles for wealthy patrons. Influential hairstylists of the period include Sydney Guilaroff, Alexandre of Paris and Raymond Bessone who took French hair fashion to Hollywood, New York and London, popularising the pickle cut, the pixie cut and bouffant hairstyles.
The development of hair-styling products, particularly setting sprays, hair-oil and hair-cream, influenced the way in which hair was styled, and the way in which people across the world wore their hair, from day to day. Women’s hair styles of the 1950s were in general less ornate and more informal than those of the 1940s, with a “natural” look being favoured, even if it was achieved by perming, setting, styling and spraying.
Mature men’s hairstyles were always short and neat, and generally maintained with hair-oil. Even among “rebellious youth” with longer greased hair, carrying a comb and maintaining the hairstyle was part of the culture.