Did Boomer Girls Choose Their Hair Length?

The prime boomer years of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s saw drastic changes in fashion, and with it, hair styles and length. Mister Boomer has previously talked about how long hair for boys and men grabbed the attention of baby boomers (Boomers Watched the Long Hair Trend Grow), but what was happening with girls and women?

When we look at TV programs of the the early days of the era, adult women wore a “moderate” style and length, often curled, while the young girls in the shows generally had shoulder length or longer hair. Take a look at Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver (1957-63), or Jane Wyatt as Margaret Anderson in Father Knows Best (1954-60). In the movies of the early 1960s, however, a mix of hair lengths for women appeared on screen. Audrey Hepburn wore a popular bob style in movies throughout the 1950s and into the ’60s, while Marilyn Monroe sported the more natural look that made inroads with women after the War, and Brigitte Bardot epitomized the longer style associated with sex kittens of the era. Meanwhile, the beehive hairdo burst on the scene in 1960, and many music icons of the time adopted the style, including The Ronettes, Aretha Franklin, and Priscilla Presley, to name a few. Then, as now, popular culture — TV, movies and music icons — highly influenced the styles girls wanted to wear.

As with boys and men, the 1960s brought a revolution of personal expression. Hair lengths were marked at the extremes by the long hair of the Hippies to the short, even what some termed boyish-length hair like supermodel Twiggy’s pixie cut that she wore in her famous photo shoots. Both styles were rebellious in the eyes of boomer parents, yet girls persisted in experimenting with different styles and lengths.

Throughout the boomer years, for both boys and girls, the notion of hair style as protest was widely prevalent. In the 1950s, Black women associated with civil rights activism began to wear their hair unstraightened as a protest against the established hair styles of the previous era. By the 1960s, that trend continued among those involved in Vietnam War protests, the Feminist movement, and the Black Is Beautiful movement. The result was the style known as the Natural or the Afro, a spherical shape sported by the likes of women as different as Angela Davis, Pam Grier and Diana Ross.

To recap and very generally speaking, boomer girls wore their hair the way their mothers wanted them to in the 1950s and early ’60s. By the time they were rebelling teenagers, they may have wanted to experiment with styles they saw on TV and in movies, but that would have to wait. For many boomer girls, control over their own hair style would not be theirs until their parents put up their hands in surrender once their rebellious teen got to high school. (What’s the matter with kids these days?)

When the 1970s arrived, women had a wide choice of hair styles and lengths they could adopt, based on their own personalities. However, once boomer girls began their working careers, they found their hair styles were not so much limited by their mother or society as the companies for which they would work; the business world still had a hold on what it deemed acceptable. It is only now, decades later, that states have enacted legislation to protect a woman’s right to wear her hair in the manner that she chooses, and that is not federal policy.

How about it, boomer ladies? Do you have fond memories of early hairsyles, or were they traumatic experiences?