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?

Boomers Say a Fond Goodbye to More Icons of the Era

This past week two bright lights of boomer pop culture were extinguished. Both were women whose names were hardly household words in the lives of boomers, yet boomers definitely knew of their work: Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson; and Margaret Vinci Heldt, the creator of the Beehive hairdo.

Janet Waldo 1920-2016
Janet Waldo broke into acting as a teenager with bits parts in films like What a Life (1939) and on radio shows throughout the 1940s. In 1943 she became the star of the radio show, Meet Corliss Archer, playing the role of the title character, a 15 year old girl-next-door. Her teenage girl roles would follow her throughout her career. She went on to appear on radio shows including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and more than 100 animated and TV shows, including I Love Lucy (1952), The Phil Silvers Show (1955) and Get Smart (1966), to name only a few.

Janet Waldo became best-known to boomers as the voice of animated characters, most notably, Judy Jetson in the original The Jetsons TV show (1962). The animated show ran one season, but remained in syndication through 1983. In 1985 new episodes were created, then a TV movie, Rockin’ With Judy Jetson — with Janet as Judy — debuted in 1988. She reprised her role as Judy Jetson in Jetsons: The Movie (1990), but after her part was recorded, she was replaced by Tiffany when the studio decided the pop star would help the movie at the box office. She was quoted as saying she was hurt by the slight, and felt it was disloyal of Hanna-Barbera. Yet she expressed her gratitude for the relationship she had had with the studio and continued to work.

Throughout the the 1960s and ’70s and into the ’80s, Janet continued to lend her voice to cartoons. Among boomer favorite shows where she voiced a character were: The Atom Ant Show (1965); as mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople on The Flintstones; as Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races (1968); and Josie McCoy in Josie and the Pussycats (1970).

Her last credit was a voice role on an episode of King of the Hill in 1998. At 96 years old, Janet was the last surviving cast member of the original Jetsons. For boomers everywhere, she will always be Judy Jetson to us.

Margaret Vinci Heldt 1918- 2016
The world will remember Margaret Vinci Heldt for giving us the Beehive hairdo. She broke into the hairdressing industry in the late 1930, and by the 1950s, had her own hair salon — Margaret Vinci Coiffures — on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. She won the National Coiffure Championship in 1954, and through her industry accolades, was asked to contribute to Modern Beauty Shop Magazine on many occasions. In 1960, the magazine wanted to talk about the new decade and what hairstyles might look like, so they asked Margaret to come up with something new and different. Popular hairstyles in the 1950s were dominated by the Pageboy, Flip and French twist, so Margaret wondered if it was time to try something on top of the head. She said she was inspired by a pillbox hat that she owned. She had always wanted to create a hairstyle that the hat could be worn with, so the Beehive was born.

The new ‘do caught on in a big way throughout the early-to-mid 1960s with young film stars and top music stars, including Brigitte Bardot, Priscila Presley, the Ronettes, Audrey Hepburn, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda and many more. After disappearing for a while, the hairdo is popular with celebrities once again. We have seen the B-52s (of course), Marge Simpson, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Penelope Cruz, Adele, Katy Perry, the late Amy Winehouse and many others, all sporting versions of the Beehive.

Mister Boomer enjoyed the Jetsons, but has to admit he wasn’t a great fan of the Judy Jetson character. George, Rosie and Astro were his favorite characters. Through the years, though, he certainly learned to admire the vocal greats of the era, especially the female greats like Janet Waldo and June Foray.

As to the Beehive, Mister Boomer has first-hand recollection. Not only did his mother don a Beehive in the 1960s, he had several cousins who also wore the ‘do in their high school pictures. Early boomers were teenagers when the Beehive appeared, so the timing was right for boomer girls to grab onto the latest hair fashions. As such, Mister B recalls the neighborhood girl who often babysat for Mister B and his siblings perpetually wore a Beehive; the hairdo just fit certain people or personalities. Though Mister B knew his cousins without their high school Beehives for decades after, the babysitter will forever be frozen in time with shellacked hair rising above her head.

What memories of Judy Jetson or Beehive hairdos do you have, boomers?