Although it seems to be a decade so far removed from us, the 1930s were, in fact, the moment in time when everything modern started as far as men’s style is concerned. It was in the 1930s that men began to take after their favorite celebrities, much as we do now. It was also the haircuts they wore that gave birth to the taper fades and disconnects of today.
Are you curious to know how? See the video and scroll down for the full 50 1930s men’s hairstyles to take you back in time.
1. The Clark Gable Hairstyle
This is actor Clark Gable during the shooting of Manhattan Melodrama in 1934. He was one of the most prestigious actors of the moment and, naturally, his look and hairstyles were copied all around.
2. The Frank Sinatra Slick Hairstyle
One thing that was against the rules in the 1930s for men was for them to wear long hair. Men were just surfacing from the 1910s and 20s, periods in which nothing but extremely short and slick hair hid under a broad-brimmed hat was acceptable.
3. The Errol Flynn Fringe Hairstyle
Here’s actor Errol Flynn on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex in 1939. Errol was a massive star of the decade, even though he has been largely forgotten today. He was also considered one of the best actors of his generation.
4. The Cary Grant Wavy Hairstyle
Rebelling a bit against the strictness of the previous decade, 1930s men’s hairstyles meant a little long hair in the front and on top and very short hair on the sides and faded in the back. Everything was covered in oil or cream.
5. The James Roosevelt Haircut for Men
This is James Roosevelt, the son of President Roosevelt. He’s wearing a very roguish version of 1930s men’s hairstyles with a small strand of hair falling on his forehead, not unlike what you would see on Zayn Malik today, for example.
6. The Gary Cooper Wet Look Hairstyle
Here’s actor Gary Cooper photographed in 1934 by George Hoyningen-Huene. To get this desired wet look, men used copious amounts of a product called Brilliantine. Essentially, this was an oily and perfumed liquid. Fun fact – when Grease was released in Canada, they renamed it Brilliantine, based on their hairstyles.
7. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Taper Fade Haircut
It’s very easy to see how 1930s men’s hairstyles were the great-grandfathers of today’s taper fade haircuts. Men were trying to keep their hair shorter on the sides and in the back according to tradition but also grow it a bit like the actors in the movies.
8. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr.
Speaking of haircuts that we still have today, here’s a pompadour from the 1930s for you. As you can see, it also features a hard part on one side and it has been slicked with a lot of grease or oil.
9. The Jimmy Stewart Haircut
Actor Jimmy Stewart appeared in movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Rear Window. This picture of him in the 30s proves that he too used to wear what is now considered the epitome of 1930s men’s hairstyles.
10. Simple 1930s Men’s Hairstyle
Men who couldn’t afford to go to the barber in those days got their hair cut at home. This resulted in very rough backs or sides which might even have been shaved off completely. That’s how the taper fade and modern disconnect were invented.
11. Curly 1930s Men’s Hairstyle
Even if you had curly hair, the same rule applied to 1930s men’s hairstyles. Your hair needed to be as short as possible on the sides, almost like the modern undercut we have now and a little longer on top.
12. Handsome 1930s Mens Hairstyles
You would normally part your hair on one side, slick it over, and then apply a lot of Brilliantine or another oil or pomade very loosely to make it stick to your scalp, not move the entire day, and shine like crazy.
13. The Fred Astaire 1930s Hairstyle
Alongside Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire made true Hollywood history in movies such as Top Hat, Funny Face, and Swing Time. He was also one of the most stylish men of the decade, wearing 1930s men hairstyles like none other.
14. The John Wayne Haircut For Men
Winning the Oscar for True Grit and surnamed The Duke, John Wayne is a Hollywood legend. He was undeniably helped by his good looks, which included his wavy 1930s men’s hairstyles and classic handsome features.
15. Elegant 1930s Men’s Hairstyle
This is what men would look like if they went to a special event such as a wedding, a party or the opera in the 1930s. It all looks over the top to us now, but you were considered underdressed if you didn’t follow the dress code.
16. 1930s Men’s Hairstyle with a Comb Over
This is an actual ad from the 1930s for the tennis shirt the model is wearing. The commercial also included instructions to the open stitch pattern so that you could knit it for yourself. It is valuable to us because it gives us a glimpse of how men used to style their hair and clothes during that decade.
17. 1930s Men’s Hairstyle for the Beach
Taken on the French Riviera at Cannes, this photograph belongs to a very early series by the brothers Louis, Jules, and Henri Seeberger. They were meant to depict street style in the 1930s. We get to see what men wore as casual outfits at the beach during those days.
18. Business 1930s Men’s Hairstyle
A business hairstyle from the 1930s would have the same elegant, slicked-back look that has been treated with as much pomade or oil as it can take. The well-tailored suit with large, baggy pants was considered the height of fashion.
19. Wavy 1930s Men’s Hairstyle
Here is the cover of a 1930s men’s catalog which advertises a sweater that was very trendy back then. However, we are more interested in the wavy, slicked-back hairstyle, which produced the image of a clean-cut and elegant man.
20. Boyish 1930s Men’s Hairstyle
Even boyish or teenage haircuts were as elegant as the rest. Perhaps they were a little longer, younger men being allowed to wear longer locks. However, you can see the same sense of order and fall into a neat line everywhere. Later on, this is exactly the look and idea that the 1950s men will rebel against and start wearing pompadours. They would be called “The Greasers.”
21. The Walt Disney
Here is a very young Walt Disney posing with his very first Oscar award which he won in 1939 for a short film called Flowers and Trees. He is styled according to the decade in a light yet tailored suit and a slicked back comb-over.
22. The Robert Pattinson 1930s Haircut
Let’s move on now from actual classics and real pictures of actors and stylish men of the decade and see how Hollywood depicts the 30s in men’s hairstyles and clothing today. This is actor Robert Pattinson in Water for Elephants.
23. The Aidan Turner
Actor Aidan Turner starred in And Then There Were None, adapted after the famous novel by Agatha Christie, a movie set in the 30s. His wavy black hair is slick and shiny, exactly like most men used to wear it back then.
24. The Josh O’Connor Hairstyle
Here’s actor Josh O’Connor, one of the stars of the hit TV series The Durrells in Corfu, about a British family who moves to Corfu during the 30s. His take on 1930s men’s hairstyles is a bit more modern and loose.
25. The Johnny Depp 1930s Look
Another slightly more modern take on 1930s men’s hairstyles than it should be belongs to Johnny Depp in Public Enemies. His messy pompadour seems to be off by some two decades, perhaps finding a better home in the 50s.
26. Leonardo DiCaprio Hairstyle with Bangs
Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Howard Hughes in The Aviator to great success and he cut a fantastic figure dress and styled in a 1930s fashion. However, he didn’t seem able to ditch his 90s heartthrob haircut and fully adhere to 1930s men’s hairstyles.
27. The Russell Crowe Haircut
Russell Crowe’s haircut in Cinderella Man is a little too long to be among genuine 1930s men’s hairstyles. However, we could pass it as a poor man’s version of the decade’s most fashionable cuts, which is exactly what his character was all about.
28. The Indiana Jones Hairstyle
Although Indy’s haircut is spot on and extremely accurate as far as 1930s men’s hairstyles go, the beard is out of place. A prominent figure like Indiana Jones would have never worn facial hair in the 30s.
29. The Tom Hanks Classic Haircut
This is actor Tom Hanks in the movie The Green Mile, an adaptation after the novel of the same name by Stephen King, set in the 1930s. As we have previously seen on this list, his curly hair is styled perfectly for that decade.
30. The Matt Damon Side Part Haircut
Although it is understandable that Matt Damon is going for a bit of a young boy look in The Legend of Bagger Vance, almost no men would have worn bangs in that decade. All 1930s men’s hairstyles were slicked back with tons of pomade.
31. Will Smith’s Natural Afro Hairstyles
Here’s Will Smith in the same movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, with a slightly overgrown and natural afro that might have been just as out of place in the 30s as Matt Damon’s bangs. But he does, indeed, look very good.
32. Tom Hardy Haircut
One man who got it extremely right is actor Tom Hardy who portrayed Forrest Bondurant in Lawless. His undercut comes very close to a taper fade, and he has longer hair on top with a side part and a lot of oil to keep it in place.
33. The Anthony Andrews
Let’s cross over to the British side of the pond now and see what men made of the 1930s over there. This is the fantastic aesthetic of Brideshead Revisited. We’ll start with the 1981 adaptation and Anthony Andrews as Lord Sebastian Flyte. Although a perfect casting choice, his blonde bangs might be a little out of place in the 30s.
34. The Ben Wishaw
Here’s the second Sebastian in the 2008 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. Although he has the famous 1930s side part, he’s missing the hair pomade and the slick back. We’re happy to see he’s holding Aloysius, though.
35. The Jeremy Irons Hairstyle
The other main man in Brideshead is Charles Ryder portrayed first by Jeremy Irons. He is a great example of 1930s men’s hairstyle for young college boys, just like we’ve seen James Roosevelt in an original photo from the decade a few paragraphs above.
36. The Matthew Goode Slick Back Haircut
The second Charles Ryder was portrayed by actor Matthew Goode in the 2008 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. He is an even better reimagining of 1930s men’s hairstyles with slicked back, oiled up hair and a slight taper fade on the sides.
37. The Jesse Eisenberg
When actor Jesse Eisenberg starred in Woody Allen’s Café Society, he really brought back the 1930s for us. His hairstyle is as close to perfection as is humanly possible, with a set of finger waves that is highly reminiscent of the 20s as well.
38. The Steve Carrell
This is a still of actor Steve Carrell in the same 1930s-based Café Society. He too is wearing a very accurate hairstyle for the decade with a side part and his hair slicked back with a copious amount of oil.
39. The Kenneth Branagh
If the mustache alone didn’t give him away, this is actor Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in 2018’s Murder on the Orient Express. Although he did receive a bit of flack from fans and critics alike for it, his hairstyle is perfect for that decade.
40. The Josh Gad
Actor Josh Gad was part of the roster for the same Murder on the Orient Express. No spoilers. His take on 1930s men’s hairstyle is up to par as well and, we’re glad to say that Gad’s mustache makes the cut too.
41. The Sergei Polunin
This internationally famous ballet dancer was chosen to play the Prince on Orient Express. Here he is with a wonderfully oiled up slick back. His chestnut hair highlights his fantastically blue eyes and balances his beautifully carved features.
42. The Johnny Depp
Here’s Johnny Depp the second time around on our list of 1930s men’s hairstyles. This time, he has nailed the look of the decade with a simple slick back with plenty of pomade and a pencil mustache.
43. The Bradley Cooper
This is actor Bradley Cooper in Serena, a movie set in the 1930s and in which he starred alongside Jennifer Lawrence. He is wearing a messy and slightly modern version of 1930s men’s hairstyles.
44. The Ralph Fiennes
We have seen many contemporary Hollywood actors star in movies set in the 30s and, consequently, trying to replicate the look and hairstyles. However, the top spot goes to Ralph Fiennes. In the movie The English Patient, he looked like he might have lived through the 30s.
45. The Adrien Brody
Peter Jackson’s King Kong takes the 30s with a grain of salt. And so do his characters and the way they are dressed and styled. After all, this is a movie about a giant gorilla who fights dinosaurs and then goes rampant in New York.
46. The Robert De Niro
If we awarded first place for best 1930s men’s hairstyles lookalike to Ralph Fiennes, actor Robert De Niro comes in at a close second. This is him in Once Upon a Time in America and his look is spot on.
47. The Colin Firth
We’re back to England once again to watch Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George in The King’s Speech. His royal style, however, saw less hair pomade or oil and more layers and chestnut hair coloring.
48. The Stuart Townsend
As far as 1930s men’s hairstyles go, Stuart Townsend’s one in Head in the Clouds wasn’t the closest resemblance to the real deal. Still, it was a good movie to watch and he looked as handsome as ever.
49. The Dan Stevens
Portraying a small country lawyer who suddenly finds out he has inherited a large estate and the aristocratic title of Earl of Grantham, Dan Stevens cuts a very dapper and extremely handsome figure as Matthew Crawley in the smashingly successful TV series Downton Abbey.
50. The Hugh Bonneville
The man Dan Stevens stands to inherit his fortune and title from is the current Earl, Robert Grantham, portrayed by Hugh Bonneville. His 1930s haircut is perfect for a mature man with a side part and a taper fade.
51. The Burt Lancaster
For extra coiled hair, go wild with this Burt Lancaster look. Dreamy and classy, with longer sides but perfectly shaved beard, this look could be considered a weapon.
52. The Christoph Waltz
Academy0Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz played his share of 1930s characters, so naturally, check out this 1930s inspired look with a Chevron mustache.
53. The Peter O’Toole
Moving across the pond again, we got Laurence of Arabia himself, Peter O’Toole. Check out this 30s style slick side comb and say it doesn’t look cool.
Pomade and oils were the most used hair products of this era. Check out the Pomade section from our Best Hair & Beard Products Guide if you’re going for that 1930s hairstyle!
The 1930s were an era of glamour and elegance for men who sought to copy the actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age as much as they could. Therefore, 1930s men’s hairstyles became a fertile ground which, almost 80 years later gave us the taper fade, the disconnected haircut, and the undercut. Let us know in the comment section below which one of these was your favorite!
This article was updated in May 2019.