Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at the best men’s hairstyles through the ages – namely, at the styles that defined and marked each decade. Continue scrolling and find out more about the mop-top, The Beatles’ famous hairstyle, dapper hairstyles, and pompadour, among many others.
We’ll start with 1920s hairstyles for men and then advance through the decades and up until the 2010s as we prepare for the new 20s, the 2020s.
The 1920s are considered the decade in which fashion and beauty entered the modern age. So they are the perfect period to start off this list. 1920s men’s hairstyles were characterized by hats.
With the exception of college fellas, most men wore hats and so went for slicked, shiny, flat-on-the-head hair. Also, they did not wear facial hair except for very thin mustaches – and only in some cases.
1. Slicked Back Hair
As stated above, most men would not go out of the house without a hat, so their hairstyles were specially adapted for that use. Slicked-back hair was perfect for this, especially thanks to the use of Brilliantine. This hair product was meant to smooth and flatten the hair, not shape it up. What a classic display of style. Go retro with this haircut.
2. Side Part with Wave Front
Side part hairstyle has also started becoming more common. The deep side part was a favorite among teenagers. Also, men with curly or wavy hair could straighten their hair or style it with a side wave. A very sleek and neat way of keeping your hair.
3. Slick and Side Parted Hair
The second most common option among men was the central part. Parted directly or slightly off-center, each side was perfectly slicked back and revealed the roots of the hair.
4. Middle-Parted Hair
Malcolm McGregor was an American actor of the silent movies era. He was famous for his clean-cut look and slicked-back hair that looked especially good, unlike his female counterparts. His career started waning, though, with the introduction of the first movies with sound effects and music.
5. Slick and Side Parted Hair with Mustache
The 20s were also the period when pop culture started being really influenced by movies and Hollywood culture. The everyday man started looking at stars and celebrities and copying their styles and looks.
After the Roaring Twenties and the craziness that was The Jazz Age, things came crashing down – the world entered the Great Depression, the crisis triggered by the Wall Street Crash of 1929. With another world war on the horizon as well, the style and fashion also got tamer and less extravagant.
1. Gatsby Hairstyle
Clark Gable is perhaps one of the most famous old Hollywood movie stars. Even at the time, he was commonly referred to as “The King of Hollywood.” His career spanned more than 3 decades, and he was one of the original style icons. A great reference for a gentlemanly look.
2. Classic Haircut
The 1930s are commonly lumped in with the 20s and 40s, but they had a particular style of their own. The roaring youth of the past decade transformed into styled, serious men – masculine and serious looking, responsible yet stylish. Hats were still in fashion too. If you are into a formal and classy style, this hairdo is perfect.
3. Short Curly Hair
As in the past decade, curly-haired men could wear their hair free and loose in its natural shape. However, they also wanted to keep their locks very short – especially on the sides – as was modern at the time.
4. Clean Cut
Life went on even when the world was in a crisis, so 1930s men still wanted to have an elegant look for a special occasion. This slicked-back style was the perfect look for a night at the opera, a wedding, a dance, or any other special event.
5. Comb Over Hair
The comb-over or combover was, at a time, most commonly used by balding men to cover up the patchier areas of their hair. However, the style became more common among men and became a style staple rather than a saving idea.
We’ve dedicated a special article to the best and coolest men’s hairstyles of the 1930s, so don’t forget to take a look at them too.
The 1940s were marked by WWII so it comes as no surprise that the styles of the time were more conservative, short, and easy to maintain as people had to rationalize everything.
However, while early 1940s styles for men were polished and usually groomed into a single wave, later on in the decade, the hair started getting looser and freer – in step with the times.
1. Dapper Haircut
Men in the 1940s made frequent visits to the barbershop to keep their hair perfectly groomed. The most popular and frequent hairstyles at the time involved keeping the side short and long top. Most men still preferred a clean-shaven look, but the ones that did sport facial hair chose a mustache – most commonly, the Errol Flynn one (but more on this a bit later on).
2. Styled Waves Widow’s Peak
Wavy hair was still considered very fashionable – but make no mistake; it also involved using many hair products to get this slick look. The look here shows how styled waves would look even on a man with a widow’s peak hairline. An iconic taste for a classic man.
3. Iconic Errol Flynn Cut
Errol Flynn is one of the most famous actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Besides his good looks and swashbuckler roles, he was also renowned for his mustache, which he debuted during one of his movies. In fact, he made this pencil-thin mustache style so popular that it is now known as the Errol Flynn stache.
4. Fade Haircut
Most men might not be aware of the fact that the undercut appeared and was all the rage between the 1910s to 1940s as well. Bellow, see a late 1940s men’s hairstyle characterized by looser hair and faded sides and undercut. These were also paired with a sparse-haired, thin mustache.
5. Side Part with Fade Hairstyle
This is a more modernized version of the common and very popular slicked-back with a deeper side-part look of the 20s to 40s. The sides were kept even shorter than usual by adding an above-the-ear fade.
The 1940s were also characterized by military haircuts – for obvious reasons, one might say.
The 1950s were, in a way, the perfect half-century period as the decade was characterized by being in a state of in-between. People were both conservative and rebellious at the same time – although the youth were more characterized by the latter.
1. Greaser Hairstyle
The term ‘greaser’ was used to describe a hairstyle that used a lot of hair products – usually and, in most cases, a greasy pomade. It also described the people wearing it: usually young men of the working class. Movies such as Grease or West Side Story helped bring this style back to attention.
2. The Rockabilly Pompadour
Fun fact: the pompadour first started being worn (again) in the early 1940s but really picked up speed in the later years of the decade and at the beginning of the 1950s. They became notorious once motorcycle-riding rebels started wearing them but gained a better image once singers such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley started sporting one too. Let’s go old-school! If you are a fan of this classic pompadour, have this a go!
3. Messy Slickback Hair
The King of Rock’n’Roll had many famous hairstyles throughout the years, but this is one of Elvis’s most relaxed looks. Here he is with dyed black hair styled in a pompadour-like style that was slicked back but in a messy way.
4. Rockabilly Side Parted Hair
Rockabilly is actually one of the first rock’n’roll music styles, a genre that swept over the nation and broke down barriers of all kinds. While the pompadour is most commonly associated with it, you could still wear a deep side, slicked back hairstyle and be part of the rockabilly culture.
5. The Flop 1950s Hairstyle
The flop hairstyle and haircut are an adaptation of the classic greaser look. Although it retains mostly the same silhouette – so it is similar to the pompadour or the ducktail – the top is left free and ungelled so that strands would fall over the forehead in a fringe-like manner. A perfect style to look decent. Give this a try.
The 1960s were yet another turbulent period in humanity’s history. After the prosperous 50s, the 60s came with price increases, new wars, and the rise of countercultures and movements, protests, and riots. Some of the most varied men’s hairstyles through the ages can be associated with and used to be sported during this decade.
1. Executive Slick Back Hair
Business wear was very common in the 1960s as many grown men took to imitating male heroes such as James Bond or Sean Connery. Hats also started being less worn, and the Ivy League look became very desirable even among middle-class young adults.
2. Mop Top
Another defining moment of this decade was the so-called British Invasion, just a part of the larger Mods movement. The Who and The Kinks can be numbered among them, but perhaps the most popular band was The Beatles which also brought their now world-famous mop-top hairstyle along for the ride. Everybody listened to them; everybody wanted to be them.
3. Hippie Hairstyle
The late 1960s also saw the rise of the hippie counterculture, which came as a response to the Vietnam war. Advocates of love and freedom and liberty, their values were reflected by their colorful and very patterned garments. Similarly, both women and men wore their hair long, messy, and free.
4. Thick Afro
As men started revealing their hair instead of hiding them behind a hat and letting it grow longer, this also gave rise to new hairstyles. The afro was a specifically important one among the category of longer hairstyles for men as African American men used it as an emblem of pride. A style that never ages.
5. The 60s Shag Haircut
The shag haircut is characterized by the fact that the locks are cut into layers of different lengths and sizes and Paul McGregor created it. A unisex style, it started becoming popular in the late 60s to early 70s as stars such as Mick Jagger, Joan Jett, and David Bowie started sporting it.
The 1970s came as a sort of natural continuation of the 60s as counterculture movements still reigned strong, and overproduction led to the popularization or fall of specific materials. Music was also a stronger influence than ever before on the way people dressed and styled themselves.
1. Medium Length Wavy Hair
The Mods were not the only British youth subculture to make a difference. In direct opposition came the Rockers – and then came the famous rock stars that we know and still love today. Take a look at a young Mick Jagger sporting a shag cut, for example. Rocker hair in the 70s grew longer as long hair became an emblem of the protest against the social norms of the day.
2. Short Mop-Top
As stated a bit above, the 60s men’s hairstyles flowed into the 70s fashion as pompadours and ducktails and even mop-top hairstyles were still in fashion. Although with the latter, the hair got shorter instead of longer – as was the norm during those years.
3. 1970s Messy Disco Hairstyle
While disco music had its heydays in the 1980s, it nonetheless emerged a decade earlier, in the 70s, and started being really famous towards its latter years. The 1970s disco look was a combination of a long mop-top with shag-like layers but resembling a helmet.
4. The 70s Afro Hairstyles for Men
In contrast to most men’s hairstyles through the ages, the afro became less common once it started getting popular. To put it simply, as more people started sporting a fro, especially Caucasian ones too, the afro hairstyle lost its political edge. While activists and musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and Angela Davis still sported one, many young people in the African American community turned their attention and replaced the fro with cornrows.
5. The Blowout Hairstyle – Young John Travolta
The 1970s blowout hairstyle was most famous among women – just look up Farrah Fawcett, for example – but could also be worn by men, as John Travolta goes too perfectly shown in this photo. It has a very feathery look as the mid-to-shoulder-length hair is turned outwards and away from the face. This displays your facial features.
Short hair made a comeback in the 1980s fashion for men – at least in the mainstream – but many rock stars and musicians still sported longer styles too.
At the same time, while mustaches were still in fashion among working men, beards fell completely out of style because of their association with certain subcultures.
1. The 1980s Rock Star
Rock stars in the 1980s went for excessive looks with big hairstyles, eccentric accessories, and tight clothing to contrast it all! The 80s were also the era of glam rockers, and you can learn how to dress like the 80’s just like one from articles such as this one.
2. The Classic Mullet
The classic mullet was the perfect way to mix fashion past and present, thanks to its short top and longer back. Mullets remained popular until the early 90s and were especially frequent and popular in rural and suburban areas at the time.
3. The Lionel Richie Jheri Curl Hairstyle
Anyone growing up in the 80s or who’s listened to the music of this decade can recognize Lionel Ritchie’s unique voice. But how many know the name of his haircut? Lo and behold, the Jheri curl, a hairstyle popular in the African American community. This curl-loosening hair treatment is distinguishable thanks to its super wet look.
4. Slick Brushed Back Hair
This hairstyle combines the slick back, the mullet, and brushed-back hair. It could be the perfect style for a man looking to combine two or even all three of them for a truly unique look, even for that decade.
5. 1980s Bandana Hairstyles
As we said in the first entry on this list of 1980s hairstyles for men, rock stars of that decade used to wear hair accessories, and bandannas were definitely among them!
Hairstyles and fashion, in general, in the 1990s took a more minimalist approach to things. At least in the early years of the decade, many of the popular styles of the 80s were still trending.
However, the rise of alternative and grunge music gave rise to a simpler, messier look. Also, people started turning their back to fashion and going for a more casual look.
1. Kurt Cobain Mid to Long-Length Hairstyles
Kurt Cobain, the frontman of Nirvana, was one of the idols of the youth generation of the 90s. He wore his hair straight, mid to long, and unruly with a central part and the long, frontal, face-framing locks swept and held behind the ears.
2. The Classic Flat Top Haircut
The flattop or flat top haircut was most popular amongst members of the African American community and very much specific to the period as the hair was kept basically short. The hair on top stands upright and is cut into a flat-looking deck.
3. Johnny Depp 90s Heartthrob Hairstyle
Fresh-faced and young and long before his Pirates of the Caribbean and Jack Sparrow days, Johnny Depp wore short hair with significantly longer tresses in the front, curtain bangs-style. This was one of the quintessential heartthrob hairstyles of this decade.
4. Curtain Bangs Hairstyles
Curtain bangs were the only acceptable and fashionable way to wear long hair in the last decade of the last century. Curtained hair remained very popular and was sported by many famous people, including Brendan Fraser (see below) and Hugh Grant, one of the heartthrobs of the 90s.
5. 1990s Spiky Style with Frosted Tips
Spiky hairstyles started rising in popularity at the end of the 90s in opposition to long hair – which started being considered unattractive. Besides using a lot of gel to get the look, dark-haired men also dyed the tips of their locks blonde or at least in lighter shades than their base color.
The fashion of the 2000s is basically a combination of all previous styles – from vintage to ethnic to global – all in a sort of a mash-up. 1990s styles still remained popular throughout the first years of the decade, and globalization helped bring in new styles and trends as well.
1. David Beckham Faux Hawk Hairstyle
David Beckham was and still is one of the most stylish men in the world and one of the biggest sources of inspiration for men worldwide. In this picture, he is sporting the spiked-up, sorta faux hawk look specific to the late 90s, early 20s.
2. Justin Bieber Teen Moptop
Justin Bieber, a very young Justin Bieber in his “Baby” days, brought back a modern variation of the mop-top. While the silhouette is the same, the hair is swept to the side, and the bangs arrange themselves with the Bieber flick.
3. Emo Hairstyles
Emo hairstyles were also still going strong in the 2000s. The guy in this photo is the perfect example of how young people used to wear their hair shaggy, in long layers, and with long bangs that traditionally covered one of the eyes for a ‘mysterious’ look.
4. 2000s Blowout Hairstyle
The blowout hairstyle of the 2000s had the locks being blown upwards instead of the side. Also, the sides get shaved or faded for the perfect long-top look. The blowout is not the only vintage hairstyle to make a reappearance – but rather, one of the many, as you will continue seeing.
5. Side Bangs Hairstyles – Brad Pitt Style
Among the many Brad Pitt hairstyles that you can enjoy seeing in our article specially dedicated to him, we wanted to single out this side bangs look. He wears his hair parted to the side and with long bangs.
And we have reached modern times and our days and ages. We won’t be telling you any more about the styles of the present – you know them, by the way.
1. Man Bun Hairstyles
The much-beloved, much discussed, much-debated man bun. This hairstyle is one of the staples of hipster fashion; the subculture turned into the main culture that’s been ruling the last part of the 2010s. At least in the vision of some, the rise of the man bun also marks the liberation of men’s hair restraints as guys are once again starting to let their locks grow longer.
2. The 2010s Undercut
As stated and as you will continue seeing, the 2010s brought back and modernized many styles of the past – including the undercut, a haircut, and style many thought to be new. Also, this photo shows a very cool adaptation of both the undercut and the classy swept-back look.
3. The Modern French Crop Haircut
One of the ways in which any man can modernize his French Crop haircut is by cutting in an undercut and shaving or just fading the sides – you don’t necessarily have to go skin fade on things. Don’t hesitate to go for choppy bangs either – after all, the fringe is one of the many elements of this cut.
4. The Modern Bowl Cut
The bowl cut is another very much discussed and debated hairstyle. While some (many?) had to face the horrors of going out on the street with it when they were younger, the modern version of this cut is as cool as cool gets. See some of the best ways to sport it and learn more about its history in this article specially dedicated to the bowl cut.
5. Short Sides Long Top Hairstyles
The modern take on the long top, short sides hairstyle takes things to the extreme – at least when compared to their preservers. Just take this image as an example of how you can very handsomely wear mid to long hair on top with completely shaved sides and a stubble beard for a more masculine look.
And we are back to modern times after taking a trip down memory lane – or more like history – and discovering some of the most interesting men’s hairstyles through the ages.
The styles and cuts that made it on this list were selected because they were a staple of their times – either by representing a subculture or the decade’s prevailing trends.
So now that you know a bit more about them, what’s it gonna be for you? Will you be looking them up to find out more about them? Or are you planning on outright bringing some of the back? Comment and let’s chat!
Lilith Wetherall is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger. She graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and a minor in Journalism. She later found her passion for hairstyles and is now professing in a men’s salon. Some of her favorite things to do include reading, writing, watching movies, and being outdoors. When she’s not writing for our readers, she is either at the salon or at home trying out a new hair color.