How to Do '50s Hairstyles

by Michelle Powell-Smith

Capture the iconic hairstyles of the 1950s, whether your hair is short or long. Some of these styles remain fashionable and relevant today -- imagine wearing Grace Kelly's classic look to a formal event, while others are perfect for a retro party, dance or vintage car show.

Prepping Your Hair

Whether your hair is short or long, you need to start any '50s style with curls. You can opt for a traditional wet set with curlers for long hair or pin curls for short hair. This is a time-consuming option, and can be copied with hot rollers or a small- or medium-barrel curling iron. Go smaller for a curlier style and bigger for a straighter one. Use pin curl clips to secure your curls until you're ready to style. For most styles, set the crown of your hair with curls going back. Bangs, if you have them, can be curled under or back, depending upon the style you prefer. The sides and back should be curled downward.

Sock-Hop Sweet

For a young and playful look, mimic Audrey Hepburn's playful style in Funny Face. The style is simple -- a high, curled ponytail with curled under, short bangs. Start with curled hair, with the curls brushed into soft waves. Curl your bangs down and under, and then brush them to the sides. Flip your head over and brush your hair into a high, tight ponytail. Your ponytail should sit at the very back of the crown of your head. Wrap the ponytail with a hair elastic. Brush through, rolling the ends under using your hand. Finally, tie a ribbon around your ponytail in a neat bow. Finish with a light-hold hairspray.

Cocktail Classic

Create the ladylike and polished curls of Elizabeth Taylor or the looser and more playful 'do associated with Marilyn Monroe on medium length hair. This look works best with layers, but they're not essential. You can achieve a similar style with hair between chin-length and shoulder-length. Set your hair into curls. Once you're curled, you'll side part the hair, brush a lot and finish with a high-shine spray for Elizabeth Taylor's sleek styles. To create Marilyn's girl-next-door look, limit how much you brush and keep some of your curls distinct. The look is soft, a little bit messy and can even look tousled, especially for casual wear. Finish with a light hold spray, rather than one that creates a high-shine look. You can create a similar style on shorter hair, all the way down to a pixie, relying on a small-barrel curling iron or pin curls as the basis for the style.

Golden Girl Glam

Grace Kelly, later Princess Grace of Monaco, always appeared with her pale golden hair perfectly coiffed in a long pageboy. While the hair isn't worn curly, you'll still start with rollers or curl your hair with a curling iron, but keep your curls loose. Brush through the curls, parting your hair into a deep side part. Smooth the hair into a curving wave moving back from the face on each side, with a strong curl under at the back. Finish with a high-shine serum and hairspray to avoid any flyaway strands.

About the Author

With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.