Men’s Grooming: Eras Of Inspiration

Hair Ideas & Inspiration

Men’s Grooming: Eras Of Inspiration

13 Mar 2015

Featured article image: SFIO CRACHO /

First man hunted mammoth for meat. Then man made fire. Then, once his dinner had gone down, he whittled himself a nice ivory brush and comb set from the leftover tusks, and sat around getting his hair right. Well probably not, but that doesn't mean that men's grooming hasn't been with us since the dawn of history - and though he may not always want to shout about it, man has cared deeply about his hair for millennia.

Amongst the male citizens of Ancient Rome a short, well-coiffured haircut was worn with pride, and created the vital distinction between members of a civilised culture and the countless races of long-haired savages they conquered. We may imagine the Viking's as hairy ocean-going burglars, but items found in the 3000-year-old graves of Scandinavian men include bronze-cast straight-edged razors and even tweezers.

We may have moved from sundials to smart-phones, but hairstyles for men haven't altered that radically over the preceding centuries, and although we've pretty much all agreed to swerve the medieval bowl-cut, which didn't even work under full armour, vintage styles from nearly every decade over the past hundred years can still be used as the basis for an edgy 21st century look.

Welcome to the 1920s, a stylish time when many of the centuries old social conventions were swiftly eroded. Never-mind Downton Abbey, this was the jazz era, and men were looking super smooth, as the ubiquitous product Brilliantine slicked male hair into sharp side partings (a look immortalised by 20s silver-screen idol Rudolph Valentino). Also prevalent was the under-cut. With clipped short sides and longer combed-back strands on top it's another classic standard from gentlemen's barber that's enjoyed a recent resurgence.

Everett Collection
Image credit: Everett Collection

Evolving from the undercut, 30's 40's and were decades dominated by a cut that came to encapsulate smart functional men's hair grooming; the 'short back and sides'. With so many recruited into the army during this period, the style developed from the necessity of wearing hair shorter outside the cap (with a little more length allowed  underneath). Given a rebellious tweak this gave rise to the rock and roll looks that are associated with James Dean and the image of the first 50s 'bad boys', and has been brought bang up to date by the 21 century fashion guru himself, David Beckham.

Image credit: Terence

As the 1960's got swinging the counterculture made long hair the counterpoint to the short styles of the previous generation, a statement of expression that defined the next twenty years as 'the shaggy' decades. Growing hair longer was reclaimed as a sign of virility, beginning with the pendulous Rockabilly quiffs pioneered by musical icons such as  Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and soon mutating into the natural freeform styles sported by fashion leaders like The Beatles, before peace, love and 'letting it all grow out' became the hippy manifesto.

In retrospect, men's hair fashion took a rather unfortunate turn in the 70's and 80's, so sorry if this was your era! It was a time when footballers wore their mullets with pride, and the super-long heavy-rock look permed itself frighteningly into 'hair-metal'. Yet today, even the mullet has been enjoying a post-modern resurgence, and you can only wonder if the power poodle look sported by the likes of Jon Bon Jovi will soon be in demand once again...

Men were still hanging onto their longer looks as we entered the 90s and grunge became the cultural big hitter. Oodles of hair had never been so popular not only on top but around the face, the age of the unkempt man had truly arrived, and divides ladies opinions to this day!

Today there have never been so many looks for men to rock, and with sales of men's hair products and accessories on a steady rise one thing's for certain, whatever style you choose, men's grooming has never been so fashionable or taken more seriously - whether we want to admit it or not!