*** boys hair styles -- Ameican country trends United States U.S. specific styles

American Boys' Hair Styles: Specific Styles

boys' hair styles

Figure 1.--Ringlet curls were probably more popular in America than any other country. We see them througout the 19th century, but especially in th late-19th century. They were also worn in the early 20th century. This portait is undated, but was proban;y taken in the 1900s. Ringlets are especially associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy suit, ut were worn with masny other outfits such as sailor suits.

American boys have worn a wide range of different hair styles over time. The variations and diversity are notable. We have collected some information on many of these styles. A basic short gair style combed over in the front was by far the most common style throughout the 20th century, but even when this standard style was dominant, it was never universal. Fashion was a factor here, but the variable physical characteristics of hair was another factor. Some styles like bangs are a recurring fashion over time. We note a variety of different styles for bangs as well as varying age connotations. Others like ringlets had a relatively brief popularity. There have been a variety of long styles as well as a variety of short styles. Short styles seemed very popular in the 1950s following World War II when many future fathers had their hair cut short during military service. These short cropped cuts do not seem to have been nearly as popular in the late 19th and early 20th century when many European boys had close cropped hair. Some styles like long sideburns in the 1950s were teen-age styles that parents did not permit for younger children.


Some styles like bangs are a recurring fashion over time. We note a variety of different styles for bangs as well as varying age connotations. Others like ringlets had a relatively brief popularity. There have been a variety of long styles as well as a variety of short styles. A HBC reader informs us that she has cannot find any mention of the word "bangs" being used anywhere else in the world (except Britain) in relation to hairstyles. We have few details about chronological trends with the bangs fashion. We do know that many American boys in the 19th century did wear bangs. This may have been in part the unintentional result of a "bowl" cut which was common for frontier and rural boys whose mothers cut their hair. Interestingly, bangs were often used in combination with ringlet curls for boys, often from affluent city families, receiving very fancy hair styles. Bangs were really popular during the 1960s in America. Before the Beatles hit, long bangs in the front were the "Surfer" look that boys, especially in Junior and High school really liked. If you were blond, or could bleach your hair, you were really cool. The rest of the haircut was short, except for the bangs, which could hang down to your eyebrows. When the Beatles got popular, the rest of the hair on the head caught up with the bangs. The rather shaggu bangs of a young John F. Kennedy Jr, in the early 1960s also had an impact on boys' hair styling. The question of whether bangs has been more common in America than other countries, that may well be the case, but it is a question we have not yet persued in details--so I can not give a definitive answer yet.

Bowl Cuts

A popular cut for younger boys was the bowl cut. This was a cut where the hair was cur short at the neck and below the upper or mid-ear. It of course got its name because mother used a bowl which allowed an ecent cut all around the head, inclusing a cut to the same length at both sides. This was because it was an easy cut for mother to give and the boy did not have to be taken to the barber. We see these cuts in both the late 19th and early 20th century. Ages varied. They were most common for younger boys in the cities. In rural and western areas where barbers were less common and people were less affluent, older boys might have bowl cuts as well. By their teen years, however, boys generally wanted a more mature cut. Nowl cuts seem especially common in America, but we are not entorely sure about other countries.


Hair bows are primarily associated witn girls. We note, however, many younger American boys wearing hair bows This was especially common for boys wearing ringlet curls, but we see other long or moderately long hair styles with bows. They tended to be smaller than the bows worn by girls, commonly simple loops tied like shoe laces set off to the side of the head. We have no information on the 18th century or early-19th century. The invention of photography provides a great deal of information on the mid- and late-19th century. The popularity of hair bows for boys seems most popular in the late-19th century based on the photographic record. This is difficult to assess. The principal source of information we have is the photographic record. Colors are difficult to determine because of the black-and-white photography of the day.

Buzz Cuts

A buzz cut is one of the shirtest gair styles worn by American boys. It was a short haor style, but with some hair left on the head. A reader writes, "There is a 1952 movie 'Monkey Business' with Cary Grant where he plays a scientist who works with monkeys and they accidentally come up with a youth formula. Anyhow, Cary Grant thinks he is a teenager and the first thing he does is change his hair style from what it was to a buzz cut. The movie has more of a 1940s flavor to it but it was released in 1952." It seems to me that the buzz cut popularity may have come more from the military style hair cuts and that at the time it was popular with children and teens." I think a buzz cut was essentially the same as cropped hair, but we are not yet positive about this.

Crew Cuts

Short styles seemed very popular in the 1950s following World War II when many future fathers had their hair cut short during military service. The name probanly reflects its prevalence in the U.S. Navy during the War. It as one of the most popular shirt hair styles. s far as we know, this was essentially an American style. The hair on the top of the head is cut relatively short, graduated in length from the longest hair at the front hairline to the shortest at the back of the crown. The hair on the sides and back of the head is tapered short. Other names for this style of taper include tight cut and fade. It is similar to a buzz cut, but with a little slightly longer hair left at the front.


There were many different styles of curled hair. The most famous is the ringlet curls that were associate with the Little Lord Fauntleroy style. This was particularly popular in America during the late 20th century. Some Fauntleroy outfits were worn with curled hair, but not done in ringlets. This was not very common, but we see a few examples. More common and less associated with a particular style or period were the natural curls that younger boys developed before their hair was cut. Here there were a variety od styles depending on the different types of hair. Some older boys wore their curls longer, but usually had them cut before they entered school. Some times these were not natural curls, but curled in various ways. Normally this was above the shoulders styles.

Cropped Hair

We do not see very many American boys with cropped hair. This appears to be the case in the 19th century. And the boys we note with cropped hair seem to be mostly younger boys. Short cropped cuts do not seem to have been nearly as popular in the late 19th and early 20th century as they were in Europe. Many European boys had close cropped hair. This varied from country to country, but wa especially common in Germany and Russia. We see these crooped cut much less in America. Here we are primarily assessing popularity based on the prevalence in the photographic record. We think that by the 1890s this wa a very strong indictor. We suspect that many of the American boys who did have cropped hair were the children of relatively recent immigrants, but this is difficult to determine solely from the phootographic record. Children arriving in America were wearing European styles. They quickly channged, however to American styles. Not only were most children anxious to fit in, but of course the stoes only offered American styles. Cropped hair has been popular at times. We notice boys wearing styles like crew cuts and flat tops, similar to the basic crop, in the 1950s and early 60s. Cropped hair was also briefly popular in the 1990s. Generally speaking, however, it was not one of the more popular boys' in the United States.

Fauntleroy Styles

American boys wore Fauntleroy suits with many different hair styles. We note boys with various hair lengths. Many boys wore a range of short hair styles. By the 1880s when Fauntleroy suits became popular, it was no longer common for boys to wear their hair down to or over their ears as was common at mid-century. So we see most boys with short hair cuts similar to those of older boys. Some boys, however, wore their Fauntleroy suits with long hair. These longer styles were longer than common at mid-century, in some cases worn to shouldr length. American boys with long hair generally had in done in ringlet curls. This was much less common in Europe. Many boys had their curls cut when they were breeched. Some boys such as some of the boys wearing Fauntleroy suits had their curls cut later. It was not common for American boys to have long uncurled hair. We notice a range of other styles such as top curls.


most boys had fairly standard hair cuts. Some mothers commonly fuss with their daughtrs hair, but this was less common with their sons. Some mothers, however, could not help themselves. We see a few boys in the 19th century with flairs. A good example is two unidentified Conneticut boys, dressed alike and with the same flair in their hair during the 1880s. A reader writes, "Notice both boys' clothes matched as did the flair in the right side of the hair. At first I thought the older boy's hair was messy and then realized it was a stylistic expression of the parents for both children."

Flairs Over Ears

Here we have a style for younger boys, mostly pre-school boys. We do not see school age boys with this style. We do not know what it was called at the time. e would welcoime reader input here. In such instances we just describe it--Dutch boy bangs that flair out at the side from the ears. Dutch boy bangs fell straight down over the ears. This cut involved longer haor tht was styles to flar out or curl up from the side over the eaes. It appears that these side flairs became popular in the early-20th centurty as Fauntleroy ringlets began to disapper. The cut flared out in different ways. This was more of a cut and like ringlets involved styling and maintenence. We can not yet pin down the chronology. We think it may have appeared in the 1910s, but many of the images we hve found look like the 1920s. We have not yet found many dated examples. While we see many of the examples in France, at least French commerrcial post cards, but we see a number of American examples. The American examples are actual portraits, lending more credeence as a popular style than commercial postcards. Girls also sported as bobed hair became popular following World War I (1914-18).

Flat Tops

A popular style after World War II was the flat top. I think this was popularilzed by the shortcuts servicemem wore during the War. They were particularly popular in the 1950s and worn into the early 60s. There were several different terms used, including crew cuts and butch cuts. I'm not yet syre to what extent these were different styles as opposed to different terms for the same short cuts. The flat top seems to have been destinctive as rather than a short cut following the contours of the scalp, the flat top formed a flat top service with hair at different lengths ar various points od the scalp. These styles seem uniqiely American. I don't see European boys wearing them. To an extent these styles seem to revived the cropped hair European boys wore in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. The American styles were not quite so severe.

Long Hair

Long hair is an abiguous hair style. What we mean here is long over-the-shoulder hair. We address the over-the-ear styles popular in the mid-19th century and late-20th century (1970s) as well as the ringlet curls worn by younger boys separately. Here we are talking about long un-curled hair. It was not a very common style, but we do see occassional 19th century studio portraits. This was less common in the 20th century except for a brief period in the late-20th century, especially the 1970s. With long hasir styles, the forehead front and the crown was done in avariety of ways. These long hair cuts were realtively rare in the 19th century based on the the prevalence in the photographic record. We are not sure why boys wore such long hair. Presumably it was because mothers like long hair. I don;'t think we can say fashion was involved because such long hasir for boys was never fashionable. Perhaps there was religious elements involved. We see girls with long hair in the 19th century, but his is much more common. Length could vary. We see 19th cntury images with the hair well below the shoulders. The long hair popular in the 20th century was generally worn at shoulder lengths.

Over the Ears

Men and boys in the mid-19th century wore their hair longer thn earlier and lte in the century. Styles down to the ear and covering part of the ear were very common. There were varitins in the style, but covering part of the ear was a common element in these styles. The hair cuts Usually did not cover the entire ear. This was not a particularly juvenile style. We see many men with long hair. In fact men in the mid-19th century pgten tended to wear longer hair than boys. This was even more true in the 1870s-80s.

Ringlet Curls

Many images exist of American boys wearing ringlets. Ringlets appear to have been especially popular in America. Most of the portraits in the ringlet curls section are of American boys. Many such hair styles were worn in association with the Little Lord Fauntleroy craze which begun in 1885. The ringlet style for boys appeared earlier, but after the publication of Mrs. Burnett's book, it was worn by more boys, including some older boys. Many American mothers in the 1870s and early 1880s cut, albeit reluctantly, their boys' hair short even while they were still in dresses. This became somewhat less common after 1885. The ringlet style for boys continued into the 20th century, but by the 1910s was increasingly less common.

Side Burns

Side burns were a popular style of the 1950s. We note many boys wearing sideburns in the 50s. Curiously they were popular when short styles like crew cuts and buzz cuts were also popular. They were particularly popular with teenagers. Of course they are mostly associated with Elvis Presly. There was an element of rebeliousness associated with them. Younger boys did not commonly have sideburns, in part because their parents did not allow them.

Short Hair

We note a variety of short hair styles in America. Cropped hair as worn in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century was not very popular in America. We do note a lot of boys wearing short hair after World War II. The influence here seems to have been the short hair soldiers and sailors wore during the War. These short hair styles were very popular in the 1950s. The crew cut was one style, but there were several others. A good example of these short styles can be seen at a birthday party in 1956. Short hair went out of style in the 1960s, but made a come back in the 1990s.

Slicked-down Hair

Some boys wore slicked-down hair. Here the hair could be combed in many different styles. We think that slicked-down hair was more common with older teenagers and adults. We do, however, see boys with slicked-down hair as well. I'm not sure when this begun. We do not know much yet about the early 19th century. We see slicked-down hair in the mid-19th century when photography became avalable. A good example is Joe Meyer in the 1870s. Another example is Bernard Doswell in 1874. We continued to see examples of slicked-down hair throughout the 1950s. It becomes much less common in the 1960s, but we are sure just why. I'm not sure what was used a the grease to slick-down hair, but we see various products in 19th century catalogs. And of course those of us growing up in the 1940s and 50s remember all thse Brylcream advertisements.

Spikey Hair

We see some boys in the mid-19th century with what looks like spikey hair. I'm not sure what these styles would have been called at the time. Nor am I sure it was a popular hair fashion. Perhaps it was just a step toward creating a top curl which was a popular style for younger boys. Unfortunately we habe not yet found a lot of written information on 19th-century styles. The spikey hair of the late 20th century was a definite popular hair style. It was considered stylish. We note boys of all ages with spikey hair. We see many boys wearing spikey hair done in a variety of styles. This is a difficult style to maintain and needs copious anounts of hair gell to maintain. There are different brands to chose from.

Standard Style

A basic short gair style combed over in the front was by far the most common style throughout the 20th century, but even when this standard style was dominant, it was never universal. Fashion was a factor here, but the variable physical characteristics of hair was another factor.

Top Curl

We see quite a number of younger American boys with top curls in the 19th century and very early 20th century. This is a style we had not noted until we began to address hair stling for HBC. Since then we have noticed numerous examples in the photographic record. It is much more prevalent than we first thought. We are not sure just when this style first appeared. We are not sure if it was worn in the early 19th century. We note it from the earlies Daguerreotype portraits in the1840s and 50s and throughout the rest of the 19th century. We have no idea wjat it was called in the 19th century. We also note a few examples from the early 20th century. We note these top curls or rolls both with other styles, such as ringlet curls, as well as by itself. We note in neing used for younger boys wjo do not yet have enough hair for ringlets. We also note it being used with older boys as part of ringlet haor styles. We see it worn with many different garments A good example is an Ohio boy wearing a Fauntleroy suit in the 1890s.

Top Styling

We notice some stles similar to top curls, but without the defined curl on top. This would seem rather an opposite style to the flat top and slicked-back style. We have no idea what theis style was called in the mid-19th century when we see it. It was a style for a younger boy. We do not see older boys or girls with this style. The hair ast the top seems rather disorderly, sort of like the hair was piled on without any shaping in mind. we do not see any defined styling. Some were done with doubkle parts and hair down to the ears. A good example is an unidentified Wisconsin boy in the 1860s.

Wild Hair

We see a few photographic portaits where boys and men have wild hair, either uncombed or combed by some one who had no real knowledge as to how to comb hair. Almost all of the examples are Dags and Ambros (1840s-50s). We do not see many examples of this wild hair, but there are enough to note. Now we might understand this with bachleors, although you would think the photographer might have interceeded here. Probably the most famous images with wild hair is those depicting John Brown, the famous insurrectionist/abolitionist, but mostly im paintings (1859). But we see this occasionally with boys, even boys with mothers present that had emacultely styled hair. So we do not understand just what was at play here. You would think that fashion concious mothers, if not insisting on a good comb for their husbands would certainly do so for their sons. We wonder if it might even been an abolitionist political statement.After the CDV appeared (1860s), we no longer see this wild hair.


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Created: 11:16 PM 10/25/2006
Last edited: 10:05 PM 5/15/2023