The pompadour, an elaborate hairstyle where long hair is swept up into a tall arrangement of curls or smooth waves on the top of the head, has been popular at many different times in history, mostly among women, though some men have worn pompadours too. During the early 1940s many fashionable women wore their hair in a pompadour style, brushing their hair up into a roll worn high on the forehead. Sometimes, the pompadour was just worn at the front of the hair, with the back left in long curls, and sometimes all of the hair was pulled up behind the front pompadour roll.
The pompadour took its name from an eighteenth-century Frenchwoman, Jean Antoinette Poisson (1721–1764), the Marquise de Pompadour. The marquise, as a woman of noble ranking in Europe was often referred, was the mistress of Louis XV (1710–1774), king of France. She was famous for her vast and expensive wardrobe and was the model for much of French fashion at the time. Her hairstyle, brushed straight back and lifted high above her forehead, was given the name "pompadour" after her. In the court of Louis XV and throughout the centuries that followed, many women have imitated the Marquise de Pompadour's elegant hairstyle.
The early 1940s still felt the pinch of the economic depression that had marked the 1930s. One result of the almost universal financial hardship was that many people looked to the movies for escape and entertainment. Copying the glamorous hairstyles of film stars became a way to rise above the grim reality of day-to-day life, and an elaborate hairdo did not cost much more than a simple one. During World War II (1939–45) many fabrics and other sewing supplies were rationed, that is, the government needed them for the war, and civilians could only obtain limited quantities. As during the Great Depression (1929–41), women could still express their sense of individuality and fashion cheaply by changing their hairstyle. Many popular hairstyles of the day involved elaborate arrangements of curls and waves. Film stars such as Joan Crawford (1908–1973) and popular singers like the Andrews Sisters charmed audiences with their hair swept up in a pompadour, and many women of the 1940s imitated their look.
During the late 1940s a more masculine and military look took over women's fashions, and the glamorous hairstyles were abandoned. The pompadour would return in a surprising way on the heads of rebellious young men of the 1950s and early 1960s. One of the most famous male pompadours was worn by rock idol Elvis Presley (1935–1977).
Turudich, Daniela. 1940s Hairstyles. Long Beach, CA: Streamline Press, 2002.