Beehives and Bouffants

One of the most popular women's hairstyles of the late 1950s and early 1960s was the lavishly teased bouffant. The bouffant first surfaced in the 1950s, reflecting a return to big hair for women following a period of plain wartime styles. Two innovations of the late 1950s helped revolutionize hairstyling and paved the way for the bouffant age: the roller, used to lift and wind the hair (which was then backcombed or teased to give it maximum height); and lacquer

Woman with hair styled in a medium-sized beehive. Hair spray and rollers brought big hair to new heights with the beehive. Reproduced by permission of .
spray, a heavy hair spray which held the style in place. Bouffants began to catch on in the United States following a Life magazine article touting the "aristocratic" European look. First lady Jacqueline Kennedy's (1929–1994) adoption of the hairstyle in the early 1960s helped popularize it even more.

By 1964 hair spray had become the nation's number one beauty aid, surpassing lipstick. Around that time young girls took the bouffant to new heights with a style called the beehive. Teenagers would set their hair every night in huge rollers, using a gel solution called Dippity Do, and proceed to sleep in them. Those with extremely curly hair used large frozen cans in place of the smaller rollers. Some women even wrapped toilet paper around their heads at bedtime in order to preserve the increasingly ornate, sculpted styles.

Although their popularity during the early 1960s was immense, bouffants and beehives proved difficult styles to wear, involving extensive preparation and a great number of tools. In the mid-1960s the fashion tide began to turn toward more natural hairstyles. Women who had spent hours teasing their hair just a few years earlier now began ironing it in an effort to achieve optimum straightness. The bouffant soon became a comical symbol of an earlier era. The outrageous beehive was mocked in popular culture by the flamboyant rock band The B-52s and in the film and Broadway musical Hairspray.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Turudich, Daniela. 1960s Hair. Long Beach, CA: Streamline Press, 2003.

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