Jelly Rolls and Duck Tails

During the mid- to late 1950s, a number of young people began to rebel against the clean-cut image of a well-scrubbed teenager with a crew cut and a bright smile. Jelly rolls and duck tails were the names of two hairstyles popular with some nonconformists, or rebels, during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Both required large amounts of hair oil or grease to shape the hair into the required style, therefore those who wore them were given the name greasers. Greasers were considered rebellious, dangerous, and a little vain, since their jelly rolls and duck tails required a lot of attention to keep them slick, smooth, and shaped correctly. They wore white T-shirts, straight-leg blue jeans, and black leather jackets, and they grew their hair long and slicked it back with various hair pomades (perfumed ointments), such as Brylcreem and Vaseline. For a jelly roll, boys combed their hair up and forward on the sides, to roll it together at the top of the head. This left a single large curl in the middle of the forehead. The duck tail, also called duck's ass or D.A., was created when both sides were combed together in the back of the head, then the tail of a comb was pulled down the center, creating a feathery look, which to some resembled the back end of a duck.

Various movie stars and rock 'n' roll musicians popularized the two greaser hairstyles, the most famous of which were actor James Dean (1931โ€“1955) and musician Elvis Presley (1935โ€“1977). In the late 1950s Presley combed his hair into a softer, less greasy version of the jelly roll. Soon teenagers everywhere sported T-shirts, jeans, and greaser hair. Boys were not generally supposed to spend much time worrying about their looks, but a comb in the pocket became a necessary part of their wardrobe, since the jelly roll or D.A. required grooming throughout the day.

In the late 1950s singer Elvis Presley combed his hair into a softer, less greasy version of the jelly roll. Reproduced by permission of .

The new male obsession with hairstyle became the subject of many popular jokes of the time. The 1959 humorous hit song, "Kooky, Kooky, Lend Me Your Comb," by Ed Byrnes and Connie Stevens, was based on a duck-tailed private detective in the television series 77 Sunset Strip (1958โ€“64). One 1959 episode of the popular television show Leave It to Beaver (1957โ€“63) was titled "Wally's Hair Comb" and involved a teenager and his parents' response to a jelly roll fad at school.


Salamone, Frank. Popular Culture in the Fifties. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

User Contributions:

actually this style began around the end of WW2, I have seen photos & I also know guys who were there. after every great war there is alot of restless men, men who were wild in combat had to get wild afterward they counldn't settle down, & the fact is most of these tank commanders fighter pilots & infantry men were now 19- 26 years old. after the civil war you had the wild west ,after theGreat WaR (ww1) you had the lost generation & the roaring 20's. these guys came home grew their hair & greased ,souped up their cars raced, fought lived & died. it was simplistic rebellion.

age 30
Buffalo N.Y.

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