Women's hairstyles in this period transformed from the stiff, artificial styles favored at the beginning of the 1960s to striking, short mod styles of the mid-1960s and then to the longer, loose, feathered tresses of the 1970s. Whether the styles were dramatic geometrically-shaped bob styles, longer bobs with flipped out ends, or the soft layers of the Farrah Fawcett look, the general trend in women's hairstyles was toward freer, softer styles. Hats and hair ornaments were not as important during this period, as the focus turned toward the color and styling of hair.
One of the most unique aspects of 1960s and early 1970s hairstyles was the merging of men's and women's styles. Young men and women wore styles that resembled each other. Highly fashionable young women clipped their hair short and close to their heads in the early 1960s, making them resemble boys. The styles women adopted looked very much like the bobs worn in the 1920s and passed quickly, as many fads do. But a trend toward longer hair for both men and women later in the decade brought much public comment, as many in society criticized men for growing their hair long. The longest hairstyles were worn by hippies, or young people who rejected social customs throughout the 1960s. Hippies distinguished themselves by wearing old or homemade clothes and growing their hair long. They parted their long hair in the center and left it to hang naturally over their shoulders and back. They distinguished themselves from the rest of society by rejecting established fashion trends altogether. Hippies were heavily criticized, not only for the way they looked but for their political beliefs as well, as most vigorously protested the Vietnam War (1954–75).
While the long tresses of the hippies were adopted by a relatively small group of people, longer hair had become fashionable for all by the end of the 1970s. The members of the British rock band the Beatles helped usher in a new fashion in men's hair by wearing a style called the mop top. The mop top was a messy, casual style that featured hair grown to cover men's shirt collars with full bangs that brushed the eyebrows. The mop top was a dramatic shift from the crew cuts of the previous decade. Some fashion trends limit themselves to the very wealthy or the young, but the mop top became popular for men of all ages and social classes.
Longer hair required more styling. Many men started to have their hair styled by trained stylists instead of simply cut by barbers. They began using hairdryers and special combs and brushes to achieve their desired looks. Some even had their hair set in permanent ringlet curls. By the end of the 1970s all styles of hair—long, short, straight, curly—were seen in mainstream society.
As looser styles were adopted by the majority of both men and women, an extreme style was adopted in 1976 by a group who called themselves punks. Punks were young people who identified themselves by their dramatic hairstyles, clothes, and music. Punk hairstyles were distinguished by their artificial qualities and unusual shapes. The most distinctive style was the tall mohawk. Both young female and male punks shaved the sides of their heads and left a long mohawk down the center, which they dyed a variety of colors such as bright pink or green and coated with glue to spike it out away from their heads. The stiff, artificial styles of punks inspired the creation of many new gels and hair sprays strong enough to hold long hair on end for hours.
Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.
Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.