When it comes to men’s fashion and style, the 1940s offers plenty of inspiration for hairstyles, clothing and accessories. These classic motifs can add a touch of quiet elegance and masculine sophistication to any gentleman’s appearance. 1940s charm can still be seen today in the subtle updating of iconic, military-based influences juxtaposed with a refined 1930s sentiment and finished with a more contemporary “rugged” touch.
Today’s popular vintage hairstyles are a nod to past cultural icons, such as Frank Sinatra, James Cagney, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson. This trend has even been picked up in recent nostalgic films and television shows such as The Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire and Inglorious Basterds.
Check out some of our barbershop franchise’s favorite 40s-era vintage haircuts:
The Contrast Weight Line/Comb-over Cut
The Contrast Weight Line haircut is a great choice for curly or wavy hair as this cut is all about showing off hair movement through the asymmetrical cut. Parted heavily to one side, it also suits men with a lot of length or unruly crowns. The heavy weight on one side and the tight, clipped edges provide a complimentary style across all angles. This is an edgy look that is easy to mix up, and it plays well with mustaches and beards for a neo-lumberjack feel. A good example of a vintage Contrast Weight Line hair cut is shown on Eddie Redmayne in 2015’s The Danish Girl. Modern versions feature more drastic clips and asymmetrical lines.
The Ivy League Cut
This classic haircut sports short back and sides, and a tapered, longer front. This graduated cut, known for its popularity among Ivy League undergraduates of the 40s and 50s, is essentially a longer version of a Crew Cut. While it still has the shorter sides and back of a Crew Cut, the top and front is longer than the crown, giving it a wedge-shaped profile from the side. When the front is left longer, it can be styled higher, in a pompadour, slicked straight back, or parted and partially slicked back. Cary Grant’s iconic waves were a classic Ivy League look.
The Brush/Flair/Square Cut
Similar to the conservative Flat Top haircut, the Brush Cut is longer on top and up front. Think of a Flat Top and Pompadour mashup. The sides and back can be either faded gradually or abruptly, or even clipped down to the skin. Generally, a wide-toothed comb and some type of pomade or other hair treatment is needed to keep the hair lifted, unless the hair is extremely thick. A good example of a Brush Cut style is Val Kilmer’s locks in Top Gun, though Justin Bieber has gone through several different incarnations of the style.
Undercut or Bowl Cut
Popular among German soldiers from WW2, the Undercut is a popular circa late 1940s haircut. This is an easy-care style that really requires little maintenance, and, depending on how it’s cut, is suitable for wavy or straight hair. The hair at the top front and crown is left quite long, while the sides and back are clipped or shaved closely to the earline or above, and there is little to no blending or fade between the two lengths, giving it the typical bowl shape seen on “James Darmody” in Boardwalk Empire.
Long before Mad Men's fictional “Don Draper”, retro style icons have been influencing popular style and culture and adding a vintage twist to modern men’s haircut styles.
For more vintage hairstyles, we recommend this article.