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Men’s 1970s Hairstyles: An Overview

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Men’s hair in the seventies was a joy to behold. There was a little bit of variation throughout the decade, from long to short, blow-dried and bouffant to spiked and bleached. Overgrown hair, whatever the style, is the look most people associate with the decade. Hairstyling and grooming was no longer simply for women. For instance, hair products were now marketed to men, and many happily used them. Moustaches and mutton chops were in, even fake facial hair was worn and accepted. It was a hairy decade!

Music & Musicians

Musicians and musical genres influenced their followers sense of style and fashion. For the young, it was about belonging to something and having a common identity with that band or genre. 

The Beatles massive influence on men’s hair started in the early 1960s with their shaggy “moptop” style. A few years later they went all hippie, influencing men to grow their hair and sparking the trend for facial hair.

Elvis Presley had been a style icon for men for a few decades and the 1970s were no different. Now, he had grown his dyed jet black hair and sideburns longer. His long coiffure and hearty sideburns influenced men worldwide to copy his look. 

The sharply cut short hairstyles of the rude boy look was inspired by Jamaican immigrants and reggae artists like Desmond Dekker. This look started in the 1960s for British Jamaicans and continued on into the 1970s. There was a mainstream revival in the late 1970s due to “2 Tone” ska bands like The Selecter and The Specials. The rude boy haircuts in turn inspired the short haircuts and close-cropped skinhead look of working-class white youths.

Punks had hair that went upwards, rather than down to the collar, and the late 1970s saw a rockabilly revivial, creating a rebirth of styles seen in the 1950s.

Film & Television

The big TV shows and films of the decade had an influence on men’s hair. The fashionable faces of the decade include Robert Redford, Paul Newman, David Cassidy, John Travolta, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Richard Roundtree, among many others.

men's 1970s hairstyles
Robert Redford, Richard Roundtree and John Travolta - just some of the faces on screen in the 1970s.

Society

Society had an influence on how men appeared to wear their hair and facial hair in certain circumstances during the very early 1970s.

Since men had stared growing their hair longer in the 1960s, conservative people and institutions viewed long hair and facial as morally corrupt and just plain wrong. It was also linked with so-called “hippie youths” who were associated with political movements and protests, thereby annoying the conservative types. Subsequently, rules were laid down by more traditional organisations and businesses.

There are plenty of cases worldwide of long-haired students getting banned from college or school. Similarly, men with long hair were attacked or forcibly shaved, and job adverts could state “moustaches not welcome”.

As a result, some men adjusting their style to be able to “fit in” with more conservative situations, yet still able to embrace the fast-growing trend for long hair. For example, short-haired wigs could be used to conceal long hair when working or flat hunting. Likewise, a false moustache could be worn when away from the “no moustache” bank or office.

The negative attitude towards longer hair soon started to change. Eventually, long hair and facial became an accepted part of everyday – quite simply, nothing to bat an eye over.

Hair Products

Hair products geared towards men were on the rise, with adverts happily stating the benefits of using their products. This led to hairsprays and other things normally associated with women’s hairdressing being given masculine names, packaging and scents.

More men were using hairdryers to blow-dry their hair after shampooing and conditioning. It was acceptable to style, blow dry and dress one’s hair, as opposed to just having it cut and slicked back with a bit of Brylcreem.

Sportsmen

1972 Olympic super swimmer Mark Spitz had a simple parted hairstyle, often referred to as a “Mark Spitz”.

British footballers George Best (a playboy with style) and Kevin Keegan were both in the media spotlight. From the late 1970s into the ’80s, Keegan sported a famous “poodle perm”, influencing British men to go for the curl.

In the USA, Major League Baseball players seldom had facial hair in the early ’70s – baseball was quite a conservative world. However, after Oakland Athletics player Reggie Jackson showed up for training with facial hair and wouldn’t shave it off, club owner Charlie Finley relented and decided to hold a moustache-growing contest within his team.

Many players took part, including Rollie Fingers who still wears a moustache today. When the A’s faced the Cincinnati Reds in the 1972 World Series, it was dubbed by media as “the Hairs vs. the Squares”. The “Hairs” won, and the trend for facial spread among other teams and fans alike.

Popular 1970s Hairstyles for Men

Long Natural Hair

Carrying on from the late 1960s trend towards longer hair, the 1970s man grew his hair. Length varied from “slightly overgrown” to “hippie long”, depending on one’s job, age and lifestyle.

Hair was simply left as it grew (albeit with a basic cut style), be it straight, curly or wavy – the wearer went with what they had. Partings could be to one side or in the middle – this depended on the style or wearer’s preference.

Towards the end of the decade, hair had started to get a bit shorter (except for the rock crowd, who always had long hair whatever), with some even going for the chop altogether.

A senior school football team with the typical overgrown and longer hairstyles seen throughout the decade (picture from Buckhurst Hill County High School, UK, 1972).

Long Styled Hair

As well as being left natural, longer hair could also be styled using the latest hair tools and products normally associated with women’s hairdressing. Subsequently, this hairstyle had soft layering and looked quite full, even bouffant. Likewise, having the hair curled under at the ends was popular – the male pageboy.

The Afro

The Afro started to be worn more and more in the 1960s, predominantly by the African American and black communities.

Initially a strong political statement and recognition of black pride, by the early 1970s the Afro was becoming mainstream and fashionable. Its popularity grew so much that it was fashionable for white men to get their hair permed to create a mass of tight curls.

Afros were left natural – as in not treated with harsh chemicals to straighten or alter the hair structure. As well as simply leaving the Afro to grow, there were also many ways to cut and style the hair into a variety of shapes and fullness.

Excerpt from a Duke hair products ad, showing just some of the many ways to style Afro hair (early 1970s).

Dreadlocks

Bob Marley.

Dreadlocks have been worn throughout history by people from many different cultures and religions. However, in the 1970s, it was the popularity of reggae artists, in particular Bob Marley, that brought dreads to the attention of popular culture. Marley wore dreads as part of his engagement with the Rastafari movement.

Dreadlocks can be intentionally created (for example with backcombing) or formed naturally by letting unbrushed hair twist, tangle and become matted by itself.

Feather Cut

The feather cut was a medium or short length haircut with lots of layering. The layers were swept back at the sides. Hair was either side or centre parted.

Mohicans & All Things Punk

The late 1970s saw a revolution in music and fashion with punk rock. Partly as a reaction to both hippie and mainstream values, hair was largely styled upwards in gravity-defying sculptures and styles, rather than left down.

Clippering or shaving areas of the head was incorporated into some designs, like Mohicans and horns. Mohicans were fixed upright by using everyday household products like eggs, sugar water, soap or gelatine, as well as gels and hairsprays. As well as the upward styles, some punks, however, simply went for a really short haircut or even a full-on skinhead

Hair colour was rarely kept natural. Bleached blond and jet black hair were popular. Bright coloured hair was created on bleached hair by using Crazy Colors, a range of temporary neon colours in a tub that came out in 1977. Likewise, everyday products like food colourings and even coloured drinks like Kool-Aid and Kia-Ora could be used. Text and patterns were also put into hair.

The Mullet

The much-maligned mullet became fashionable in the 1970s and experienced a rise in popularity well into the 1980s. Its rise in popularity can possibly be traced to David Bowie’s hot-orange Ziggy Stardust cut of 1972, created by Suzy Fossey, along with other influential mullet-wearing chaps like Paul McCartney.

A mullet is a hairstyle of two separate parts. Firstly, it has short layers on top and at the sides by the ear. This is completed with longer hair at the back. It’s a wonderful style that no one looked cool in!

(L to R) Paul McCartney; David Bowie's hot-orange mullet; A fancy mullet there lad!

The Shag

A popular hairstyle for men and women, the shag was created by hairdresser Paul McGregor for Jane Fonda’s character Bree Daniels in the film Klute (1971).

The unisex cut features lots of evenly-progressing layers with a fringe. The layers on the top are the shortest and gradually get longer as you go down the head. It was also fashionable for the graduated sides to be rolled under, creating a sort of pageboy look.

A shag could be worn sleek, or the upper layers could be fluffed out or spiked up, creating a “bogbrush” or “rooster” look.

men's 1970s hairstyles
The Bay City Rollers - a couple of shag hairstyles can be seen here - and David Cassidy's classic shag.

Short Hair

The 1970s wasn’t all about long hair of course. There were many shorter styles for those who didn’t want long hair. Some were sleek and combed smooth – others were for those with thicker or wavier hair. They all still had a “1970s look” to them, involving a little fullness or length – even the short cuts were rarely close cut.
men's 1970s hairstyles
A selection of shorter styles for the seventies man.

Surfer Hair

This style was initially popularised by beach bums and surfers during the 1950s. The 1970s “Californian surfer” hairstyle was short to mid-length, but always shaggy and highlighted. It created that tousled, carefree and sun-kissed look of someone who spent all day at the beach and in the sea.

Mid-late 1970s teen idol Leif Garrett and some surfer dudes.

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9 thoughts on “Men’s 1970s Hairstyles: An Overview”

  1. This is so insightful. I can see that the hair trend is now coming back from the past. 50’s haircut is now being used as a hairstyle in some barbershops.

  2. Hey all you hot dudes who love shag cuts. Is the shag coming back? I heard rumors that it may be. Guys are starting having long hair again from what I’ve seen. I would love it!! I’m such a 70’s guy. But am older, I don’t care. Life is too short. Too each there own.

  3. Hey James, love ur thoughts on Paul McCartney. I love that look very much. The mullet/shag look is one of my favorites on guys….Wish it would come back…..I’d feel young again…yes!!

  4. I was a 70’s kid. My mother was a hairdresser. My father wouldn’t let me have long hair. And it was in on guys. I wanted a shag soo bad but no. I wasa huge David Cassidy fan. He had those hot shoulder length shag haircuts. Oh well, had to wait til I was out of school and away in college to grow my hair and get the shag I had always wanted. And I did and it was a bit on the fem side. gorgeous. Got my eyebrows done too, cool. Loved my new look. An still have it today and going farther with it. YES.

    1. Love the shag cut too Jay. Ah, David Cassidy…! Joan Jett was the version of this style that we’d love to have – what a look 🙂

  5. Yeah, funny times, you only look at Paul McCartney mullet or at The Beatles they look like priests! But it’s very interesting to know your meaning about one of the key hairstyle trends and 1990s-inspired wet look. I think it is coming back especially with popularity of slick-back hairstyle and beards. What do you think?

    1. Hi Chris, Some guys still wore their hair longer like PF (shaggy with a natural wave) in the late 70s, esp. those into rock music or heavy metal 🙂

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