Revisiting Hairstyles for Men in the Twenties

January 8, 2022
During the 1920s, men favored a clean shaven face or a small mustache. A man shows off a slicked back hairstyle with a thin mustache.
During the 1920s, men preferred to have a clean-shaven face or a small mustache. A man sports a slicked-back hairstyle and a thin mustache to complement his appearance. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Keeping it neat and presentable was the ultimate goal for fashionable men’s hairstyles in the 1920s. If you’re into vintage style, you may be interested in men’s hairstyles from yesterday, particularly 1920 hairstyles.

When it came to hairdos in the 1920s, most men wore short hair on the sides and longer on top. A clean neck was also essential, which was achieved using an undercut.

1920s Hairstyles

Hair was parted to the side or the center, depending on how subtle or severe the parting was done with oil-based hair products such as Brilliantine. Men with curly hair would likely pay particular attention to the undercut, adding sheen to their curls.

Rudolph Valentino 1922 Hat Blood and Sand Film Portrait
On the silent film “Blood and Sand,” set in 1922, actor Rudolph Valentino poses for a cheeky photograph. The well-known actor sports a fierce set of sideburns and a sharp hat. Photo Credit: Glasshouse Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Because gentlemen enjoyed wearing hats when going outside, the flat look of slicked back hair served a functional purpose. As stylish as their slicked-back hair was, the grooming of their faces was just as impressive.

Because of the constant advancements in razor technology at the time, men preferred to be clean-shaven with no facial hair or have a small mustache.

Flashing a smile, a young man in the 1920s wears a slick hairstyle featuring a side part.
A young man in the 1920s sports a slick hairstyle with a side part that he wears with a smile on his face. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

What Was 1920s Hair Like?

In the 1920s, men’s haircuts were cut to the appropriate length. For men, a hair length of five to seven inches was required to be smooth back or long enough to extend back over the crown of the head without being too long so that it protruded beyond the peak.

In cases when the male parted his hair on each side, the lengths were a little shorter. Visiting the men’s barbershop was essential to maintain a constant cut and length with the sideburns trimmed and the back of the neck clean. Men were also treated to a hot towel facial and a new shave by a barber.

A 1920s portrait shows a man wearing slicked back hairstyle with a part.
A portrait from the 1920s depicts a man with his hair slicked back and parted in the middle. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

How Did Men Do Their Hair in the 1920s?

After thoroughly oiling his hair, a man would separate his hair into one of three standard styles. First, all the hair was combed straight back, with the tops combed over the crown and sides combed down the head and angled toward the rear of the crown.

The second alternative was separated precisely in the middle or slightly off-center, depending on which parting looked the most attractive. The final option was to create a deeper section on one side of the body.

It was widespread throughout the teen years and became less popular as the twenties progressed, although it was sometimes a required style for older men with thinning hair or a receding hairline–a technique known as the combover. Additionally, it was more flattering on a round face.

Two coworkers are going over paperwork at the moment. Men's hairstyles from the 1920s include a side part and a combover, which were both popular at the time.
Two coworkers are going over paperwork at the moment. Men’s hairstyles from the 1920s included a side part and a combover, both popular at the time. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

1920s Hairstyles: Curly or No Hair?

The 1920s look was more straightforward for men who had straight hair at the time. Two main alternatives were available to men with curly or wavy hair: straighten it with hot irons, mainly reserved for women or movie stars, or apply heavy oil to make it shine.

Most curly-haired guys just used a little application of Brilliantine to smooth back flyaways and give their hair a lovely form. Even with curly locks, a hat helped to keep it in place.

In the 1920s, men with curly hair would apply a little product and occasionally create a finger wave or two.
A small amount of product was applied to men’s curly hair in the 1920s, and they would occasionally create a finger wave or two. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Hat Hair

It was the polar opposite of having thick curly or medium-length hair to be bald or thinning to no hair. Despite the shine, the hair was brushed back and treated with Brilliantine to give it a glossy finish.

A toupee or a hat could conceal a receding hairline or bald spots on a man’s head. However, the absence of hair on the head of an older adult was not horrible. It was a symbol of maturity and experience.

Get a modern 1920's look with a slicked hairstyle featuring a little volume.
Create a modern 1920s look with a slicked-back hairstyle with a little volume added. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Photos: Modern Men’s Hairstyles Inspired by 1920s Trends

Have you gotten any ideas from the past and these 1920s men’s hairstyles? You can get the look right now by applying gel to your hair and styling it in a slicked-back style. Please do not overdo it with the product, making it look dated.

Photographed by Therese + Joel, models Anatol Modzelewski, Florian Neuville, Nate Hill appear in a 1920s Berlin-inspired fashion editorial for Tabula Rasa.
Models Anatol Modzelewski, Florian Neuville, and Nate Hill appear in a fashion editorial for Tabula Rasa, shot by Therese + Joel and inspired by the 1920s Berlin fashion scene. Finger waves, slicked-back hair, and side parts create an artistic narrative for you. 

If you have naturally curly or wavy hair, there is no need to be concerned about getting a straight appearance. Embrace your natural texture for a hairstyle that is both relaxed and cool.

Models tackle a modern take on the slicked back side part for Phineas Cole's 1920s inspired fall 2014 collection.
Phineas Cole’s fall 2014 collection, inspired by the 1920s, features models sporting a modern take on the slicked back side part. 

1920s Vintage Style in the 21st Century

However, while some of the most popular hairstyles of the 1920s are no longer in style, other trends from the era have been revived and given a new lease on life. Designers have incorporated elements of the 1920s into their contemporary work, ranging from hairstyles to suit tailoring.

Hockerty Fall Winter 2021 Collection Suit
Men’s fashion company Hockerty draws inspiration from the decade the 1920s for its fall-winter 2021 collection.

For example, the fall-winter 2021 collection from Hockerty paid homage to the era’s refined shapes while also displaying a penchant for elegant suits inspired by the era’s graceful silhouettes.

Dunhill's spring 2011 menswear collection paid a nod to the 1920s with slicked back hair and stylish, smart ensembles.
Slicked-back hair and stylish, intelligent ensembles characterized Dunhill’s spring 2011 menswear collection, which paid homage to the era of the 1920s.
British model Jester White goes ultra sleek for Juun.J's spring 2014 campaign. Jester sports slicked back hair with a severe center part.
Jester White, a British model, sports an ultra-sleek look for Juun. J’s spring 2014 campaign. Jester’s hair is slicked back and parted with a sharp angle in the middle.