Revisiting 1920s Men’s Hairstyles

The Fashionisto


Published January 8, 2022


Updated January 28, 2023

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

1920s men’s hairstyles were so unique and unforgettable that they remain iconic to this day, reimagined in new forms. After all, the ’20s were a time of significant change in the world and hairstyles. While women’s hairstyles (how about those flapper hairstyles) had been evolving since the end of World War I, it was in the 1920s that men’s hairstyles started to get a little more interesting.

The 1920s (or “Roaring Twenties”) was an era marked by dramatic change and innovation in all areas of life, including fashion and 20s hairstyle. This guide will look at some of the most famous men’s hairstyles from the decade.

Donning his signature slicked-back hair, Italian actor Rudolph Valentino poses for a portrait with his dog.
Donning his signature slicked-back hair, Italian actor Rudolph Valentino poses for a portrait with his dog. Photo: Orange County Archives from Orange County, California, United States of America, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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 Men’s 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.

Men’s Facial Hair During the 1920s

Facial hair has long been an important part of men’s style and fashion, and the 1920s was no exception. During this decade, facial hair styles were often a reflection of the prevailing trends in culture, art, music, and more.

In the 1920s, facial hair styles varied greatly depending on what kind of look one wanted to achieve. Because of the constant advancements in razor technology at the time, most men preferred to be clean-shaven with no facial hair or have a small mustache.

However, some chose to express themselves through more creative facial hairstyles such as handlebar mustaches or goatees. For those looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, there were plenty of options.

1920s Men's Hairstyle. 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 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

Thinning Hair During the ’20s

Having no hair or thinning locks was vastly different from having thick waves or medium-length tresses. The shine of the scalp was highlighted by brushing the hair back and finishing it off with Brilliantine, making it gleam more than ever before.

Although a toupee or hat can cover up any receding hairlines or bald spots on a man’s head, it was not essential for an older adult. The lack of hair on one’s head could truly demonstrate the maturity and wisdom that comes with age.

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.

To get your hair ready for these roaring 20s hairstyles, you will want to use pomade or wax products to help hold your hair in place. You can also use hairspray if you’re looking for something more casual and less formal.

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 of 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. 

Final Words

The 1920s are known for being a time of growth, change, and innovation. After all, it was the decade of Prohibition, flappers, and the Charleston. It was also a time when men’s hairstyles were as varied as their fashion choices.

From slicked-back hair to pompadours to slick-backed Caesar cuts, there were plenty of 1920s men’s hairstyles. Overall, men’s hair tended toward shorter cuts than women’s in this era—and if you look closely at photos from this period, you’ll notice that men tended to have their hair parted on one side with a small part in front.

The 1920s was an era of experimentation for both sexes: men wore their hair slicked back into a pompadour style or cut into short curls around the ears; women sported shoulder-length bobs that seemed to be inspired by bobbed haircuts worn by flappers during World War I.

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