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, with “overgrown” being the look that most people associate with the decade.
Hairstyling and grooming was no longer simply for women – 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!
Influences on Men’s Hair
The Beatles 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.
Other musicians and musical styles also influenced their followers – for the young, it was about belonging to something and having a common identity with that band or genre. For example, rock bands influenced the wearing of no nonsense longer hair, reggae had dreadlocks and the short rude boy, glam and pop had various layered and textured styles.
Society had an influence on how men appeared to wear their hair and facial hair in certain circumstances during the very early ’70s.
Since long hair for men had re-emerged in the 1960s, conservative people and institutions viewed long hair and facial as morally corrupt and just plain wrong. There are plenty of cases worldwide of long-haired students getting banned from college or school, men with long hair being attacked or forcibly shaved, and job adverts stating “moustaches not welcome”.
This led to 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, using short-haired wigs to conceal long hair when working or flat hunting, or wearing a false moustache when away from the “no moustache” bank or office.
This attitude soon changed, and long hair and facial became an accepted part of everyday – nothing to bat an eye over.
Nostalgia was an influence on fashion in the 1970s.
For men, a ’50s-inspired rockabilly revival, initially spurred on by Elvis Presley’s return to music in 1968, became more mainstream in the mid-’70s into the 1980s when several music acts (from Showaddywaddy to 1980s band The Straycats) embraced a rockabilly-influenced sound and style, including hair with a pomp.
Also, successful films like American Grafitti (1972) and Grease (1978), plus the Fonz-tastic TV show Happy Days (1974-84) gave a solid nod to 1950s/early ’60s rocker culture.
Hair products geared towards men were on the rise, with adverts happily stating the benefits of using their products.
Hairsprays and other things normally associated with women’s hairdressing were 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.
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.
Men’s hair varied from the start to the end of the decade, with a few trends in between. Here’s a look at the various styles that made the 1970s man the hairstyled beast that he was.
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.
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.
Often hair had soft layering and looked quite full, even bouffant. Having the hair curled under was popular – the male pageboy.
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. 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.
Dreadlocks have been worn throughout history by people from many different cultures and religions, but in the 1970s it was the popularity of reggae artists like Bob Marley that brought dreads to the attention of popular culture. Marley wore dreads as part of his membership to 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.
This glossy, loosely curled look was popular in the African American community during the late ’70s and into the ’80s (e.g. Michael Jackson’s do).
Jheri curls were created by a two-step process: first, the tightly curled hair is softened and loosened, allowing it to then be re-set and permanently curled.
It was created in the 1970s by Jheri Redding, an American hairdresser, entrepreneur and chemist. This chemical- and product-intensive style was well known for leaving a greasy residue on anything that the hair came into contact with.
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 could be worn natural, or cut and styled into a variety of shapes and fullness.
Rude Boys and Skinheads
It wasn’t all long hair. 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, with 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.
The much-maligned mullet became fashionable in the 1970s and experienced a rise in popularity well into the 1980s.
Its modern 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: short layers on top and at the sides, and long hair at the back.
It’s a wonderful style that no one looked cool in!
Initially popularised by “beach bums” and surfers from the 1950s onward, the “Californian surfer” hairstyle of the 1970s was thick, 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 (and oh how we’d like to be that person!).
Mohicans and all things Punk
The late ’70s saw a revolution in music and fashion with punk. Partly as a reaction to hippie values, hair was styled upwards in gravity-defying sculptures and styles, rather than down to collars.
Clippering or shaving areas of the head was incorporated into some designs, like mohicans and horns, or wearers went for a full-on skinhead.
Mohicans were fixed upright by using everyday household products like eggs, sugar water, soap or gelatine, as well as gels and hairsprays.
Hair colour was rarely kept natural and was bleached and/or dyed to create more impact and originality to the wearer. Bright coloured hair was created on bleached hair by using Crazy Colors, a range of temporary neon colours in a tub, as well as everyday products like food colourings and even coloured drinks like Kool-Aid and Kia-Ora. Text and patterns were also put into hair, like leopard print.
Often the butt of ’70s porn jokes or fancy dress parties nowadays, facial hair was big news in the 1970s.
Facial could be groomed and shaped, or it could be left natural. Moustaches, sidies and beards were worn singularly or in combination – it was down to the wearer’s tastes and preferences.
Moustaches were thick and full. One popular style was the horseshoe, where the hair extends down the side of the mouth (possibly inspired by the Fu Manchu moustache).
Side boards (or side burns if you’re north American) were worn long and full, sometimes extending in width at the bottom (or along the jaw line) to create a mutton chop.
Beards came in varying styles, from the shaped Van Dyke to a full natural beard.
Not all facial was real. Fake moustaches and beards were readily available in men’s salons and department stores, and the wearing of such items was accepted. Worn by men who wanted an easy way to change their look, or for those who couldn’t grow a lush enough soup strainer and beard.