If style pundits were in any doubt as to the status of the rockabilly hair revival that has been gradually gaining momentum over the last two years, then the display of 1930s through 1950s-inspired retro hair at the menswear fashion shows over the past few years was the final proof they needed. Designers including the likes of Jil Sander and Thomas Maier at Bottega Veneta sent out model after model sporting playful quiffs accessorised with rockabilly string ties and greaser gear. The message was undeniable: rockabilly – specifically rockabilly hair – was back. And it remained the key vintage-revival, attitude laden hairstyle of 2010 and 2011.

2012’s fashion is here, however, and with it the status of rockabilly hair changes. But that’s not to say it’s out altogether. Anything but. In fact, with the 1950s having an influence upon spring 2012’s fashion this is one hairstyle that has ended up with relevance to both men and women and we can comfortably add it to the list of men’s 2012 hairstyles as well as women’s 2012 hairstyles.

Quiff vs Rockabilly

If you’ve already taken a look at our 2012 men’s hair guide, you’ll know that the quiff hairstyle has made its comeback. As far as hairstyles go, however, the quiff and the rockabilly seem to have a number of shared attributes. What’s the distinction, then?

The neatness.

The return of the men’s quiff comes on the back of two preceding trends: the classic part and the rockabilly hairstyle. As such the quiff is all about height and classicism in 2012. It’s the rockabilly haircut that has the edge, albeit a vintage one.

Rockabilly hair for women

With elements of women’s 1950s fashion present, particularly with an androgynous edge, on the spring 2012 catwalks an interpretation of women’s rockabilly hair was bound to make an appearance. And it did, with many a different interpretation.

Jeremy Scott’s spring 2012 collection took the classic rockabilly hairstyle to exaggerated proportions, accentuating every element including its American origins in a hairstyle that was dubbed Country Barbie. An interpretation of rockabilly hair that’s better suited to the catwalks than the streets, this Jeremy Scott hairstyle depends on ringlets for the side and backcombing to create the ‘bouffant’ effect.

rockabilly womens blonde haircut

women's rockabilly hairstyle

Scott’s catwalk also offered up a female interpretation of the Grease / Danny Zuko hairstyle (effectively, a female quiff):

womens quiff hairtsyle

Proenza Schouler’s spring / summer ’12 collection also took inspiration from the 1950s and Elvis to create a very different interpretation of the rockabilly hairstyle. Perfectly inline with 2012’s slick and wet hair trends, the Proenza Schouler hairstyle has little in common with the other rockabilly up-dos – instead of replicating and adapting a men’s hairstyle for women, hairstylist Paul Hanlon created a far more realistic interpretation of a woman’s rockabilly hairstyle for Proenza Schouler. Hence, with its cohesion with other hair trends for the year, this is the interpretation of this particular trend that’s had the most influence. Its effective simplicity also means that it’s the interpretation of a mid-20th century rock hairstyle that can work with all hair and skin colours and the majority of hair types as well.

wet rock hairstyle

The Proenza Schouler take on the rockabilly hairstyle is dependent on texture, with sea salt spray used to create waves and tangle. The overall body of the hair has a wet look courtesy of a pomade, while a wax was applied to the hairline and then combed backwards in order to create a very defined look.

womens wet rock haircut

Rockabilly hair for men

Hairstyle variations

When you think of the rockabilly hairstyle it’s images of James Dean, Elvis Presley and John Travolta in Grease that immediately spring to mind. The hairstyle constituted slick back hair (hence the name ‘greaser’). The top was kept longer in length as was the back and the sides were short and the hair could be parted, slicked back or pompadour.

The ‘ducktail‘ (also known as the duck’s ass or ‘D.A’) is another variation where a central part runs down the head with the side sections curled in.

ducktail hairstyle

The rockabilly aesthetic and culture truly shook-up the traditional sensibilities of mainstream music and fashion of the post-war 50s. Gone was the wholesome identikit teenager and in was the spirit of rebellion, rock ‘n’ roll, B Movies and racy Bettie Page types. Good music wasn’t the only thing to come out of this epoch, thanks to musical icons such as Elvis and Johnny Cash and movie stars such as James Dean, the rockabilly hairstyle became huge – literally.

Not that the present incarnation of the rockabilly is the only resurgence of the hairstyle since its 50s heyday, like fashion’s ever turning cycle, rockabilly style has been on and off trend at various times since its creation. Ever ebbing and flowing, the style evolved in the 80s thanks chiefly to musical icons such as Morrissey and his ilk who gave the quiff a new lease of life. Quickly gargantuan pompadours were both gracing the covers of magazines everywhere and in turn the streets where disenfranchised youths quickly adopted the statement-making barnet.

Rockabilly hair on the runway at Bottega Veneta

In Japan there has been a large rockabilly subculture for some time. Stroll down to a particular downtown park in Tokyo on the right day and you’ll witness a gathering of exaggerated greaser-types treating passers-by to a variety of elaborate dance routines while lip-synching to vintage rock ‘n’ roll music, their perfect gravity-defying exaggerated quiffs moving along to the music.

Yes, you may get cat-calls along the lines of “hey Elvis!” from the style unenlightened on the street, but experimenting with rockabilly hair shows definite style savvy.

How to: men’s rockabilly hairstyle

Though high-maintenance, rockabilly hair is undeniably cool and evinces major style credentials. Some pointers:

  1. The classic rockabilly cut is long on top and very short on the sides and back.

  2. Firstly, shampoo and towel-dry your hair and then liberally apply pomade with your fingers. Choose if you want a parted greaser style, a slicked-back greaser style or a pompadour.

  3. Comb the hair straight back or part your hair and comb it back.

  4. Use your fingers to tease the front, turning any curls into defined curls. You may wish to use a little beeswax to piece out a few curls.

  5. If you wish to do the pompadour, you’ll want to use less grease pomade and more beeswax.

  6. Use your hair dryer to dry your hair straight up, using a brush to lift the hair and applying beeswax at the roots to help it stand up. Use a comb and your fingers to guide the hair back, maintaining the required volume in front.

Rockabilly hair on the runway at Jil Sander

For a true sky-high pompadour: straight out of the shower, put a small amount of gel in the hair and blow-dry. The trick to getting real height is to get some gel at the roots and blow dry it upside down, while bending over. Once it’s standing high, use beeswax or another firm holding gel.

How to wear it

If you want to go all-out rockabilly, then pairing your new hair with appropriate clothing and accessories is essential. The look is 50s cool using predominantly black, red and white colours. Think leather jackets, gingham, vintage bowling shirts, slacks, crepe soled shoes and obviously, jeans (preferably vintage-look Levi 501s). The current model for the neo-rockabilly look is skinny black jeans, printed tees or baggy white wife beaters, button-up shirts, skinny ties, omnipresent wayfarer sunglasses and a fitted leather jacket.


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