Duck tails / D.A. haircuts
Potentially the most profane haircut name of all time, the slick-backed style of 50’s rebel teens was called the duck’s ass, or D.A. for short. For the coy, the duck tail was an acceptable substitute name.
The D.A. received its name from the characteristic feathered part down the center back of the head, much like the converging feathers of a duck’s behind. This look was achieved by brushing the back sides of the hair towards the center of the head, dragging a comb down the center to part the hair in a slight wave. To achieve this slick style, a generous helping of hair ‘grease’ like Brylcreem or even Vasoline was needed to saturate the hair to prep it for sculpting.
According to lore, the D.A. was created in 1940 by South Philadelphia barber Joe Cirello. It took a while to catch on, but when rock and rollers began sporting the D.A. as part of their loud, flashy musical act, teen boys followed suit. Elvis is credited as being the first rock star to influence the teens with his black pompadour duck tail. Parents blamed rock and roll music for the bad influence, and anyone with a D.A. was targeted as being a ruffian. So naturally, the boys were dying to have one.
Boys were not supposed to care about their hair or how they looked, but when the D.A. walked onto the scene, boys battled their sisters for bathroom time and spent endless hours smoking in the boys’ room while they shared the mirror to re-tame their locks. Wide-toothed metal combs were in the back pockets of every boy’s jeans, and the sight of a greaser running his hand and comb over his slick style was as common as the white t-shirt. Rumbles and fights would mess up the pompadour’s perfection, and the comb guaranteed good grooming should your feathers get ruffled.
Variations of the D.A. were dependent on how the top of the hair was styled, as it was only the back nape part that gave rise to the term D.A. Tony Curtis’ curly-topped cut became a popular variation of the smooth wave pompadour. Other variations of the D.A included the bop, dupe, back sweep and crest. Whatever the name, the back was the same, and a heavy hand of grease guaranteed a motionless mop.
The D.A. is forever linked with the advent of rock and roll and the rebellious kids they called greasers. The slick style has never faded completely into the underground, remaining alive and kicking on the heads of rockabillies and revivalists the world over.