Elvis may have been known as ‘The Pelvis,’ but his big pompadour hairdo was just as famous as his swiveling hips (it just didn’t make that neat rhyme). The high-crowned poof of hair brushed straight back off of the forehead was a style officially named in the 18th century by the Marquise de Pompadour, a mistress of Louis XV. Madame Pompadour created the vogue for tremendously high, teased hairdos (and wigs), which became known as pompadours. High, off-the-forehead hairdos were a classic style throughout the centuries, but it took the rock and roll teens of the 50’s to turn them into an unforgettable rebellious style.
The pompadour hairstyle is forever linked to the advent of rock and roll, when rockers like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and even Little Richard swept their hair into the high wave pompadour. Teenagers went crazy for the pomp, emulating their heroes with the ultimate 50’s hairdo, the duck tail. The D.A. (as it was also known) featured an off-the-forehead pompadour front with a feathered back. Some daring girls even attempted the pompadour D.A., but it was mostly considered a boy's style (although women did have their own variations of the pompadour).
The only way to achieve the pomp perfection was with a hearty helping of pomade or actual grease. This gooey, greasy glob saturated the hair so that it could be sculpted with a comb and a careful hand. Achieving balanced heights was more difficult than it might seem, and boys spent much time in front of the bathroom mirror carefully lifting and combing and smoothing. Achieving the perfect shape was as great a pastime as was drag racing.
The pompadour returned in the 70’s via John Travolta’s disco demon Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. This time the pomp was gelled, blown dry into a perfect coif, and hairsprayed into submission. Just as peacocks preen their feathers, the pompadour hairdo required a great self-confidence and attitude to carry it off to its fullest potential. Just don't get too close to the disco inferno—all that stuff in your hair is flammable.