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Style 101: The Pompadour

by chloeweldon / last updated July 18, 2022

The pompadour hairstyle

Since the 1950s, the pompadour has been established as an iconic men’s hair look, re-invented for each new generation. Men’s hair maestro and Matrix artist ambassador Christian Wiles offers his take on this enduring classic.

While male icons like Elvis Presley and James Dean made the pompadour a classic, it was actually a female that is reputed to have first brought the style into fashion and given it its name — Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of King Louis XV of France in the 18th century.

There is, however, some contention over just how influential King Louis’ mistress was over the modern pompadour, which generally features a large volume of hair swept upwards from the face and worn high over the forehead. Conversely, Madame de Pompadour wore her hair back rather than up, with no extra volume on the top. Despite this, the name has stuck.

The term pompadour wasn’t really used to describe the look until the men’s version appeared in the 1950s and early 1960s. As well as Elvis and James Dean, it was a hair fashion favoured by country and rock music legends such as Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Ritchie Valens.

Modern icons who have maintained the pompadour’s place at the forefront of men’s hairdressing include David Beckham and Bruno Mars. Even Harry Styles had a long-hair take on the style.

Have you seen the haircuts that all the Gen Z boys want?

Get the look

  • This look is more easily created on damp, towel-dried hair.
  • As you blow-dry, use a comb to sweep hair up and back. The volume needs to be on top of the head, while the sides of the hair need to be brushed flat for a complete contrast.
  • When the hair is almost dry, use a brush to hold the longer hair in the front up to create the classic pompadour shape.
  • Use a small amount of wax to create hold and shine, running through the hair from front to back with your fingers.
  • A spritz of hairspray will help keep the style in place — especially if you have created a style with exaggerated height.

Top tip

If hair is particularly unruly, it may help to add a little product such as wax, prior to styling.

No no’s

Avoid creating volume at the sides of the head, this look is all about the contrasts between the flattened sides and the voluminous front of the hair. More modern takes on the style actually pair the pompadour volume with a sharp fade at the sides and back.

Did you catch our Style 101: The Buzzcut? You can find it here.

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