Mirror, Mirror: The pompadour: A hot look in hair styling

Posted: October 12, 2011

Stylistas aren't quite sure what to call the haute hair they crave. A forehead-spanning pouf, maybe? That bump? You know, the big-hair thingy?

Here's a little Fashion 101, folks: It's a pompadour.

"I didn't quite know what to call it," said Jessica Lynch, 34, a fund-raiser for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "My stylist gave me a pompadour with a ponytail to frame my face. It was a very retro 1950s look. I loved it."

Whatever you call it, the pompadour is hot right now. In a retro-good-girl, modern-bad-girl kind of way.

Some fashions catch on quickly, but others (like the pompadour) take a minute to take hold - with or without bobby pins. I think it's because of the pompadour's height. There is no way a woman can sneak into a room with her hair dramatically piled on top of her head. The bigger the head, the harder a pomp is to pull off.

We first started seeing the new-millennium version of the 16th-century mega-updo about two years ago, when pop singer Janelle Monae swept her bushy hair into a French twist crowned by a high, tight roll. Striking.

Other celebrities fancying the extreme-mane look include model/actress Dita Von Teese, singers Chrisette Michele, Pink, the late Amy Winehouse, and the queen of all things sartorially odd, Lady Gaga. The October issue of Allure magazine features two fashion spreads with models wearing a short version and a longer version of the pompadour.

"We have so many people coming in and asking for them," said Monique Mason, owner of Old City's Moko Organic Beauty Studio. "It's not an everyday look, but it's definitely cutting-edge and artsy. It's great for special-occasion hair."

As part of this month's citywide DesignPhiladelphia celebration, Moko will host a cocktail party titled "Pompadour." The 11-day celebration, which starts Thursday, features more than 150 events throughout the city designed to fete good design in clothing as well as architecture.

Moko's Pompadour shindig (Oct. 19, 6:30-9 p.m., 55 N. Third St.) will celebrate the resurgence of the baroque-era pouf. In addition to the pomped-out live models who will be there, Mason and her stylists will provide free pompadours to walk-ins. Stylistas can also get their pictures taken - tweet that!

Some history: The pompadour became a sign of wealth in the 18th century after Jean Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour, brushed her hair into a roll high on her forehead. This long-ago fashionista, official mistress of King Louis XV, was known for her vast wardrobe. Many women - and some men - copied her look to show status in subsequent centuries.

In the 1930s and 40s, stars including Joan Crawford, the Andrews Sisters, and Lucille Ball wore pompadours. The style became popular in men's fashion during the late 1950s and 1960s. My own first memories of seeing the style were in black-and-white pics of Little Richard, James Brown, and Elvis Presley, all of whom had coal-black hair slicked back and piled high.

Today's pompadours are blending that classic era with edgy street culture.

"They are big with shaved looks for a Mohawk feel," said Charlie Stevenson, owner of Charlie Trendi Hair and Makeup Salon in West Philadelphia. Stevenson says pompadours are most popular with short-haired divas.

Moko's Mason says pompadours are easy to achieve. A skinny comb for teasing is a good tool to have. All one needs for thicker hair is bobby pins. Also, Mason added, the thinner the hair, the more hair spray is required. Capitalizing on this fall's bold color trend, Mason has even taken to rolling fabric into her pomps for pop.

Mason twisted my locks into a loose pompadour just for kicks. Different. Definitely big. Although for a daytime look, I don't think it quite worked for me. What do you think? Check it out on my "Mirror Image" blog at www.philly.com/mirrorimage.


Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704, ewellington@phillynews.com, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.

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