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Q is for Quiff (AtoZ Challenge – Roaring Twenties)


A prominent piece of hair that is brushed up and back from the forehead, the quiff was very popular with men in the Twenties.

In the Jazz Age, almost everyone wore a hat, this was why the helmet head was so popular: it allowed to wear a hat with minimum fuss to your hair. It was mostly a bob or a shingle for women, men would wear their hair medium length and slicked, flattened down with a new product called brilliantine.
This was an oil-based pomade which gave off a slimy residue to anything it touched. The Twenties version was not actually meant to hold a shape so much as to smooth down and flatten, but men did sometimes use it to model their forehead hair, while women used it to model perfect curls on their foreheads and cheeks.

Poorer people would sometimes use cheaper petroleum jelly. It did the job, but it was a mess to clean up.

Once thoroughly oiled, a man would then part his hair in one of three popular ways:

  1. Straight back. This was a very sophisticated look and was obtained by leaving the top layers of the hair longer and then combing it all uniformly back.
  2. Parted on the exact centre or slightly off centre on one side or the other, depending on what the man preferred.
  3. Parted deeper on one side. This was more common in the 1910s than the 1920s, but it was sometimes necessary for men with thinning hair.

Boys didn’t use any of these styles. They would cut their hair very short on the back and the sides, with a longer shock of hair on top of their head.


Vintage Dancer – 1920s Men’s Hairstyle and Products History

ROARING TWENTIES AtoZ - Quiff - Not specific of the 1920s, the quiff was nonetheless very popular in the 1920s, especially among men (jazz age, fashion)


  • Mee Magnum
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 01:02

    I used Vitalis. I loved the smell of that stuff!

    –Mee (The Chinese Quest)

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 05:51

      I don’t use anything on my hair. It’d look odd… and hell to keep under control.

  • Jeri Burns
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 03:32

    Hair product in the 20s, who knew?

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 05:52

      ‘Modern’ hair products. There have been hair products as long as there has been women 😉

      • Jeri Burns
        Posted April 22, 2015 at 03:44

        Of course! Good point…I guess that’s what I meant 🙂

  • Barbara In Caneyhead
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 03:51

    Whatever Fairbanks was doing looks good to me!!
    We are on the downside of the Challenge now!

    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps’ Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 05:52

      And to me too. He’s my model for one of my characters 😉

  • Sara C. Snider
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 04:52

    A hair product called “brilliantine” seems, well, brilliant. I can almost see the sparkles on the packaging. 😉

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 05:54

      I think my granddad use it too. He was a theater actor and his looking was very important to him. In fact, I have a few photos of him looking quite like the gentlemen above 🙂

  • Fee
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 09:33

    Great post! It puts me in mind of the antimacasser 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 14:41

      I read somewhere that particular item was so popular in the Twenties just because of this 🙂

  • Sue Coletta
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 13:45

    I had no idea it was called a quiff. Very interesting!

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 14:53

      Hey Sue, don’t you like Douglas Fairbanks jr? 😉

  • Tasha
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 11:55

    Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was very lovely to look at wasn’t he. Hair gel was bad enough in the 80s I can only imagine what the stuff you describe was like!
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  • Kathy McKendry
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 12:55

    I was just looking at some hats in the mall the other day and kind of wishing they would come back in style.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 14:48

      Here in Italy, Twenties style hats for women have been fashion for the last few years. The one I’m wearing in the photo on the sidebar is one of those. Bought in a regular shop 🙂

  • Anabel Marsh
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 13:28

    Douglas Fairbanks gets my vote too. I clicked on the link – that group photo is something else! The partings are terrible, I much prefer swept straight back.

  • Sue
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 21:17

    Yep, here you and I are talking about ‘Q’ hair do, for the Letter Q. Yours from the 1920’s with Quiff and mine from 2015 Urban Dictionary with Quaff. Amazing how one lil ole vowel can make a difference in nearly 100 years. Brilliantine was popular during the 50’s and 60’s, too. That’s how Fonzie got that quaffed hair and the guys got that forhead curl to stay put. Then there was the girls spit curls…a little Dippity Do will DoYa!

    So glad you came back by today. I’ve added you to my AtoZ Blog Roll, and G+ ya.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal
    AtoZ 2015 Challenge
    Minion for AJ’s wHooligans

    • Post Author
      Posted April 21, 2015 at 10:04

      Hi Sue, I’m so happy you’ve come by 🙂

      It wasn’t easy reaserching 1920s quiff, because the 1950s kept coming up all over the place.

      I’m already following you. I love your blog 🙂

  • Tarkabarka
    Posted April 20, 2015 at 20:07

    I always wondered how female 20s hairstyles stayed in those strong curls… My hair kicks out pins with a force that makes them bounce off the walls 😀

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary – Epics from A to Z
    MopDog – 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  • Sharon Marie Himsl
    Posted April 22, 2015 at 03:57

    I still like the bob and sometimes get my hair cut that way. Never heard of the word quiff. Great word, but makes you wonder where on earth they came up with the name!

  • Sue Archer
    Posted April 27, 2015 at 00:25

    Yay, a new word for me! I honestly don’t know how they could stand it. I don’t use any hair products because they feel icky to me. I can only imagine having petroleum jelly in your hair! I must admit it looks nice, though. 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted April 27, 2015 at 05:26

      I don’t use hair products either. Shampoo is already a tricky matter for me. But I suppose you’d do anything to look smooth, right? 😉

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