The original 'big hair', the beehive style, also known as the bouffant and the B52, was invented in the late fifties, possibly as an antidote to the mundanity of the pageboy and ponytail, which had dominated the earlier part of the decade. The architectural structure of the complicated beehive offered an interesting aura of elegant, high-maintenance style and was a boon to the vertically challenged as, together with heels, a female could now add a good four or five inches to her height.
By the end of the sixties however, the style had become well and truly passe, as the emergent flower-child, born of the wild-haired peace generation, rejected the smack of artifice the beehive couldn't help but project.
That first wave of beehive popularity was really a form of hair abuse as the style demanded an inordinate amount of teasing. A thin top layer was left untouched and the clumps of hair beneath were mercilessly whipped into a frenzy of knotty obedience with a teasing comb (a cruel ultra-fine toothed instrument with a slender handle to divide hair)..the top layer was then smoothed over the tortured clump and the whole creation squirted with a miasma of sticky lacquer.
According to legend the 'beehive' moniker and the credit for the style goes to Chicago hairdresser, Margaret Vinci-Heldt of Margaret Vinci Coiffures who, in an act of inspired creative quirkiness back in 1958, added a fake bee to the side of the hairdo.
Nowadays the essence of the beehive can be achieved using a bumpit -an arched plastic device with teeth that sits discreetly under a top layer of hair while still providing the necessary height. Bumpits come in various sizes to support anything from a modest height-lift to a full blown bouff.
Of course there is also the option of a hair-piece...or for the thrifty, pins and a rolled up piece of pantyhose in a matching colour.
For those who prefer the traditional method I'm told it's a good idea to use setting lotion and jumbo rollers for volume, to save on that brutal teasing which causes hair damage, though some backcombing will still be required. When you take the hair out the rollers, tease from underneath toward the scalp. Wind the whole lot under loosely and secure with pins. Follow with plenty of extra strong-hold hairspray. Good luck!
Zee Avi -Honey Bee
Beehives of the Rich and Famous
Although the beehive had returned to some degree with the sixties revival, designer Karl Lagerfield is really the man responsible for reintroducing and promoting the beehive to the excessively rich, trendy set on the catwalks of London back in 2007. Back then, Lagerfield paraded a new range of military inspired clothes and teamed them with eccentric beehive styles.
Individualist and singer, Amy Winehouse, who is an avid fan of the style and has made it her personal trademark, became Lagerfield's muse.
“She’s a style icon,” Lagerfeld has been quoted as saying, referring to Winehouse. “She is a beautiful, gifted artist. And I very much like her hairdo. I took it as an inspiration. Because, in fact, it was also Brigitte Bardot’s hairdo in the late Fifties and Sixties. And now Amy has made it her own style.”
Perhaps the most famous beehive of all time is the one that belongs to Simpson's character Marge Simpson. Her iconic blue beehive was apparently inspired by a combination of Bride of Frankenstein and the hairdo worn by Simpsons creator Matt Groening's mother Margaret, in the 1960s.
The 1950s, from whence the beehive emerged, was in many ways a transitional period, moving away from the relatively controlled 1940s, toward the more hedonistic and consumerist 60's.
The beehive was a prescient sign of the excesses to come...
An inspirational insect
All About Hair
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on December 13, 2010:
That would be great....I'd love to see it. Thankyou.
lcg4jc on December 12, 2010:
I believe there is a picture of my mama online in one of my friends facebook page, i will try and copy it and place it on my hubpages so you can see how beautiful she looked.
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on December 12, 2010:
Thanks...it was very nice of you to read and leave comment. I appreciate it.
A red beeehive..now that would be swank!
lcg4jc on December 12, 2010:
Great hub, I love it, it brings fond memories of my mother and her red beehive, she always looked so beautiful and polished. I remember she always was taking care of my sister and my hair with curlers, VO5 pomade and on picture days at school the always needed hairspray. LOL Oh good times and memories. Thanks for writing on this topic brought a smile to my face.
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on September 23, 2010:
Hi Katie, yes it was a torturous style...and I think you're right about the Jersey girls. Thanks for reading!
Katie McMurray from Ohio on September 22, 2010:
I see young girls wearing their hair like that, don't the jersey girls do the boof like that. WOW all that teasing, the things women have put hair and scalp through in the name of style. I enjoyed your Beehive Hair. Thanks :)
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on September 12, 2010:
Can't fit the B52 picture in without mucking up the layout...oh well.
Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on September 10, 2010:
Yes, the more natural look for women as well as men was a Hippy thing. It was something that came out of the '60s which I liked. Being natural and part of the earth wasn't something you could connect to the B52 hairdo. There is, however, still the B52 bomber connection. Who says it has to be one or the other anyway? Could be a combination of both. I think you might be right about Margaret Thatcher.
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on September 09, 2010:
Hey Rod..thanks. I should put in a snap of the B52. I will. You could well be right about the Vietnam/bB52 connection but I think the the main reason was that 'naturalness' really came into vogue in the late 60's.
In a way the beehive/B52 was a flattering style because it worked against gravity..pulling everything upwards! I guess that's why some women kept wearing it long after the decade had expired. Didn't Margaret Thatcher have a kind of a beehive...?
The Cronulla riot was very ugly...and I couldn't stand all that flag-waving but you are absolutely right about how it began...with Muslims objecting to the bikinis on the beach. Often that gets obscured and it's framed as a race issue.
Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on September 09, 2010:
I believe that the B52 hair style was named after the B52 bomber. It was capable of dropping H-bombs and it was a huge plane. It was part of what in the '50s was the modern age. Since the hairdo is also huge and modern and likely at the time to knock a young man's socks off it kind of fit.
One reason for the rejection of the B-52 hairdo in the 60s might well have been the rejection of the war in Vietnam. Men started to wear their hair longer in protest and, for the ladies, having a hairdo with the name of a bomber designed to kill lots of people would not be cool.
I remember a movie called The B Girls that had bees and also girls with beehive hairdos.
In the '80s a New Wave retro band started up called The B-52s.
Another reference to the atomic age was the bikini. Named after the atomic tests that took place at Bikini Atoll it was indeed a blast and very controversial when it first came out.
In recent years it has resurfaced as controversial in Australia. The origins of the Cronulla riot is the harassment of young women by Muslim youth over the women wearing bikinis. Truth to tell I would defend any woman's right to wear what ever the hell she wanted to wear on an Australian beach. What was supposed to be a peaceful protest at Cronulla turned ugly when agitators came in from elsewhere to stir thing up.
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on September 08, 2010:
I guess you two wont be purchasing any bumpits then? They'd offer a sturdy structural underpinning in a head wind.
I do agree with you both...too much work for sure and I can think of better hair role models than Marge Simpson. I have to say though, I've been seeing versions of the beehive a bit around Melbourne lately...it could be on the swarm over here.
Thanks for the great comments SG and drbj.
drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 08, 2010:
Jane - As someone who has seen a lot of beehives up close and personal, both the ones with bees and the ones with hair, I'm happy the hairstyle doesn't seem to be prevalent now. If you're a Bardot, it looks great. A Winehouse? Not so great.
But this hub was great - great photos, videos and text. Thanks for the memories.
SilverGenes on September 08, 2010:
It's a really high-maintenance style and one that would not do well in a good wind. Bardot look gorgeous in anything and Audrey Hepburn is elegance personified. Interesting how the same style works for both women though. I hope it never comes back any further than Amy Winehouse though - it's still awful! Thanks for the memories and the fun hub! :)
Jane Bovary (author) from The Fatal Shore on September 08, 2010:
Hi Putz...yes the beehive was very popular. Also I think there's sometimes a tendency for women to find a style that suits them when they're young and then just stick with it!
Thanks for the comment
Putz Ballard on September 08, 2010:
I remember seeing some of the women wear their hair in this style and some even kept the style for years.