To most millenials, and even probably to a good deal of those constituting generation x, James Dean is some combination of legend, icon, antihero and cultural wraith. If you asked a young person today what three things they could tell you about Dean, you’d probably hear a lot about car crashes, cigarettes and, yes, what has surely left the most indelible mark on popular culture, that stunning head of hair. Dean’s pompadour holds a special place in the annals of culture and style, as he truly evoked some greater power and harnessed it in order to achieve such an ethereally cool hairdo.
So cool, in fact, was Dean’s coif that Elvis Presley, the King of rock ‘n’ roll, himself, donned it in homage to and emulation of a great man with great style. Although Presley would wear some iteration of a pompadour throughout his even longer and equally iconic career, the style would wane until eventually it had all but slipped into extinction. With the peace-loving, but hygiene-ambivalent hippies of the late 1960s and 1970s, into the big afros of the disco-centric late 1970s, it seemed that the pompadour might have seen its day come and go. Then, on through the highly erratic punk scene of the 1980s, into the grungy (speaks for itself, doesn’t it) 1990s, and the boy-band and basically just all bad hairstyles of the 2000s, it seemed that never again would that classically suave look find its place in popular style.
That is, not until a swift, surprising and seemingly surreptitious resurrection of all things early Americana occurred in the…well, it just sort of happened. Thankfully, we can all now rest easily knowing that the pomp is back in nearly full effect, and that, whether you’re sporting a side part or a high fade, your favorite pomade company won’t be going under anytime soon. James Dean has managed to live on like few cultural icons have before or since, and that, we can safely agree, is due in large part to his unfathomably cool hair.