The Beatles Haircut circa 1964 -- from "gay subculture"?

I recently overheard a conversation about the Beatles “moptop” hairstyle that they popularized in the mid-1960s. Some guy said that he had heard that it was originally a “gay” hairstyle, adopted by some hip homosexuals, in order to differentiate themselves. The guy he was with expressed doubt about the story; he said that the last thing gays wanted back then was any type of style that made them stand out in a crowd – they felt much safer “blending in”, since the consequences of being “outed” were far greater back then.

I actually vaguely recall hearing this story before, many years ago (don’t remember exactly when) – is it true?

Well, the Beatles hairstyle was created without much planning – George one day decided not to bother with all the grease that people wore in their hair those days.

And the hairstyle was unique. No male of the time – gay or straight – wore their hair that way.

Actually, the haircut was invented by Stu Suttcliff’s girlfriend during their Hamburg days. It’s origin can therefore be described as “German Beatnik.”

The first to experiment with “the French cut”, under Astrid’s influence, was Stu Sutcliffe. George tried it next, then Paul. So says Philip Norman in the book "Shout!.

A better description of it would be “German upper-crust”.

I grew up in the middle of that time and never heard the gay story before.

My understanding was that the haircut was the fashion among the German version of beatniks, many of whom may have been gay. It was suggested by Astrid Kirchherr, but she did not invent it.

Moe Howard?

Gay guys wore the same styles (clothing, hair, etc.) as everyone else back then, and all through the 60s. We just took those styles and made them look better. There wasn’t a specifically gay look until the “clone” look of the 70s.

Wikipedia: Moptop


I’ve read “The Beatles Diary” (Barry Miles) and “The Beatles Anthology.” They describe what has been related above, and make no mention whatsoever of it having anything to do with gays.

To clarify: “they” being the Beatles themselves.

To be absolutely accurate, she didn’t invent it, she merely thought she would like it better on him than the pomaded, combed back Elvis-like style he was wearing. A number of Beatle biographies have mentioned that some of the guys in Astrid and Klaus’ circle at the time were already wearing something very close to it. It seems to have been popular among young intellectuals, students, and so on.

Most pictures of Stu show him in his earlier hairstyle; after the change it’s eerie how well he fits in visually with what would very shortly become “the Beatle look”, for example here onstage with Lennon, while John was still wearing a DA.

As he wasn’t a great musician he did have problems with the other Beatles at times, particularly Paul. But unlike their other early short-timer Pete Best, it’s clear that they respected his intellect, creativity, and opinions. As late as 1968, in Hunter Davies’ bio, they told the author that they still missed him.

I do remember at the time that long hair was thought to be strictly for women, so some people thought that long-haired men didn’t look masculine.

I’m not sure this is true. There was a gay subculture in the 1960s, although it was nowhere near as visible as it would become the following decade.

In Richard Barnes’s book Mod! he describes how he and his roommate Pete Townshend (soon to be of The Who) made their first visit to a Carnaby Street menswear shop. The clothes there were far more colorful and daring than anything they’d seen before, and the only other customer in the shop was a man Barnes describes as “obviously homosexual”. He goes on to say “I realized that homosexuals had been buying that stuff for years. They were the only people with the nerve to wear it, but in the early Sixties the climate of opinion was changing, the Mods were wearing the more colorful and effeminate clothes of Carnaby street.” He also mentions a nearby shop that “had been selling flamboyant clothes to homosexuals and showbiz people since 1954.”


No one that I knew at all wore hair that long. I was 21 in 1963 or 1964 when I first saw a photo of the Beatles. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen a man with hair down to his ears before! I was used to flat tops and crew cuts. I liked the way some of the guys wore it combed over to the side.

By the time I was student teaching a couple of years later, I would seen mean old principals backing high school guys into lockers to put a part into their hair.

Love long hair on a man.

Around the same time wasn’t classical music sometimes called “longhair music?”

It’s altogether possible that there were localized gay styles back then, and Carnaby Street would definitely make sense. But then it expanded into the general “Mod” culture without first spreading to worldwide gays.

In 1963 I was a junior in high school. I got my hair cut every 6 to 8 months if I needed it or not, and then my hair grew fast and thick. I remember walking between the Math and science building between classes when one of the teachers had a kid backed up into the lockers to recomb his hair now and he was to report back to the teacher in the next day or two with a hair cut. I thought about it and descided it would best for me to get out of there, my hair was twice as long as the other kid’s.

Still hate getting hair cuts. But with a head of gray, no white (gray indicates color:D) I now get one around three months. I think about it for 6 weeks before I finally go in. Old men with long gray (er white) hair, look like really old foolish men with gray hair who are trying to look younger and failing badly.