The Gamine Haircut

Gamine Shirley Maclaine Source
Short, pert and easy to care for, the gamine cut, popularised in the 1950s/early 60s was a radical departure from the kind of fussy, contrived hairstyles that featured in the 40s and early 50s, with their overworked rolled bangs, pins and perms.

The word gamine comes from the French gamin and means 'waif' or 'urchin' - an ideal gamine is a little bit tomboy, yet paradoxically girlish too,  with a vulnerability and  unique appeal. You don't have to have short hair to a gamine (Audrey Hepburn was one) but the 'gamine cut' was designed to conjure up that particular look.

Not quite as radically short as the pixie cut, the 50s gamine left enough hair around the face and over the top of the ears to be flattering, allowing that sly femininity to sneak into an otherwise boyish look. 

Shirley MacLaine
One famous gamine of the era was Shirley's MacClaine's fetching cut in the 1960 hit film, The Apartment (a good film by the way). The style suited her roundish face, bright eyes  and eccentric, fun personality. Shirley wore the style in several films and it gave her distinction and an edge among the Hollywood starlets who, by comparison, looked as though they were trying to hard with their glammed up hairdos.

Sultry but sweet. Shirley MacLaine with her co-star in The Apartment, Jack Lemmon.
Mitzie Gaynor
Another striking, earlier gamine but with extra-glamour was that worn by versatile dancer, singer and actress Mitzie Gaynor in the 1950s. That decade was really the first to see very short hair become popular. Although short bobs had been worn in the 1920s they weren't quite as short as this. Gaynor starred in a host of Hollywood musicals, which included There's no Business Like Show Business (1954) and Happy Anniversary (1959).

Mitzi Gaynor - glam gamine
More stylised than Shirley's cut, Mitzie wore a pouffier version, accentuated by classically 50s wispy tendrils curling over her face and cheeks. This gave the short style an extra emphasis but looked less natural.

Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron - Lili 
French actress and dancer, Leslie Caron was a great gamine-cut fan and wore variations of the style to good effect in a host of  films, most notably An American in Paris (1951)  Lili (1953) and Daddy Long Legs (1955).

The short hair gave her soft, feminine features a dramatic impact, helped along by a seductive French accent and a winning personality.

Trained as a ballerina, Caron often played the innocent and intriguing ingenue and did much to popularise the gamine style, proving beyond doubt that short hair was no barrier to being ultra-feminine. At right and below are four versions of Leslie's gamine cut.

An American in Paris 
Feminine gamine, Leslie Caron
Leslie Caron with 50s wisps

Great Vintage Haircuts
Hot Hairstyles of the 1960s
Long Hairstyles of the 1950s
Cleopatra Hair
The Eton Crop