It was fifty years ago today, Jürgen Vollmer taught the band how to do their hair.
The traditional story has it that former Beatle bassist Stu Sutcliffe (living in Germany) was the first to wear the mop-top style haircut thanks to the barbering skills of his artist-girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr. The myth continues that while performing in Hamburg, Stu’s look was copied by George Harrison and soon after by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Drummer Pete Best kept his D.A .) The problem with this story is that when the Beatles returned to Liverpool from Germany in July 1961, they all still sported “duck-arse” haircuts.
The true story was confirmed by both John and Paul in the Sixties and since then has been mostly ignored. In late September and early October, John and Paul decided to celebrate John’s 21st birthday by hitchhiking to Spain. They only made it as far as Paris where they met up with a friend from their frequent sojourns in Hamburg, Jürgen Vollmer (top-left with Paul McCartney). By this time Vollmer had been wearing the style for years since he apparently stumbled upon the look after going swimming. During a visit to Vollmer’s Left Bank hotel room, the two Beatles convinced him to cut their hair in a similar fashion. Vollmer wrote that after the haircuts, the trio visited a Paris flea market where John and Paul were tempted to abandon their old look completely for the mod French style of attire (collarless jackets, bell bottoms, etc.) . The two eventually decided that the haircut was about as much novelty as their home town of Liverpool and their rapidly expanding fan base was ready for. On their return to Liverpool they stopped off in London where they bought some Chelsea boots, which were later to become fashionable as ‘Beatle boots.’ During the trip, John and Paul also tried to incorporate bowler hats into their new look but abandoned them before returning to Liverpool.
Vollmer took several photographs of the two during their stay in Paris:
When they saw their bandmates’ new look, George was quick to adopt the hairstyle and, always the outsider, Pete Best kept his old haircut. The three haircuts grew a little longer until Brian Epstein took over management of the group near the end of the year and arranged for the Beatles to have their hair cut by a salon called Horne Brothers in Liverpool where the mop-top look was finally standardized. Pete Best insisted that his hair continue to be cut in a DA. When Pete Best was fired the following year, Ringo Starr dutifully showed up for his first day of work properly coiffed.