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November 15, 2021

Veronica Lake Demonstrating How Her Peek-a-Boo Hairdo Could Get Caught in Machinery for LIFE Magazine, 1943

During World War II, Veronica Lake (1919–1973) changed her trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle at the urging of the Government to encourage women working in war industry factories to adopt more practical, safer hairstyles. Although the change helped to decrease accidents involving women getting their hair caught in machinery, doing so may have damaged Lake’s career. She also became a popular pin-up girl for soldiers during World War II and traveled throughout the United States to raise money for war bonds.

Actress Veronica Lake with her hair twisted in a drill press, demonstrating potential dangers to women in factories during World War II. November, 1943.

In 1941, Veronica Lake caught her break and rocketed to stardom with her role in I Wanted Wings. LIFE captured her appearance in minute 49 for posterity thus: It was the moment when [she] walked into camera range and waggled a head of long blonde hair at a suddenly enchanted public. The article then devoted two pages to discussing the actress’ distinctive hairdo and that lock dropping over one of her eyes. It detailed the number of hairs, their diameter and their length. Every beauty parlor in the United States advertised that haircut and women flocked in. Veronica Lake became “the girl with the Peek-a-boo bang.”

The US was at war nine months later. The Government encouraged women to work en masse in factories making weapons. Some of them, however, had accidents because their hair styled after the star’s got caught in the machines.

In 1943, the War Manpower Commission, asked Veronica Lake to change her hairdo for the remainder of the armed conflict. She was flattered that she could do something for the war effort and willingly obliged. The Office of War Information, the Government’s propaganda agency at the time, filmed the scene and broadcast it extensively.

Veronica Lake’s hairstyle change.

The star was all the happier since she only sported her hairdo on sets. Moreover, well-known humorists mocked it. In Stage Door Canteen by Frank Borzage (1943), Ray Bolger sang, “She has hair that she wears like Veronica Lake, so that 50% of her is blind.” Her decline after the war probably partly explains why the peek-a-boo style faded shortly thereafter.


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