The ducktail – or duck’s arse – was a popular men’s look in the 1940s and 50s, inspired by a hairstyle popular in Mexican American Pachuco culture.
Pachuco style was adopted by Mexican immigrants in California and the cut was an important signifier of their total look. It came under attack in the early 40s when racial tensions led to US servicemen attacking Pachucos – and forcibly cutting off their trademark hair. This is one of the first incidents of haircuts being associated with danger; a reputation which would lead to its eventual popularity amongst rock ’n’ roll fans.
The look evolved in the hands of Joe Cirello, who popularised the DA in his South Philadelphia barbershop. In a 1985 interview with The Face, Joe talked about how he created the look on a local blind boy who hung around the shop and allowed him to try out new looks. “It was just an idea I had, to do something different,” he said. “All the other barbers thought I was crazy.’
Clients loved the look and it soon caused a sensation, helping Joe secure a role at Warner Brothers Studios, where his clients included famous DA wearers like Elvis, Bill Haley and James Dean.