What Is a Punch Perm?

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  • Written By: Donna Tinus
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2018
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A punch perm is a men's hairstyle with a short, tight, curly perm. This hairstyle was popularized by the Japanese mafia known as the yakuza and a lower-level mafia that was called the chinpira. The hairstyle spread to the culture among the Japanese motorcycle gang members. Truck drivers, men in the Japanese construction industry and enka singers began sporting this hairstyle in Japan. It remained a popular men's perm hairstyle from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The motorcycle gang members, or bōsōzoku, altered the punch perm style slightly, into another haircut that is called aippa. In this style, the hair is shaved close to the head on both sides. Then, hair is brought forward in the middle of the forehead. This creates a dramatic widow's peak and resembles something that looks similar to an exaggeration of the 1960s pompadour. The difference is that the punch perm is a tight permanent curl, while the pompadour is a large curled hairdo with longer hair.

The name of the punch perm hair style most likely came from a type of carpeting. Needle punch carpets are a durable carpeting manufactured with a short matted layer of fibers that are punched into a synthetic scrim. The fibers are then woven together to form a matted carpet.


The traditional perm is created with small perm rollers and chemicals that penetrate the shaft of the hair, creating a semi-permanent curl. The hair is sectioned, rolled up with tiny rollers in a long process. Chemicals are then applied to the hair, and the person sits under a hair dryer for a while. The time depends on the length of the hair and the type of permanent wave being applied to the client. After the curlers are removed, the hair is rinsed. The hair is now permanently curled, although some of the tightness of the curl will loosen and soften after a few washings.

An iron perm is another men's hairstyle that looks similar to a punch perm, but with a curl that is only temporary. Although it's called an iron perm, it's not actually a permanent hairstyle. The iron perm is produced by using a hot curling iron, so the end result only lasts until the next shampoo. This is one way that a gentleman can change his hairstyle and have a perm one day, and a straighter look the next day.


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