1920s hair

The most important thing to remember when learning to re-create a vintage hairstyle is to be inventive. Be prepared for practice and don’t be scared! The common thread through all vintage hairstyles is The Curl. Whether the hair twists and bends in a horizontal wave or vertical ringlets, it is a Curl.

It’s my experience in the last few years — with the invention of straighteners, GHD curls and wands — that home-users and hairdressers have become scared of the curl and brush them out. Under no circumstances can there be frizz! Unfortunately we live in a age where women go out donning full heads of baby doll curls or GHD ringlets because they are scared of frizz!  Don’t worry, however. We will show you how to wear retro styles without 1980s frizz.  It’s all to do with practice, and how you comb the curl.

For any retro hair style, the best advice is don’t fear the curl. As we explain over the following tutorials, the techniques of creating curls and waves with a little practice will have you wearing the hairstyles of the screen goddesses you have admired for so long, without the frizz.

Finger Waves

Finger waves have been around in different forms for centuries but are most associated with the roaring 1920s and early 1930s. Originally women would create these finger waves in a wet set, that is wet hair.

They are extremely difficult to create, in fact they are so difficult they are still part of exams for apprentices to become working hairstylists. Originally these waves were used by holding the hair down and combing the hair in the opposite place and holding in place with double ended clips and end papers.

Over the years techniques have improved and we will explain two different ways to create a finger wave —  an authentic way to create them, and a lighter version for those of you who would like a nod to the 1920s but not as much of a structured style.

For these styles you will need:

Ÿ  A hairdryer

Ÿ  A wand (second style)

Ÿ  Curl spray

Ÿ  Waving clips (first style)

Ÿ  Tooth comb

Ÿ  Double prong clips

Ÿ  Bobby pins

1. To create and hold the wave we suggest investing in waving clips. You can buy them online or at any good hairdressers supply shop. They are metal clips with holes along the sides to help air circulate. As we are all busy women and don’t have hours to wait for the waves to set, the quickest way to do this is to work on dry hair. Once you have decided where you would like your hair split, spray down your hair with curling spray. This will act as your setting lotion.  From the split in your hair comb the hair toward your face and place a clamp in the hair. The first placement is always the hardest and may take a few attempts.

2. Uuse your comb and gently comb your hair from under the placed clamp back in the opposite direction and again add a clamp. Continue this method until just above or below the ear depending on personal taste.

3. Now blow dry until it is bone dry. Be careful of clamps as they are metal and can get really hot. That’s what sets the wave.

4. The finger wave styles of the 1920s worked well in short hairstyles as you could bring the waves to the end of the hair. But don’t worry if you have long hair. This is where you need to be inventive and try out different styles.  Why not try curling the hair beforehand and have your waves flow into them? Or keep your hair straight and roll it up into a fake bob.  Leave the clamps in until cold and don’t be afraid to play around with your style. The clamps will keep the waves in place.

5. Only when you are finished your style should you slowly take the clamps out starting at the bottom ones. Have your comb handy to help release the hair from the teeth.

6. For finishing touches lightly insert your comb and lightly loosen the wave which will remove and signs of the teeth. Finish with hairspray and a shine spray. Fans of the 1920s will know that all the women’s hair had amazing shine. This was gained by using coconut based shampoos and oils which you can still get today for those who are interested.


  1. The second way to create softer finger wave style curls is using a wand. Once you decide where you want your split, part your hair into three sections. Two going from the end of your split to the front of the ear and the largest section being your remaining hair at the back.
  2. To create the finger style waves, lightly stray with curl spray and comb through the section. Using your tooth comb, you need to take a smaller section from the section your are working on. It is important to take it at a diagonal angle. For those of you that are not sure, follow the natural line of your ear in one    inch sections (that means your section will start higher on your head and have a lower end point on your face.) This will help later to create that vintage wave along the face.
  3. Using the wand, wrap the hair lightly around it starting close to the root. It is important when you do this to have the smaller end pointing away from you.
  4. When you take the hair out of the wand let it cool and lightly spritz with hairspray. Continue this method diagonally until all the hair in section is curled. You will notice as you get to the top of your head the wave will be bigger at your face and will be smaller as it recedes. This is why you wrap the hair as stated earlier around the wand so it will sit well on the face.
  5. Once the hair is cool and using your tooth comb, with the lightest of touches comb through the waves uniting them together using the two pronged clips on the under waves to help keep the waves in there places (the under wave is the wave that bends toward your head not away from it). Spray well with hairspray and leave clips in place until hair is completely finished.
  6. If hair is very long a good way to end the waves is starting from your ends wrap the hair around two fingers to your ear and use bobby pins to pin into place. This is called a pin curl and is a real nod to the 20s.
  7. Its personal choice what to do with the back section of hair. You could also continue the same process on the back section using horizontal sections rather than diagonal (this is to help all the waves eventually line up). Lightly brush it out. This will give your waves a much softer look almost like a Marcel wave from the 40s.