Vintage Hair Part 3 – Rolls

So you’ve got the middy haircut and set your hair in curlers. Now what? First of all let me tell you that I am not a hairstylist, nor am I even good at hair, so I can’t tell you how to perfectly do every vintage style. I can however give you a few basics that will more than get you started, and I promise that if I come across any new information you’ll be hearing about it.


When you first take your hair out of the curlers it’s important to be really gentle. Don’t pull on them and don’t do anything to get them tangled, because curly hair is harder to comb than straight hair and if you’re not quite used to it it can be a frustrating pain in the ass you don’t want to deal with. And tangles are not hot. The best way I’ve found is to hold the curler vertically and gently unwind it rather than just unrolling it the same way you rolled it up, because that can twist your curls all sorts of weird directions and then you won’t end up with a uniform look in the end. If your set was a success you should come out of this looking like Shirley Temple. Now of course you’re not four years old, but don’t worry because it won’t stay like this. If a few of the curls didn’t properly set for whatever reason and are now hanging loosely past the others, take a bobby pin after you’re done brushing and pin the piece under so the ends fall to the same place as the rest of your hair, and nobody will ever know.
You’re going to want to be very careful brushing the curls out, or like I said, you’ll get some terrible tangles. Brush a curl or two at a time and then separate them all with your fingers. Don’t panic and head back to the shower if you get a lot of poof at first, especially if you did pin curls. This is normal and should go down if you just keep brushing it. If that fails, spritz some smoothing lotion over it and that should do the trick.
Now you can leave it like this, or clip in a pretty flower. This is the simplest way but what else? I bet you’re dying to learn how to do victory rolls, right? Well seeing as how rolls are in my opinion the most important thing to know when learning to style vintage hair if you’re not just going to leave it down, I’m going to teach you now.


Just like pin curls, rolls are easy to explain but hard to do. I have yet to master them. The very easiest way is to use what’s called a rat. These are just like big curlers made of sponge that you roll your hair around and pin in place. You can buy them at a beauty supply store, or you can buy them here at amazon since I’ve had a really hard time finding them in person. Some of them actually have ends that snap together so you can do perfect buns and other things. If you don’t want to buy a rat, another option is to make one yourself. In the Victorian era they had porcelain hair keepers where they would collect the hair from their brushes for making rats. You can do this, but I understand if you think that’s gross. In that case go to the ethnic section of your beauty supply store and buy a 3$ bag of extension hair. This will most likely be called Kenekalon jumbo braid and come in a giant braid of all the basic natural hair colors. It will be more than enough.
Then get yourself a few sturdy hairnets or cut the feet off some old stockings that closely match your hair color. Put the hair in a hairnet or stocking foot until it’s about the size you want it and tie it up. While we’re at it, this is also a really great alternative to Bumpits, and if you make them big enough you can even create big beehives or those fabulously flamboyant 18th century hairstyles. Shwing!


Did you feel like that was cheating or something? Worried it will show? You can try rolls without a rat, if you’re willing to spend a lot of time practicing in front of the mirror. First, you’ll need to backcomb a lot so your hair “sticks” together and won’t separate in the roll. Curl the ends under, and while never letting go of the ends continue to roll it up to your head and pin into place with bobby pins. Do one roll on either side of the top of your head for perfect victory rolls. And speaking of victory rolls, if you just don’t have the time you can fake the look by twisting the sections of hair and securing them with a side comb pushed forward. You probably remember that from Vintage Hair Part 1. It’s not the same, but it will definitely get you by. For the back you can either do another roll facing upwards, narrow or wide, for a casual updo or just toss it into a snood, which is really just a pretty hair net. These date back to the renaissance, experienced a resurgence in the civil war period, and returned in the 40s because they were great for the women working in factories who needed to keep their hair out of their face. And I promise you won’t look like a fast food worker wearing one; they really can be quite attractive.


Rolls aren’t only great for 40s styles. Have you ever wanted those cute bettie bangs? A lot of people fake it by just doing a forward roll in the front of their hair, and it looks great, as seen here on pinup model Bernie Dexter. For the most authentic 50s shape make sure the roll forms in a U shape, longer in the middle and going up at the sides. You can of course use a rat to achieve this too.


Go ahead and have fun with this. In the meantime I’ll once again send you off to watch Lisa Freemont Street’s videos, and go on a hunt for more pictures, articles, and information to share with you. And send me pictures of your hair if you try any of this!

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