Hairstyling in the 1930’s reflected a progression from the finger waves of the 1920’s to a soft, full version that was popular in this time. During the 20’s and 30’s, the Jazz age heralded the woman released from the bondage of compulsory corsetry and reborn into radically sleeker lines in her outfits and hair. In the 30’s as opposed to the 20’s, there was a return to setting and curling that took the severity of the 1920’s slicked finger waves into the coiffured waves that was favored by the glamour set as well as the much emulated movie starlets of the era.
My inspiration for this look was the 30’s screen icon Clara Bow. In this image we can see there is still a defined wave movement back and forth, with the soft voluminous silhouette that is the product of setting rather that wet-molded waves.
image from The Biography Channel
As we can see in our before shots, Candy has a layered version of the classic 1930’s shaped hair cut, with a graduated (angled) line at the back to create a diamond shaped style, and longer interior layers, fantastic for waves.
As we are re-creating a period hairstyle with modern tools, I’ve chosen a narrow straightening iron instead of setting rollers. You are more likely to have irons at home than rollers, and its faster to start and finish on dry hair as well. This look can also be created with hot rollers, and if you have the patience you can wet set with rollers and dry with a hooded dryer or hair dryer. Authentically it was done with a combination of rollers, waves and pin curls, I’ve chosen to demonstrate this way to make it easier for you to recreate at home.
I started with the nape (hairline at the base of the neck) and worked up, so as not to disturb the hair as I was setting. Each row was curled on a diagonal part so the resulting curl would sit to one side or direction. This image shows the alternation directions of the curls well. Do each row wrapped around the entire head, from hairline to hairline, like a typewriter!
For example: the first row , each part or individual curl was curled toward the right, the next row was done opposite, to each individual curl faced toward the left. Each row is done in alternating directions, much like finger waves would be.
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Each row would be parted into individual slanted rectangles or oblongs, called rhomboids, so this setting pattern is sometimes called alternating oblongs or alternation rhomboids.
To help explain this better, refer to the video below for a more visual guide:
Its important to decide where your part will fall before you curl the top. To be period-specific, I recommend a straight part rather than an angle, to one side, approximately over the arch of the brow or center of the iris rather than too close to the center.
Once you have the curls completed, let them cool before proceeding. If you have heavy or slightly longer hair its advised to place them into pin curls by clipping the curl ends neatly tucked into the base. Ends only, as you don’t want to flatten or distort the curls.
As you can see above, I have a strong side part and have left out the fringe for an alternative and contemporary 1930’s wave, but as it was popular to have the face framed with smaller defined curls and waves you may choose to continue curling the entire head and not leave out a separate fringe, the choice should be based on your desire to have either an authentic look or a more modern version.
Once the curled hair has set, (hair is still setting while it is hot/warm, so for best results always let the hair cool completely, this is true with hot rollers as much as it is with irons) I have back combed the roots for volume and fullness while leaving the mid lengths and ends smooth and tangle free. This step will support our volume by holding the hair out from the scalp, and leaving the ends free will give us waves to mold into our finished shape. Don’t be alarmed, this will look very odd but it’s simply a means to an end!
When you have done this, use a light hairspray on the roots to help with the hold. Its very important to use a soft or light spray rather than a lacquer and to use it sparingly, as you still have some styling to do to complete this look. Be sure to spray at a distance of 20-30+ cm’s so as not to spray wet beads onto the hair, that will make it very sticky and create separations.
Now we are ready to complete our 1930’s waves. This time we will start at the top, creating our hairstyle, dressing or combing out away from the part and into waves.
I will aim to make these written instructions clear as possible, please also watch the video above for a visual reference and support guide to the above instructions as well as completing this look.
Start from the heavy side of the part (the side with more hair) and comb at a 45 degree angle into the wave.
If the C of the curl/s created are open on the right side (as our alphabet C is) the wave starts moving to the LEFT first and returns to the RIGHT to complete a C [or ¾ circle shape]. These two directions are called 1st direction and 2nd direction; 1st direction is moving into the wave, 2nd is moving out of the wave.
Comb into 1st direction, into the wave, and then hold the hair just under where you have stopped to keep the hair steady and comb 2nd Direction out of the wave.
As you complete the 2nd direction, you have already created the 1st direction for the next wave. As the waves move in alternating direction, the will continually connect and blend into each other, creating a series of connected S’s back and forth. Be sure reach row blends into the one underneath it and are not separated from each other.
As you also see in the video, I used a light hairspray for control and to smooth out fly away hairs. I also use clips to hold the waves in place, so I can continue to create the waves without distorting the waves already completed.
The ends can be left into full random-direction curls. Overall, once you have created your waves, check for balance, and for a diamond or triangular silhouette. Smooth frizz-free waves with defined back and forth direction as well as in and out volume will give you a wonderful full and soft 1930’s look.
The finished product!
from the side
Ready for a night on the town
This style is a bit intermediate-advanced if you are not practiced at styling hair, especially tricky to do on yourself, so its worth practicing or having a pamper-play night with some friends to try it out on each other. And of course you can always come into one of our salons and we can offer the talents of our staff to assist you in creating this and other fabulous vintage looks!
Have fun, and if you have any questions, or want to show us your own 1930’s creations, we’d love to see them! Drop me a line at email@example.com.