Vintage Hair Styling Basics
I’ll be the first one to admit that I am no expert at vintage hair styling. Heck, I still struggle with basic pin curl sets sometimes. But, in the last few years of my pinup transformation, I have learned the very basics of vintage hair styling. Now, I have a few quick, go-to styles that have gotten easier for me overtime.
When I first got interested in vintage hair styling, it was a little challenging. I would see all of these talented ladies on Youtube with beautiful pinup hairstyles, and they were using products and tools I had never heard of. What are pin curl clips? And pomade? I always thought that was just a thing for men.
So, I got a little overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start, and at the time I wasn’t involved in the online pinup community yet. It would have really helped me if someone had broken down a list of the vintage hair styling basics, where to buy them, and their basic function.
If you’re in the same boat now, I hope that this post gives you a guideline of where to get started with vintage hair styling.
1. Bobby Pins
Because bobby pins are still so standard in how we do our hair today, there really isn’t a lot of explanation needed here. But, you shouldn’t underestimate how important properly placed bobby pins can be in vintage hair styling.
Bobby pins hold hair in place. If your hair ever doesn’t feel secure enough on it’s own when you’re trying something, remember this: Just keep pinning. Keep doing it until you’re confident that your hair will stay up by itself.
Also.. Lately, I have loved using bobby pins in place of pin curl clips to set my hair. They are much more comfortable to sleep on, in my opinion.
2. Pin Curl Clips
These are central to achieving those flawless, glamorous sets that we all love. If you have hair anything like mine, you’ll find that curling iron curls will last only for a few minutes. My hair is just too heavy to handle the curl.. and that’s why pin curling is my favorite.
Tiny, metal clips, pin curl clips are available at any beauty supply store and Amazon. Most boxes of pin curl clips average around $5. I’m still very much of a pin curling novice, so I won’t get into a tutorial for how to use them. But I will explain the basics, in case you’re totally clueless.
I have have most pin curling success when my hair is very damp. When your hair is wet and you roll it into pin curls, the chemistry of your hair changes. Your hair will maintain curls or waves until the next time you wash it.
In the 1940’s, women pin curled their hair once a week. Somehow, they made that style last for that entire week, too. It was really pretty impressive. I admire all the women today who have gotten to that level in vintage hair styling. (Don’t ask me how they do it. I’m still figuring it out myself).
3. Duck Bill Clips
You would use duck bill clips to hold hair in place in both hot styling and wet styling. They’re usually very long, and are often used to create waves in vintage hair styling. I use duck bill clips to form a subtle wave around the front of my face after I’ve brushed out sets.
4. Foam Rollers
Foam Rollers are still used a bit today, but definitely not as much as they used to be. If you can’t handle sleeping in metal clips, foam rollers are a much more comfortable alternative that I recommend. Like pin curl clips, foam rollers are also used in wet styling. But, some women also like using them for dry sets.
I haven’t had much success with foam rollers, but I know some ladies love them. My hair is really thick, and I feel like it takes forever for my hair to really dry and form a decent curl.
5. Hair Donuts
Have you seen those incredible vintage hair styles where the hair looks too perfect and too voluminous to be real? Well, that’s probably because hair donuts had a place in creating the style. Hair donuts create height and volume in vintage styling, so that means a lot less work for us. Otherwise, you would have to tease your hair and that be a PAIN sometimes.
That being said, if there is a way I can avoid teasing, know that I’m definitely going with that option instead.
My favorite way to use hair donuts is to create 1940’s bumper bangs. To create bumper bangs, I cut a donut in half. Then, I place it under the front of my hair and pin it in place.
I also use hair donuts to create perfect chignons and buns.
6. Rat Tail Combs
You know those fancy combs that hair stylists use at the salon when they’re cutting or styling hair? Chances are, the combs you see are probably rat tail combs.
In spite of the awful name for the combs, I love them so much. If I need to lightly smooth my nearly perfect updo before pinning it in place, rat tail combs are my friends. You barely need to run the comb through your hair to smooth it out. I’ve learned the hard way that brushing too roughly only destroys the hard work that I already put into giving my hair an amazing tease.
Speaking of teasing.. rat tail combs are my go-to combs for teasing my hair. And even though I was a beauty school drop out, I did learn how to use rat tail combs really well. My teacher made sure that everyone in our class knew that the really long, pointy end of rat tail combs were made for sectioning hair in perfect, even sections when styling or cutting.
7. Smoothing Brush
Though I often use rat tail combs to smooth my hair, I also love smoothing brushes. I find that smoothing brushes work best if my tease is especially unruly. And sometimes if I’m feeling lazy or am in a hurry, I lightly brush over my tangled hair to hide the inner mess.
When smoothing your hair, remember that a light touch is all you need.
8. Paddle Brush
After the pin curl set comes the brush out. Since pin curls give your hair notorious poof, whatever you regularly use to brush your hair out most likely won’t cut it. You’ll need a durable brush that’s strong enough to tame the craziness that are pin curls. And a paddle brush is the brush for the job.
I admit that I need to brush up on my paddle brushing skills (pun intended), but I do have a basic understanding of how to use them. After a wet set, (especially a pin curl set), you’ll be horrified at the amount of poof you see, if it’s your first set. But, don’t be. Lots of poof is good, because it means that your hair will last a long time. You just need to know how to brush it out stylishly (that’s the hardest part for me).
For my first few sets, I was very afraid of brushing my curls. I thought that after all my hard work, they would go away. That’s a common mistake in vintage hair styling, but there is something you have to remember: just keep brushing.
I promise, the hideous poof will eventually go away, and soon enough, you’ll have molded your hair into a gorgeous wave. Again, I’m not an expert with the paddle brush, but in my experience, I’ve found that keeping my hands above where I’m brushing gives my curls a better shape.
9. Round Brush
Round brushes are great tools in vintage hair styling if you’re wanting your hair to go in a certain direction. In the 1960s, it was the popular style to brush hair outward like in this picture of the gorgeous Mary Tyler Moore.
And then notice how in this picture of a 1940’s ad, the hair was brushed under.
These styles were achieved using round brushes. After I’ve gotten a decent shape using a paddle brush, I wrap the ends of my hair around my hand and brush them in whatever direction I want. It’s important to keep brushing the ends around and around until you’re happy with the shape you get.
10. Setting Lotion
Setting lotions are usually applied when the hair is damp, right before styling. Setting lotions are amazing because they help create firm, longer-lasting curls that have a lot of body and shine.
In the pinup community, Lottabody setting lotion is a very popular choice. I’m not familiar with any other brands, but I know that a few ladies prefer to make their own setting lotion with natural ingredients at home.
I personally love Lottabody setting lotion. You can buy it at Sally’s or on Amazon.
This is a given, but it’s too important not to list. If you want to create stunning pinup updos that will last all day, you need a lot of hair spray. If you want to create gorgeous, sweeping waves out of your wet sets, you need a lot of hair spray.
When I say ‘a lot of hair spray, ‘ I mean a lot of hair spray. All of the great starlets depended on it. It wasn’t uncommon for Elizabeth Taylor to use nearly an entire bottle when she was doing her hair
When it comes to hairspray, I’ll use whatever I can find that’s cheapest. I don’t care about the brand. But, I know a lot of ladies love the hairspray that Kenra makes.
Pomade is an incredibly useful product for creating shiny, sleek, perfect updos and styles. To ensure that my victory rolls are ‘on point’ as the kids say these days, I run a little bit of pomade through my teased hair to make sure that they are perfectly smooth and free of any fly aways.
A thick gel product, pomade is your go-to source for achieving beautiful, smooth, and shiny updos. I haven’t used this brand yet, but it is the most popular brand in the pinup community.
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