How to Do Rockabilly Hairstyles for Women

Updated February 21, 2017

Rockabilly, a term originally used to refer to rock-and-roll country music in the 1940s and '50s, now refers to a music and lifestyle subculture (most popular on the West Coast of the United States) that has overlapped with other vintage enthusiast groups. The archetypal 1940s rockabilly hair is worn by women of all ages in these groups, as well as by costumiers and swing dancers. The rockabilly hairstyle that is most worn is the Middy, which was originally considered a compromise between the desire for beauty and the need to be practical in wartime. Today, the style has been adapted to reflect the desires of the revivalist culture. To set your own hair into a woman's rockabilly style, complete the following instructions.

Get the proper haircut. The hair is usually cut into layers that are 4 inches long all around, except for just in front of the ear, where it is cut 3 inches long. Variations on this cut may include longer hair in the back (up to 10 inches long), but the front must remain only 3 inches. If desired, part the front of the hair at the side, from the ears to the crown.

Roll your hair, wet, into thick rollers for big curls. Let the hair dry completely before removing the rollers. For small curls--which are called pincurls and are usually only used on the back of the hair--separate the hair into small sections. Individually gel each section, wind it around your finger and pin the flattened curl to your head. Remove the pins when dry. If you naturally have very curly hair, you may be able to skip this step.

Tease up the inside of the front curls, so they rise away from the part and create volume.

Create a roll of hair in the front. Wrap the front hair around the handle of a hairbrush, with the ends of the hair tucked inside. Remove the hairbrush and hair clip the hair at the front and back of the roll.

Spray the front of the hair and make sure the pins are not visible.

Decide what style you would like to use on the sides and back of the hair. Both rolls and loose pincurls are acceptable, and can be done on different lengths of hair for different looks. You may wish to play around with these different patterns of curls (called "sets") to test out what looks best on you. Look for pictures of style options online or consult the links in Resources.

Set the back of the hair in the desired pattern. Spray the set with hairspray and let dry.


This haircut is not very versatile for modern styling, and must be curled constantly. It is not for those who are looking for a quick wash-and-go style, or who wish to wash their hair every day. Most people who wear rockabilly hair today also follow the upkeep schedule women in the old days used, which means taking a day to create the style and leaving it in the hair for a few days to a week before washing. Pincurls may need to dry for a long time (sometimes for a whole day) before they will hold. Aquanet continues to be one of the best-holding sprays for vintage hairstyles. You may also consider using a setting lotion before putting your wet hair in rollers. Other rockabilly-era hairstyles that women enjoy using, such as the Bettie Page style, will all require their own individual methods. Some popular celebrity rockabilly-adapted hairstyles include that of Ingrid Bergman and even Marilyn Monroe. Many women also enjoy recreating the styles that modern celebrities Amy Winehouse and Dita von Teese wear.


This style may take some practice, particularly for those who are not used to rolling, teasing and curling hair.

Things You'll Need

  • Hair rollers
  • Hairspray
  • Round-handled hairbrush
  • Hair clips or pincurl pins
  • Hair gel
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About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.