Women's hair styles of the 1930s

1930s women's hairstyles saw a departure from the radical cuts of the 1920s. While many still opted to wear their hair short, the overall look was softer. The golden age of Hollywood provided glamorous escape from the Great Depression, and film-star styled locks were in fashion, if unattainable for many.


Hollywood starlets like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn influenced women's hairstyles throughout the 1930s. Jean Harlow's stunning blonde locks, made more vibrant by black and white film, prompted high sales of peroxide. Since the 1920s, this had become safer and easier to use. Providing escapism from the harsh economic realities of the '30s, the impeccably groomed hair of Hollywood stars was a preserve of the rich. But the basic styles still filtered through to influence the everyday wear of many. The looks of Josephine Baker and Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel were still inspirational, but the avant-garde in hairstyling was less influential than it had been in the '20s.


Women still wore their hair bobbed in the 1930s but grew styles much longer, softening the silhouette with the fashion for curls. Finger waves are the classic look of '30s hair and were influenced by the new products and techniques pioneered since the beginning of the twentieth century. These involved saturating damp hair in setting lotion, then combing and pinching waves along the crown before setting with a dryer. Pin curls were popular for Hollywood inspired up-dos, as seen on stars like Ginger Rogers. These involved winding the curls into a distinctive loop shape and pinning so that they sat up in a perfect circle.


1930s evening hair was still often adorned with bands, feathers and combs -- decorative styles reminiscent of the '20s for flapper-girls who had grown up. For those who could afford it, '30s evening wear was opulent if simply styled, and hair was all part of the couture look. The popular Art Deco style was common in hairclips, and black jet beading was the fashionable jewellery of the decade, extending to hair combs.


With the 1930s, the decade of millinery, exquisitely styled fashion hair was expressive but not big enough to disrupt the hat. With women's dress more formal than it is today, leaving the house without a suitable hat was unusual. Fashion hat-wearers needed to be able to wear the essential styles of the day, including the close-fitting cloche. Named after the French for "bell," cloches dictated that hairstyles should stay flat at the back, with any desired detail visible at the front. So the longer bob with finger waves perfectly suited the hats of the decade and remains the iconic 1930s look.

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About the Author

Shefali Choudhury is a qualified make-up artist and nail technician, with more than 12 years experience of professional makeup in beauty, film and theater. She graduated in fine art from Central Saint Martins and has been writing professionally since 2007.