Hair Curlers in the 1940s

Written by alice stewart | 13/05/2017
Hair Curlers in the 1940s
Women took great pride in their hair in the 1940s and kept it well groomed at all times. (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Women experimented with new and exciting hairstyles during the 1940s. The short, masculine styles of the 1930s gave way to the more feminine and flowing styles of the 1940s. Almost every hairstyle required some form of curling, from the fashionable pompadour to the more glamorous "peek-a-boo bang." Women often slept in the hair curlers to allow the curls to set fully, as hairdryers were reserved for the rich and famous.

Pin Curls

Hair Curlers in the 1940s
Hair pins, also known as hair clips or hair grips, kept the curls in place overnight. ( Images)

During the 1940s, many women chose to curl their hair with pin curls. Women curled their hair by twisting freshly washed, damp hair around the fingers and securely fastening it with a small hair pin. Pin curls required setting for eight or more hours, so many women chose to sleep in them overnight. This technique created a beautiful head of tightly curled hair in the morning. A popular yet sexy daytime look involved loosely tousled pin curls that fell naturally on the shoulders.

Curling Irons

Hair Curlers in the 1940s
Curling irons in the 1940s looked similar to modern-day curling tongs. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Wealthy women had access to electric curling tongs in the 1940s. The traditional curling tongs featured a long metal barrel and ceramic handle. A metal clamp securely held the end of the hair, and the heat from the appliance kept the style in place. Although curling irons provided a quick and convenient way to curl the hair, many women found that they left the hair frizzy and dry. Hair pomade smoothed the hair follicles and helped keep the style in place.


Rollers featured two connecting pieces of thin flexi-metal in the 1940s. The rollers clasped the end of the hair and curled the hair underneath it. Some women left the rollers in their hair to create a neat undercurled look, while others left them in overnight and removed them the next day to produce a soft and sexy curl.


Hair Curlers in the 1940s
Rag curlers were more comfortable to sleep in compared with metal pins (George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Women who wished to curl their hair the economical way used rag curlers in the 1940s. Scraps of old fabric rolled around the hair and secured at the top of the head in a simple knot created the famous rag curl style. A hair net or scarf kept the rags securely held in place overnight. Rags curls produced softer and looser curls than the curling irons and the pin curl technique.

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