Beauty | Glamorous 1950s Hair How-To


Alright kiddos… The past month has been laboriously spent discovering how the heck to get my hair to look like this. Well, I’ve finally achieved a lovely vintage style for my modern-girl hair, and since you’ve been so politely asking for the secrets to be divulged, I’ve decided to share the process with you!

I watched a few YouTube tutorials on how to get a vintage hair-do similar to this one using modern styling tools, but wasn’t happy with the results. My hair doesn’t hold curl very well, and never holds it for long. So I figured I should see how the original 1950s ladies created their hair styles back in the day. I’ll warn you, this process might be easy, but it sure takes a lot of time. It’s pretty easy for a work-at-homer like me, as I can always get some stuff done while my hair is setting in the rollers. But this process certainly isn’t for someone with a lot of time on their hands in the mornings. However, you can still try this look for special occasions or costume parties!

Now if you’re worried that you can’t achieve this look because your mornings are rushed, don’t fear! You don’t need to wet-set your hair every time to get this exact look, though I prefer to use this method right after washing my hair. Then, the next two days I use dry shampoo (as seen in this post) and set my hair with hot rollers, achieving a similar look, though much more quickly. If you have the time, I suggest following this same method of setting your hair right after washing it, because it properly prepares your hair for the next few days when you want to style your hair more quickly with hot rollers. (I use Helen of Troy Hot Shot Tools flocked rollers for non-shower days.)

Here are the styling tools you will need:

  • Setting lotion (I use both Nairobi and the Generic brand from Sally’s)
  • Wire mesh rollers (no larger than 1 1/8″)
  • Metal clips to secure rollers
  • A thick bristle hair brush
  • A rats tail comb
  • Bonnet hair dryer (I use this Gold ‘N Hot dryer)
  • A 1-inch curling iron (I use this Helen of Troy iron)
  • Aerosol Hairspray

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To save on drying time, you might want to towel dry your hair as much as possible before thoroughly applying your setting lotion. After you have worked the lotion through your hair, use a rats tail comb to part your hair on one side. Starting at the front, roll the top section of your hair towards the back of your head and secure with metal clips. Do this for the entire top section of hair alongside your part.  The rest of the rollers you apply on the sides of your hair should be rolled towards the bottom.

Now comes the time intensive part- don your oh-so-lovely bonnet dryer and wait for your hair to dry. The drying time depends on your dryer and its settings, how much you towel dried your hair, how many rollers you used (the more you use the faster it dries), and also your hair’s texture and length. On the high/hot setting, my hair takes about an hour and a half to dry completely. During this time, I usually tuck a towel under the back of the bonnet to protect my neck from the heat while I edit photos or do something else productive on the computer.

When you check to make sure your hair is dry, start at the back bottom, or the the thickest rolled curler on your head. Just beware of checking the front, because if it’s not dry, the set could be ruined on that piece, and I always prefer to have the shoddy looking pieces hanging out on the back of my head. If you do ruin a section of hair, you might be able to salvage it with a hot roller or curling iron.

Gently remove your curlers and make sure your hair is not hot before brushing through. The curls go from ringlets to big puffs in no time, but don’t worry, it’s really easy to smooth them out. Since I have bangs, I need to use a curling iron to finish the top front of my hair, but before I do so, I gently use the comb to smooth out the top of my hair and sort of sculpt the curls into where I want them to lay. After I’ve touched up the front with the curling iron, I spray a good amount of hairspray all around (concentrating on my bangs so they don’t fall down) and then apply a glamorous shade of red lipstick.

Voila! The vintage look is complete. Now that you have glamorous hair, you can forget about cigarettes, because you don’t need them anymore to perfectly channel Lauren Bacall.


14 Responses

  1. Stephanie says:

    Fabulous!!! I’m going to keep an eye out for that bonnet dryer

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I have never heard the term rat tail comb before, but I can imagine what it is! ;-)
    Cool tutorial, thanks. It’s quite fiddily but I reckon I will give it a try sometime.

  3. Julia says:

    I love this so much! I’ve been practicing my ’60s style beehive every day for about two weeks now, + still haven’t gotten it right. But, today it looks better than it has in the past! My hair doesn’t hold anything, either, it’s heavy, flat, + lazy!

  4. steffy says:

    it looks incredible on you and i totally applaud your patience! i really want to try this look but doubt i will be patient enough to see it through :)
    Steffys Pros and Cons

  5. adorable. I have too long of hair to do a lot of the styles but I did all the time when I had length like yours. It was so much fun. I have bangs so I do a lot of the pompadours. Really what it comes down to for me has always been curling hair (my hair hates curling too), pomade, and teasing slightly to get some height. quite fun. You did a lovely job explaining everything. It made me miss all the youtube tutorials I used to have posted too. :( wah. You look adorable and amazing!!!!

  6. danielle thompson says:

    LOVE.IT. : ) really really gorgeous!

  7. Wow Mandi,
    you are amazing! haha.
    I am so inspired by your research and your success. Grammas would be so proud and feel so understood while reading your blog!
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Frankie says:

    This is awesome! I absolutely love your hair like that. I think that my hair would only last a total of 10 minutes like that before it got knotty or fell flat. I may have give it a go anyway.

  9. You look amazing, even with wet hair! I love the final out come! Suits you very much!!! x

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Huzzah! This is fabulous. I can’t wait to try this on my next night out. I have bangs too, so this will be a nice way to change things up and get them off my forehead for a change! Thank you so much for the great tutorial!

  11. Carmen says:

    Super cute! Love the vintage feel of your blog. I found this video a while ago and get great vintage curls this way without all the heat… It really works!
    Keep up the great work. I really enjoy your posts.

  12. Meredith says:

    you strike an uncanny resemblance to Jane Russell in some of these shots!

    • Mandi says:

      Oh wow! Thanks so much, Meredith! I’ve always thought Jan Russell was the bees knees, what with her sexy/bad a** vibe she has going on. :)

  13. Amanda says:

    This is amazing! I love the picture of the bonnet dryer…it looks like the result of an alien invasion, but you’re face is so cute and serene.