Women's hair styles during World War II were creative, using curls, rolls, and bangs for intricate looks. They were feminine and glamorous, and they took a bit of effort to style.
World War II Hair Styles
When new clothing was hard to justify and materials were rationed, women of the 1940s used their hair styles to feel and look glamorous. Those hair styles took some preparation, and even today may take a while to complete. Rolls of all kinds were popular, especially the victory roll, which was named for the maneuvers of the fighter planes in the war.
Popular WW II Women's Hair Styles
Women's hairstyles were carefully sculpted and prepared, even when the end result was a soft wave. Pin curls were used quite often, and victory rolls and top reverse rolls were common as well.
Pin curls were required for several different World War II women's hair styles. Women of the 1940s typically used a setting lotion on damp hair, but other products like mousse or spray gel can work if re-creating the style in modern times.
To create a pin curl:
- Apply product to your damp hair, then wrap the bottom half of a one-to-two-inch section around two+ or three fingers (three fingers will make bigger curls).
- Be careful not to twist the hair as you wrap it. Take your fingers out of the middle of the curl and continue rolling it toward the scalp.
- Pin the curl into place carefully with a clip or two bobby pins crossed in an X-shape.
In areas you want lots of volume at the roots, pin just the base of the curl, the part that is already against your head. If you plan to sleep on your curls or you don't need the extra volume, turn the curl so that it's lying flat against your head, then pin across the whole curl. Try to use clips or pins that are flat on the inside rather than the bobby pins that have a zigzag shape on one side. These will yield the smoothest curls.
Once the hair has dried and you've removed the clips or pins, brush through with your fingers and then use a round brush with wire bristles to brush direct the curls to where you want them. To loosen them up into beautiful waves, continue brushing the hair against the palm of the hand. It may take a while to coax those curls into waves, so don't give up.
These rolls swept the hair away from the face at the top and sides of the head and sometimes resembled wings. Rolls could be combined or worn alone, and they could be paired with soft pin curls or waves or complement an updo, like the classic chignon.
For asymmetrical victory rolls:
- Start with a diagonal side part that starts above the arch of the eyebrow and extends toward the crown.
- Make a separate vertical part from the end of that part to just behind the ear on the same side.
- Backcomb this section of hair, then spray it. Grab the hair at mid-shaft and roll the ends around one finger, away from the face. Slide the rolled section off the finger and continue rolling down to the scalp.
- Pin the roll into place with bobby pins.
Repeat the process on the other side. The side with more hair will have more volume, so don't worry about making the sides look symmetrical. This look can also start with a center part with rolls of the same size on each side. Another option is to add more than one roll to one or both sides.
Top Reverse Rolls
The top reverse roll was a single roll that swept back and away from the face.
- First, curl the hair away from the face using pin curls, hot rollers, or a curling iron.
- Then make a part on each side, plus a horizontal one in the back that connects the two. You'll have a rectangular shape to work with.
- Hold the hair in the middle with two fingers and wrap the ends of the hair around your fingers, away from your face.
Remove your fingers and continue to loosely roll the hair back with the ends tucked inside. Anchor the roll to your head with bobby pins.
Hair rats were often used to help the rolls stay in place. Women collected hair from their combs and made small tubes by wrapping that hair in a hair net. They put the hair net at the end of the hair they wished to roll and rolled it up to the scalp. They pinned it all in place and made sure the rat were covered. If you want to use a rat but you don't want to collect your own hair for it, you can make your own with fiberfill and a pair of fishnet stockings.
The Peekaboo Look
Veronica Lake made this look popular. The hair was worn down and parted on one side. The side with the most hair formed an "S" shape that fell across one eye. This style changed soon after the beginning of World War II because it was dangerous for women in the workplace to have their hair loose and dangling in front of one eye.
- A deep side part makes the bangs easier to achieve.
- The bangs on the side with the most hair form a wave that bends away from the face at the top, in toward the face in the middle, and then back out again.
- You can use pin curls, a curling iron, or hot rollers to curl the hair back away from the face on top. Curl the section just behind the bangs back as well, then curl the sides forward.
- Curl the ends of the back section rather than curling all the way up to the scalp.
Spray your curls with hairspray, then run your fingers gently through to loosen them up. Use your fingers to finish molding the "S" shape across one eye.
Snoods were great for keeping the hair off the face during a workday, and they could be dressed up for special occasions. A snood resembles a net and was typically pinned to the crown of the head. The length of the hair was held inside, resting against the nape of the neck. Snoods could be simple or very pretty, depending on the color and crochet detail. The front of the hairstyle could be quite plain or feature rolls and curls typical of the time period.
Replicating the Glamour
With a little bit of practice and plenty of time, 1940s glamour is completely achievable for the modern woman. Some of the tactics used in traditional World War II women's hair styles are used in the present day rockabilly hair styles as well. Once you master pin curls and victory rolls, nearly any 40s hair style can be yours.