Hair Tips for Poolside Beauty Inspired by Esther Williams


There has been no one better at looking beautiful poolside than Esther Williams.

In the 1940s and 1950s, featured in movies that showcased lavish swimming scenes with underwater chorus girls and diving acrobatics, Williams was famous for her beautiful swimming skills. And her hair was carefully styled so that it would not move an inch as she did her underwater dance.


With many girls getting their suitcases ready for Viva Las Vegas and the temperature outside heating up, I thought it was time to devote some hair tips to lovely Esther. I love swimming and when I am poolside, I want a hairstyle that looks vintage fab, but also will not disintegrate if it gets a little wet. It was my goal to make these tutorials accessible to any skill level.

Esther Williams’ underwater hairstyles often incorporated hair pieces like thick braids that were not her own hair. It gave bulk to a hairstyle that would otherwise shrink when it got wet. Often times, the hairstylists would style her hair “wet” so they had a better idea what it would look like when she went underwater.

For this tutorial, I am getting my inspiration from this look, which I think is from the 1949 movie Neptune’s Daughter. You can watch a trailer of the movie here… or you can rent and watch the whole thing here…


Everything about this look is beautiful. I love the simple elegance of the color coordinated suit, scarf and lips. There are definitely some hair additions intertwined with the scarf. Not every girl has hair pieces to copy this, so I have put together a tutorial with s similar look that doesn’t need extra pieces. If you don’t think your hair is long enough to do this, check out my other Esther Williams inspired poolside look here.

This hairstyle gets all of your hair up and away and safer from getting wet and you can coordinate your scarf to your suit! And with the back being flat against the head you can easily lounge back to tan without crushing your hair.

Supplies/Tools you will need:
  • ponytail holders
  • grip bobby pins
  • long, thin scarf (the longer the better)
  • comb
  • brush

Step 1

Section out a 3×3 inch piece of hair at one side of the head and clip it out of the way for future use.

Step 2

Section a 2 inch wide by 1 inch deep section out of the front fringe area.

Step 3

Back comb this piece at the base.

Step 4

Smooth the hair back and to the side away from the section in Step 1.

Step 5

Bring all of the hair except the section from step 1 over to the side for a ponytail.

Step 6

Secure the hair in a high side ponytail.

Step 7

Wrap the scarf around the base of the ponytail twice and tie it in place.

Step 8

Twist the ponytail and the scarf independent of each other. Then begin to wrap them around each other.

Step 9

Keep twisting and wrapping until you reach the end of the hair. Wrap a ponytail holder around the ends of your hair and the scarf to secure them together.

Step 10

Place the wrapped section over the top of the head in a head band effect and grip pin it to the scalp hair just at the top. Clip the end of the scarf/hair twist out of the way temporarily.

Step 11

Take the section from step 1 and back comb it up and away from your face.

Step 12

Twist the section French twist style with the ends up and out and grip pin in place.

Step 13

Separate the scarf ends and wrap them around the top of the hair from step 12.

Step 14

Tie the scarf ends around the section to help secure it in place.

Step 15

The rest of the style will sort of be based on what hair and how much scarf you have left, but the basic idea is to get the left over ends of each secure and in a shape that looks good from the front.

Step 16

I wrapped the last bit of hair into a curl and wrapped the last end of the scarf through it and tied it down.

Final Hairstyle

I love scarf hairstyles.

Looking for more tips to look fabulous by the pool?

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Welcome to the Bobby Pin Blog! I am Lauren Rennells and as a hairstylist, makeup artist, writer, and generally artistic over-achiever, the Bobby Pin Blog is my outlet for thoughts and research about vintage hair and makeup trends and how to recreate them today. Thank you for stopping by!

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