Love Vintage Hair: 1930s hairstyles vs 1940s hairstyles vs 1950s hairstyles vs 1960s hairstyles

vintage valentine hearts hair magazine covers woman wearing red sweater and cat eye glasses pink curtain background

So we know we love vintage hair, but which decade are we really emulating? In comparing these 1930s hairstyles with 1940s hairstyles and also with 1950s hairstyles and 1960s hairstyles, I thought I would use a series of my vintage hair magazines all from the month of love…February.

Why Do We Need to Ignore Decades When We Are Labeling a Vintage Hairstyle?

See what I did there? I just told you we would be comparing vintage hairstyles from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and then told you to ignore all of that decade labeling stuff…and here is why.

The style of a decade didn’t turn on a dime. The clock didn’t strike midnight on the morning of January 1st, 1940 and all of a sudden victory rolls were in. The reality is, there wasn’t anything called a victory roll on January 1st of 1940. But I will get to that later.

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This article is just a snippet of the fascinating world of vintage hair from the middle of the 20th Century. But my blog is full of posts to help you get a better understanding of vintage hair and makeup, so please continue to read and sign up for my newsletter to get updates on new blog posts.

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Early 1930s Hairstyles

1930s 1933 Modern Beauty Shop magazine woman sitting in front of vanity posing and cupid posing behind her

Let’s look at this hairstyle from the early 1930s. It comes from a Modern Beauty Shop Magazine from February of 1933. The silhouette looks pretty similar to our ideas of a 1920s hairstyle doesn’t it?

Magazine article page with finger wave hairstyle 1930s
1933 Vintage Hair Magazine Page

The bulk of the shape is focused below the ears and occipital bone. The top of the hairstyle is flat against the head. In the 1920s, the fashionable close fitting cloche hat required this tight, close hair silhouette.

woman wearing beret hat and cloche hat with bob hairstyle 1930s
Hats of 1933

It was right around the time of this early 1930s magazine that hats changed a little. Instead of the all over head hugging cloche hats, there were more tilted and asymmetric hats. Although these hats did not cover as much real estate on the head, they still formed close to the scalp. Think Jean Harlow in the movie Dinner at Eight from 1933.

actress jean harlow wearing black hat and black and white dress
Jean Harlow 1933 Dinner at Eight

You might also like: What makeup color should you have worn in the 1930s?

As the 1930s wore on, curls made there way up the head and by the late 1930s, hair looks included full curls on top of the head. This gave way to the full piles of curls we all love so much from 1940s hairstyles.

The beginning of the 1940s

1940s beauty hair magazines covers with hearts
1940 American Hairdresser and 1941 Modern Beauty Shop vintage hair magazine covers

These 1940 and 1941 February hair magazines feature hearts, of course. But note that the silhouette has really changed from the 1920s and early 1930s. These hairstyles are downright opposite of those.

1940s hair magazine article American Hairdresser
1940 February American Hairdresser 1940s hair magazine spread

Hair has gone from down flat and against the head and ears, almost like gravity is forcing it down. And in the 1940s, it’s upswept and voluminous and defying gravity with big curls.

1940s hair magazine article modern beauty shop
1941 February Modern Beauty Shop, 1940s hair magazine spread

Let’s check out figure 4, 5 and 6 of this 1941 Party Time hairstyle. Look familiar? It is the same steps we take today to make victory rolls. (If you’re not using the Roll & Go Hair Tool.)

1940s hair pin curl directions magazine article
1941 Modern Beauty Shop 1940s hair magazine curling directions

Figure 4 – First, the strand forming the curl is pulled out to its full length and back combed, or ruffed, on the under side of the strand. Figure 5 – Next, the curl is brushed lightly over the second and third fingers held together, as sketched. Figure 6 – Finally, the curl is spread flat with thumbs and fingers and placed in the desired position.

Some Victory Roll Controversy

Nothing can be popular without a little controversy right? I have read that the original term Victory Roll was an aviation aerobatic maneuver in which planes would spin horizontally in celebration of shooting down an enemy plane or winning an air battle.

I am honestly still trying to find printed proof of a hairstyle in the 1940s called “victory rolls.” I’ve seen lots of “V for victory hairstyles” that have a V-Shape in the hairstyle.

Update: Since I wrote this post, I have found new information about what exactly a Victory Roll is. See it on my new blog post, History of the Victory Roll Hairstyle.

1940s victory bob hairstyle
1940s “Victory Bob” hairstyle

And I have seen rolled hairstyles, but they haven’t been called “victory rolls.” Here is one that the hairstylist creator named “Soaring Puffs.”

1940s victory roll hairstyle
Modern Beauty Shop 1940s hair magazine spread “Soaring Puffs”

I am not doubting that the evidence exists somewhere. Hairstylists in the 1940s loved to give their hairstyles designs these fun names. I have just not seen it with my own eyes yet. Please comment if you have visual proof or a story from a family member alive during WWII calling the hairstyle a victory roll. I would love to know about it!

You might also like: Elegant Vintage Hair Accessories from the 1940s

The Sweet “Heart” Hairstyle of the 1950s

1950s modern beauty shop magazine cover with heart
Modern Beauty Shop 1950s hair magazine, February 1957 Cover

It’s 1957 now and immaculately curled and arranged hairstyles of the 1930s and 1940s has given way to a free form 1950s hair that allows for movement and touch. In the 1954 book “Top Secret’s of Hairstyling”, author and hairstylist Victor Vito writes, “To me the test of a hair style lies not in how much you do to your hair, but how little.” (Commissions earned)

You might also like: Pastel Hair Craze of the 1950s

1950s bob hairstyle betty draper hair
1950s hair book spread of 1950s bob hairstyle

In this 1950s Sweet-Heart-Coif hairstyle, the curls are brushed and styled, but there is a lightness to it. The 1950s hairstyle, especially in the middle of the decade and beyond just looked easy and unrestrained. This freedom from prior tiny curls and immaculate waves was a long time coming.

1950s sweet heart hairstyle vintage waves
Modern Beauty Shop 1950s magazine spread, “Sweet-Heart-Coif”

Victory Rolls are NOT a 1950s hairstyle

This does not mean that there is anything wrong with wearing victory rolls with whatever outfit you want to. One of the best things about vintage today is that we can combine it however we want, to make us look however we want to look. Wear a 1930s hairstyle with a 1940s dress, or a beehive with a 1950s dress. This is one of the great joys of being into vintage in contemporary society.

1940s hairstyle 1950s red poka dot dress
1940s Victory Rolls and 1950s A-line dress

But…there are a lot of websites with articles claiming that victory rolls should be considered a 1950s hairstyle. If your goal is historical accuracy, this is not true.

If there is someone out there that has a photo of their great grandma sitting on a couch in 1956 with victory rolls, that just means that great grandma found a hairstyle she liked 15 years before and just kept going with it. That does not define it though as a 1950s hairstyle. By that standard, every hairstyle is a 2020s hairstyle, because we all know women that wear hairstyles that first appeared in just about every decade since the 1860s.

If you are ever reading an article about historical fashion or beauty or art, always… consider the source. Are they an expert in that field? Or check for their sources. Did the article link to anything or provide any proof that they pulled their information from reliable sources? Instagram snapshots don’t count.

1960 and the No-Curl Trend

1960s beauty trade magazine cover black hairstyle beehive
Beauty Trade vintage hair magazine, February 1960 cover

That’s right. The magazine is calling this the No-Curl Trend. Yes, I know you see some curls. But from the perspective of how much curls use to be the staple of women’s hairstyles throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, this really is almost no curl.

1960s beauty trade magazine black hairstyle beehive hair
“Hearts and Flowers” 1960s Vintage Hairstyle from Beauty Trade magazine

Yes, 1960s hair mostly started with some kind of curl with a roller or curling iron, but many of the final brushed out hairstyles themselves lacked much of any curl.

1960s Dell hair magazine curl setting pattern beehive hair
1965 Dell Hairdos magazine 1960s hairstyle with curlers and pin curls

This February 1960 issue of Beauty Trade Magazine features the “Hearts And Flowers” hairstyle by Ernest Badger of the New Haven House of Beauty salon in Connecticut. Beauty Trade Magazine was the leading black hairstylist trade magazine of the late 1950s and into the 1960s.

1960s beauty trade magazine black hairstyle tutorial article
Beauty Trade 1960s hair magazine spread, February 1960

In this 1960 hairstyle, hairstylist Ernest Badger essentially only curled the ends of the hair sections. He describes it as, “We do not use a complete croquignole curl-only a partial croquignole curl. In other words, using irons, we carry the hair just to the center and click it in. This way, it makes a very loose croquignole from which a much wider and freer formed wave can be gotten.”

You might also like: For the black hairstylist, by the black hairstylist – Beauty Trade magazine

So there you have it. A brief comparison of the differences and similarities between hairstyles of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. I hope you enjoyed it!

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1 Comment

  1. Wonderful post! They are all pretty styles, but I love the 1950’s bob style the most.


Comments are closed.

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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