1940’s Most Popular Hairstyles- A Simple How to Guide

1940’s Most Popular Hairstyles- A Simple How to Guide

1940s hairstyles

Joan Crawford 1948 hairstyle

Hair was usually worn shoulder-length or a little bit longer, cut straight with no bangs. There were several popular hairstyles during the ’40s, but they all had a few things in common. First, hairdos were perfectly styled – no messy look. Hair spray, bobby pins and longer hair pins are musts. Second, they were never, ever straight and sleek. Curls and volume were in. Hairdos almost always started with pin-curls and were styled from there. Following are some tips you can use to recreate a perfect ’40s hairstyle.

Achieving pin-curls takes some effort and practice, but they were an everyday process for women in the ’40s. The curls are set at night and styled the next morning. You’ll need to start after washing your hair at night. Let hair air dry until it’s just damp and then start the curls. Take about a half inch to an inch-wide section of hair and twist it around your finger front end to root. Slide the hair off of your finger so that it lays flat on your head in a circle and pin it in place with a hair pin or bobby pin. Repeat sections of hair until your whole head is done. Make sure to twirl the curls in the same direction, and in the direction you want them to curl when taken down. Tie a scarf around your head so that your hair is fully covered and then go to sleep! It may be uncomfortable, but that’s the price you’ll have to pay for perfect pin-curls. In the morning, take the pins out and fix the curls so that they lay properly and then you’re ready to style.

The easiest ’40s hairstyle doesn’t take much effort once your pin-curls are set. Simply make a deep side part above the outer end of one eye brush out any tight curls, and spray, spray, spray in place. You can also use a couple of bobby pins, a barrette, or hair comb to pull hair back off of the face on the sides. That’s it!

40s hair style

1940’s Hairstyles

1940s colen grey

Soft Victory Rolls

For a more fashionable and iconic hairdo you’ll have to put in a little bit more effort. Hair was often swept halfway up using pins to hold it in place. The front of the hair had to be tall, and there were two ways of getting that look. The first was to create a bouffant at the top of the head. After taking your pin-curls out, take a large section of hair at the front of your head, from ear to ear or a little bit shorter and one to two inches front to back. Hold it straight up. On the backside with a fine-tooth comb, start from the middle of the hair and quickly comb to the root. This is basically teasing the hair – it will create a pillow of hair in the back of the section you’re working with. Once the pillow is big enough, take the front part of hair and fold it over the pillow you’ve created towards the back of your head. Pin the hair in place. The rest of your hair will still be curly and will be left down. You can also pin up a few more sections of hair behind the bouffant to cover up the ends.

1940's victory roll hairstyle

Victory Rolls

Another popular hairstyle at the time was nicknamed the ‘victory roll.’ This style is a little bit more difficult to master. Once pin-curls are taken down, one or more sections of hair are smoothed out and rolled into a circular shape and pinned. There are several ways to do this style. For one roll, take a thick section of hair at the front of the head, about where bangs would be. Smooth the hair back away from your face and roll the ends under, so the hair forms a circular roll shape. Pin the hair in place. There are two ways to do a double roll. For the first, make the same roll as you did for the single roll excerpt only use hair from one half of your head. For the second roll, take the rest of your hair on the other side and instead of rolling it back, roll it from the side of your head towards the middle. One roll will go from front to back, the other from side to middle. Another popular style was to have two side rolls. Part your hair in the middle, and take a thick front section from each side and roll from side to middle. The rolls should be even and sit in the same spot on either side of your head. Hair spray is a must for keeping these rolls in place all day! The rest of your hair can be left in pin-curls, or some sections can be pinned back.

snoof hair tie

1940’s Snood

Snoods were a popular hair accessory for both daytime and work. The were a rayon or cotton crocheted net fitted with a headband. The band was worn around the top of the head and all of the hair would be encased in the snood. The band would have to be pinned in place. This hairstyle was especially useful for women working in factories because their hair had to be kept back. For this style, take the snood and fill it with hair from the bottom. Place the band of the snood where you would a headband and pin in place.

Hair was also tied up with scarves while working, just like Rosie the Riveter had hers. Take the scarf and fold it half into a triangle. Place the middle of the triangle underneath your hair at the nape of your neck. Tie the two ends at the top of your head with your hair inside the scarf. Take the loose end of the scarf and fasten it inside the tied ends to cover hair completely. Pin in place if needed.

bett grable formal 40's hairstyle


For evening, hair was worn either long and wavy or piled on top of the head. The first style was popularized by movies stars like Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth. Hair was severely parted on one side, past the eye. The thicker side often fell over the eye on that side. Hair was worn in loose waves instead of curls. The look is fairly simple to do. Part your hair on one side. Next, take a large curling iron and twist thick sections of hair in spirals. Make sure the curls are loose waves – they shouldn’t be tight. You can lightly spray your hair for hold, but this look is soft, not severe. The thicker side of hair can be worn so that it drapes over your eye for the full effect.

1940s long hair

Long and Wavy 40’s hair

The second evening style was a favorite of movie star Betty Grable. Hair was curled and then pinned on top of the head. To do this style, you can set your hair in pin-curls, but make sure that you roll them tightly and take care not to brush them out when you take them down. Smooth your hair from the nape of your neck towards the top and do the same on the sides. The bottom and sides of your head should be flat and smooth with no curls. Pull it up almost like you’re making a ponytail. Flip the ends up towards your face and pin it in place so that all of the curls face forward and are piled on top of your head.


Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step-by-Step Techniques – the best book on creating vintage hairstyles using original styling techniques. See bobbypinblog.blogspot.com for the author’s blog with more hair and makeup ideas.
retrobelles.com PDF’s of original hairstyling books. Many options.
www.youtube.com/user/lisafreemontstreet Hair tutorial videos from vintage hairstyling books.


You have just read a section from the 1940’s Style Guide: The Complete Illustrated Guide to 1940’s Fashion for Men and Women. To read more pick up a copy of the book today!


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