Women of the 50s had trendy styles that encompassed every possible length of hair, with one particular common element, and that was curls. Primarily, the 50s curls were either worn as distinctive ringlets that were obviously independent of each other, or they might be styled to form one continuous roll, typically at the bottom of the hair ends. Waves were big, and there were special clips that women used to set their hair with, to create those waves. The leading form of creating lasting curls was found in what was a more “permanent” solution, or “wave”–now referred to strictly as a permanent. The Toni Company sold a product that was used by women whose hair was straight, or just not able to hold curls for very long. These permanents were performed typically in the kitchen, and produced a characteristic odor that was anything but pleasant, but women–long known to suffer for their beauty–persisted in the effort.
Permanent Holding Power
The thing was that the curling process did not end with the completed perm. The signature tight and more or less unruly and unkempt look a perm gave a woman’s hair might be just wonderful as one of today’s rocking styles–but not in the 50s. It would have been unheard of to be seen with any curling effort that stopped at a perm. The 50s perm was strictly performed to give the hair a type of “curl memory,” or body that would more easily assume the shape intended by being subsequently rolled on hair rollers of a variety of sizes. And there were no blow dryers and curling wands, either. Just rollers and hairspray. And it was quite common to sleep all night with rollers securing the hair all over one’s head. Ouch!
Finger curls, or pin curls were easier to sleep on and highly popular, and for these, all you need are a brush or comb, some bobby pins and a little time. After being set for a suitable time–like after sleeping in them overnight, You take them out, and use a brush to organize the curls into joined waving and curling effects that form the hairdo. Nothing messy or tousled here–hair was controlled, and it showed. To copy a popular form of curled hair from the 50s, you can use pin curls or your curling wand to create a succession of curls that frame your face and run the extent of your hair ends, all the way around, with the hair from the scalp to the curls being rather flat, straight and close to the head.
For anyone willing to contend with the aftermath, there are many fabulous 50s hairstyles to try that involved teasing. Bouffants and beehives were what gave half ups, French twists and more their 50s characteristic flavor. The higher, the more these looks rock. Just be prepared to spend a good chunk of time and patience and conditioner to detangle the teasing, and if you aren’t, stick with the safer 50s curls.