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1920s Hair for the Modern Gal

Updated on March 8, 2016
1920s Hair for the Modern Gal
1920s Hair for the Modern Gal | Source

What's Old is New Again

The closely styled crops, boyish looks, and Gatsby inspired hair of the 1920s are adorable, but sometimes an overly retro look can be intimidating. I wrote this article to give you all some inspiration from the past and help you create a look that is fresh, unique, and entirely your own.

So if you feel like you're in a rut with your current style and are looking for something that is both cutting edge and classically chic, take a gander. I hope that my own search for 20s inspired hair might give you a fresh take on your own 'do.

1920s Poll!

Do you like the hairstyles of the 1920s?

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Linda Evangelista circa 1995.
Linda Evangelista circa 1995. | Source

Fashion is Cyclical

The popularity of the Leonardo DiCaprio/Carey Mulligan/Tobey McGuire flick "The Great Gatsby," HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," and the BBC runaway hit "Downton Abbey" has certainly brought the 20s back, front and center. Before these programs made their mark, however, the styles of the 90s were already coming back into vogue.

What do the 1920s and 1990s have in common? More than you might think, dah-ling. The following styles saw a big comeback in the 90s:

  • Short Boyish Haircuts (think the Vidal Sasoon or Linda Evangelista look)
  • Feminine Clothing (with a menswear edge)
  • Red and Dark Red Lips (with an emphasis on matte or no-shine lips)

Fashion experts agree that fashion is cyclical; styles tend to come back every 20 years. This puts us in a prime place for a 90s comeback. Every fashion decade will have its own quirks, many of which are drawn from classics of other decades. Given our current pop culture fascination with the the 1920s, I predict our current 90s trend will see a big hit from the speakeasy era of the 1920s.

Short Bob Inspiration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Louise Brooks in the 1920sA Modern take on the Louise Brooks look.Linda Evangelista (circa 1995) and the iconic Vidal Sassoon Bob.Photo 4: Winona Ryder with a messier take on the 20s bob.
Louise Brooks in the 1920s
Louise Brooks in the 1920s | Source
A Modern take on the Louise Brooks look.
A Modern take on the Louise Brooks look. | Source
Linda Evangelista (circa 1995) and the iconic Vidal Sassoon Bob.
Linda Evangelista (circa 1995) and the iconic Vidal Sassoon Bob. | Source
Photo 4: Winona Ryder with a messier take on the 20s bob.
Photo 4: Winona Ryder with a messier take on the 20s bob. | Source

The Super Short, Straight Bob

Perhaps the most iconic and easily identified style of the era, the Short Bob was made famous by starlets Louise Brookes and Clara Bow. This style is an above the chin boyish bob. A variation of this, the Eton Crop, was worn slicked against the head.

While the look works for some, it's probably best for the rest of us if an eton inspired crop is worn with a tad less gel. They can be cut with a more a-line (ie longer in the front than in the back) style, and also work very well with a subtle undercut in the back.

A very wearable variation of it, made popular by Vidal Sassoon and supermodel Linda Evangelista, made a big comeback in the 90s and is coming back in style today.

Short Wavy Hair

Finger Waves and Pin Curls

Short wavy and curly hair is the bread and butter of the 1920s. Finger waves were one of the most popular styles of the time. The style was traditionally done on short hair and was very close to the head.

The style is very pretty, but maybe not so practical for everyday wear. An excellent alternative involves the use of a waver, 3-barrel curling iron, or even a regular curling iron for carefully placed waves. Pin curls are easy and fantastic (woo you can sleep in them!) and work very well on hair that already has a some body.

Short Wavy and Curly Hair Inspiration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Clara Bow with a short, curly bob.Flapper Girls with 1920s hair.Joyce Compton and Clara Bow with longer curly bobs.Marion Davies with a chin length curly bob.Milla Jovovich and a modern take on the curly 20's 'do.
Clara Bow with a short, curly bob.
Clara Bow with a short, curly bob. | Source
Flapper Girls with 1920s hair.
Flapper Girls with 1920s hair. | Source
Joyce Compton and Clara Bow with longer curly bobs.
Joyce Compton and Clara Bow with longer curly bobs. | Source
Marion Davies with a chin length curly bob.
Marion Davies with a chin length curly bob. | Source
Milla Jovovich and a modern take on the curly 20's 'do.
Milla Jovovich and a modern take on the curly 20's 'do. | Source

What's a Waver?

A waver is a specific type of curling iron that is made for creating waves in the hair, rather than curls. They are pretty inexpensive and can create a range of styles: from a messy beach look to glossy/smooth waves.

Bed Head Dual Waver
Bed Head Dual Waver

This is the best waver I could find because it gives you the option of doing both a deeper wave and a more subtle one. Versatility, huzzah! It's also pretty darned cheap.

 

An Easier Finger Wave Method

When done the traditional way with the fingers (go figure), finger waves are one of the most notoriously difficult styles to master. Since we are busy ladies and some of us busy ladies have uncoordinated fingers, I've included a video below for a finger wave method that involves much easier to work with clips.

More 1920s Era Hair Inspiration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fingerwave stylesClara Bow and the classic 20s bob.Clara Bow with a messy, wavy bob.Flapper StyleLadies gonna WORK.Lillian Gish with a curly 20s 'do.Louise Brooks in a cloche hat.Mary Pickford with Longer Hair
Fingerwave styles
Fingerwave styles | Source
Clara Bow and the classic 20s bob.
Clara Bow and the classic 20s bob. | Source
Clara Bow with a messy, wavy bob.
Clara Bow with a messy, wavy bob. | Source
Flapper Style
Flapper Style | Source
Ladies gonna WORK.
Ladies gonna WORK.
Lillian Gish with a curly 20s 'do.
Lillian Gish with a curly 20s 'do. | Source
Louise Brooks in a cloche hat.
Louise Brooks in a cloche hat. | Source
Mary Pickford with Longer Hair
Mary Pickford with Longer Hair | Source
Mary Pickford with a boyish haircut.
Mary Pickford with a boyish haircut. | Source

Boyish Hairstyles

Bowl Cuts and Page Boy Hair

Boyish hairstyles are my absolute favorite at the moment, and the 20s serve as a fantastic source of inspiration. I think they are an unexpected look on a woman, and help to reinforce self confidence by flying in the face of gender norms.

Ah, who am I kidding. I just think they look adorable! Gamine? Yes please!

While I think the boyish hairstyles of the 20s have held up pretty darn well over the last century, I have two easy peasy ways to modernize a boyish cut. You can: a) mess it up real good with a little pomade for a "bead head" look -or- b) Go for an edgy undercut.

An undercut (which can be seen on Tilda Swindon and Milla Jovovich in the gallery below) is a hairstyle of any length that has a section (or sections) shaved or trimmed very very short on the sides or back, so that the longer hair lies over the top. Don't worry - it sounds scarier than it is! If you have shorter hair, an undercut poses minimal risk as it will grow out lickity-split. In the hands of a skilled stylist, a boyish undercut hairstyle can be oh-so-chic.

Boyish Hairstyle Inspiration Gallery - For the Gamine in YOU

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Julie Andrews with a gamine haircut, circa 1960.Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford with boy-cuts 1989.Shirley MacLaine in an adorable pixie circa 1960.Tilda Swinton with a Side Undercut.Milla Jovovich with a Side Undercut.
Julie Andrews with a gamine haircut, circa 1960.
Julie Andrews with a gamine haircut, circa 1960. | Source
Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford with boy-cuts 1989.
Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford with boy-cuts 1989. | Source
Shirley MacLaine in an adorable pixie circa 1960.
Shirley MacLaine in an adorable pixie circa 1960. | Source
Tilda Swinton with a Side Undercut.
Tilda Swinton with a Side Undercut. | Source
Milla Jovovich with a Side Undercut.
Milla Jovovich with a Side Undercut. | Source

20s Styles for Long Hair

In the 1920s, a woman's hair is almost always up off the shoulders as long hair was usually only seen on young girls. If your hair is long, your best bet for 20s style hair is to pin it up into a low bun or faux bob at the base of the neck. Loose waves and curls are best, and because you ain't got time for that, messy is a-okay.

If you have naturally wavy or curly hair, embrace it! Otherwise, some soft curlers, pin curls, or a waver iron can do wonders!

Image Credits: Left - Bellafaye on Flickr (CC 2.0); Middle - Mary Pickford (Public Domain via wikimedia Commons); Right - LoveMaegan on Flickr (CC 2.0)

A Super Easy Vintage Inspired Updo Tutorial

This tutorial works well for long hair and gives you a 20s style look that doesn't look too retro. The gal doing the video recommends curling your hair first (or using a diffuser if your hair already has a wave or curl to it), but I could see how the step could be skipped in a pinch.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Audrey Tautou is the queen of quirky adorableness in "Amelie." Love it.Olivia Wilde us just so stunning in Tron. Look at her. Just look at her.Watch "Boys on the Side" now. Drew Barrymore's hair is is amazing.
Audrey Tautou is the queen of quirky adorableness in "Amelie." Love it.
Audrey Tautou is the queen of quirky adorableness in "Amelie." Love it. | Source
Olivia Wilde us just so stunning in Tron. Look at her. Just look at her.
Olivia Wilde us just so stunning in Tron. Look at her. Just look at her. | Source
Watch "Boys on the Side" now. Drew Barrymore's hair is is amazing.
Watch "Boys on the Side" now. Drew Barrymore's hair is is amazing. | Source

1920s Hair Inspiration from Movies not Made in the 20s

I find myself in the habit of scanning movies for cute haircuts. The following 3 movies all feature 20s styles with a modern edge:

  1. Amelie - Amelie is one of my all time favorite movies. It's a French film (with English subtitles) and it's so quirky and cute, it makes Zooey Deschanel look like a lame-o.
  2. Tron Legacy - In the new "Tron," which is as stylistically stunning as the original, Olivia Wilde has a super cute hair cut. She also makes me weep for not being born with her face.
  3. Boys on the Side - Seriously, Drew's hair is so freakin' cute throughout the whole movie, don't be surprised if you have the sudden urge to curl yours and stick flowers in it while watching.

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wonderful to remember those curls and the many hours to get them.

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 3 years ago

      Currently my gf likes short hairstyles :)

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 3 years ago

      Cute! I love the Vintage Bohemian updo video! The finished style looks like it was way more complicated to create than it was!

    • JessicaLVine LM profile image

      JessicaLVine LM 3 years ago

      I have short hair now but i am letting it grow back out. :)

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