Today we will take a look at some of the most popular hairstyles from the Roaring 20s, exploring what made these cuts catch on, and show you how to recreate them today. These were bold new styles for the women of the 1920s, and with the right styling, they can add some glamour - or even a little bit of edge - to your look today.
What were the most popular hairstyles in the 1920s?
In the early 20s, culture in the US was undergoing a shift. World War I was over, but the changes to society brought on by the war effort were here to stay. Women had gone to work as men had gone to war, helping with the war effort. But even after the war, many women wanted to keep working - both for income and freedom.
As women entered the workplace, their fashion choices had to change. Factories and shops used newly designed heavy equipment, and girls often worked with lots of complicated machines. This meant long, luxurious locks were not only out of style - they were dangerous.
There were two other factors contributing to short hair being “in” in a big way - sports and spy work. In 1920, the New York Times traced the origins of what they called the bob "epidemic" to two girls at Bryn Mawr college who cut their hair short to play basketball.
The article also claims that short hair became popular in the Greenwich Village area of New York City thanks to a new flock of trendy "intellectual women" from Russia who used bobbed hair to disguise themselves from the police.
While the exact factors of the trend are as multifaceted as a rhinestone, one thing is for sure - short hair was embraced as sexy and fresh. But don't have to chop your locks just yet. There are lots of options to recreate the 1920’s looks without grabbing the scissors.
A Timeless Chignon
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The Chignon is a classic updo that has an instant romantic effect. In the 1920s this was perfect for women with long hair who wanted to stay trendy. The look creates glossy waves ending in a chignon or bun right at the nape of a woman's neck.
To create a Chignon, first, tease your hair slightly up, and part it to the side you want. Pull your hair smoothly into a ponytail at the base of your neck. Split the ponytail just above the tie, then flip the rest of the tail through the gap, creating a topsy turvy. Take another small hair tie and tie the very end of the tail into a new, tiny tail. Take the tiny tail back up to the topsy turvy and nestle it in, looping around the outside and creating a bun. Then stick some bobby pins in to loosely secure the bun. Take a few strands in front out and curl them or add a simple headband to complete the romantic effect.
The Eton crop
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The Eton crop was a razored hairstyle that took the short hair trend to the extreme. The name comes from the Eton Preparatory School in London, where the boys attending had to shave their hair to be a closely razored shave all the way around. Josephine Baker was one of the more famous faces to rock this style.
To get this look properly, you really need to visit a salon! If you do, be ready for your stylist to break out the razor. First, they will pull your hair into sections, with the top pulled off the bottom. Then the razor cuts all hair the same short length from below the ears down. Then usually one side of the hair is left slightly longer for a “parted” look, while the stylist blends the longer top sections seamlessly into the shaved lower half with skillful razor work. The end result is edgy, sexy, and will make daily styling a breeze!
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The earphones style was made iconic by Princess Leia but did you know it actually was in vogue for young schoolgirls in the early 1920s? This style was nicknamed “cootie garages” because, in a time of diminished hygiene, lice and other critters could be hiding in the buns!
You don’t have to worry about that today, so wash your hair and give it a try! First, part your hair down the center and split the hair in half. Tease the front sides of your hair to add some volume before creating two low pigtails. Braid each pigtail to give you two braids. Loosen the braids slightly so the braids look fuller.
On each side, take the braid and roll it onto itself. Add pins as you go to keep it secure. Tuck the ends in and secure with bobby pins and voila - a cute earphone style perfect for keeping your hair off your neck in the summer!
The Shingle (or finger wave)
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The shingle, or finger waves, was a style that mimicked the look of natural waves but was designed to keep the hair close to the head. The look could be used on either long or short hair. The key was to use the finger on wet hair to build waves right on the head.
Fingerwaves are tricky and traditionally work best on people with already wavy hair. But if you don’t have naturally wavy hair, try this updo to recreate the look.
First, use a small curler and curl the whole head, facing the curls toward the face. Keep them small and identical, and set them after each section. Once curled, brush them out. Then, grab your hair clips. Starting at the top, comb the waves flat for about an inch, then clip. Below the first clip, you should see a wave of curl popping up. Push that wave crest up, then clip below to hold it in place. Do this starting at the top, all the way down in 3-4 waves until you reach your neck. Leave the pins in as you continue styling to set.
Then you can create an updo with the remaining hair. Push the curls up into a rough bun, wrapping the ends back into the curls. If your hair is long, you may need to use a hair tie to start the bun, but do it loosely. Secure it with lots of bobby pins for a messy low bun. The result is an authentic 1920’s look that feels glamorous and timeless.
The Iconic Bob
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The bob was by far the most iconic 1920’s hairstyle. The look was a short, chin-length cut, often razored in the back. The style also had the sexy allure of showing off their neck. The short bob haircut could be worn with bangs or with the hair brushed to the side.
To get the bob look with long hair, follow this quick cheat. First, tease or curl your hair to add some volume. Place a headband midway down your head, using rhinestones for a full flapper effect.
Starting just behind your ear, fold a small section of hair right at the nape of the neck, twisting the hair at the bottom and looping it up under the upper section. Wrap the bottom of your hair around itself and under the top part, pinning the section in place. Complete this folding all around the head rolling and pinning each section on to the others. Make sure to keep the folded part the same length. The final effect will have a large rolled section of hair just below the neck that mimics the bob.
Looking back for inspiration
These hairstyles will make any 1920’s costume party - or a glamorous night out - feel a little more special and authentic. The edgy allure to short hair is fun to try out, even if it’s not a permanent cut. With a little time and creativity, you can take the inspiration of any decade - including the Roaring 20s - and bring it into 2020!
You might also want to look at:What Kind of Jewelry did Women Wear in the 1920s?
Styles from The 1920s: Updated for 2020