How to Marcel: Video

Curling tongs like this were used to create those Marcel waves on a temporary basis.

A “Perfect Marcel Wave” in an ad from July 1928 Delineator magazine.

The always interesting Glamourdaze blog linked to a short film from 1926 showing a hairdresser creating/cutting shingle haircuts…

A haircut in progress, November 1925. Delineator magazine.

… and, to my delight, a close up of a hairdresser using curling tongs (predecessor of the curling iron) to create those “Oh-so-Twenties” marcelled styles.

My mother’s marcelled hair. “There was a little girl, who had a little curl/ right in the center of her forehead….”

If you want to watch the vintage 1926 “How-To” video, which has been enhanced and colorized but shows great closeups, click here.

A flapper getting a permanent wave, drawn by Nell Brinkley, September 1929.

To learn more about illustrator Nell Brinkley, click here.

Other posts about 1920s’ hairstyles….

For the benefit of new readers, I’m going to supply links to several past posts about hair styles in the 1920s. Most of them are inspired by magazine articles in Delineator magazine, which was published by Butterick, and carried monthly reports from Paris..

Bobbed Hair and Shingled Hair:

Four Paris models sketched by Soulie, Delineator, January 1925.

Four Paris models sketched by Soulie, for Delineator, January 1925. The two on the right have shingled hair.

Two Paris models with bobbed hair, Delineator, 1924.

After years in which a woman’s long hair was “her crowning glory,” the decision to cut it short, or “bob” it, took courage. Click to read “To Bob or Not to Bob Your Hair, Part 1” and “To Bob  or Not to Bob Your Hair, Part 2.”

The Marcel wave had been around since the 1870s, and “Marcel” and “permanent wave” were used interchangeably. Here’s a marcelled hairdo from 1917:

A Marcelled evening hair style from 1917. Delineator, April 1917.

Getting a permanent wave was something of an ordeal:

Getting a permanent wave in the Twenties or Thirties. Ad, April 1932.

You could also do it at home…. in “just a few hours.”

From Nestle Lanoil Home Permantne ad, Delineator, Dec. 1924.

C. Nestle Permanent Hair Waving Machine, illustration from An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

To read more about permanents and marcels, see “Permanents and Marcels Bridge the Twenties to Thirties.”

Before the “bob,” Mary Pickford’s long curls were the ideal for girls in their teens. This is my mother before she bobbed her hair:

And this is my mother in 1922.

My mother (born in 1904) and her friend Irene were the first girls in town to have their hair bobbed. In my mother’s case, she also had a permanent. Her mother was in the hospital at the time. Her father forbade her to visit her mother, “because the shock would kill her.” Read “Marcels in the Family.”

An old fashioned curling iron (in three sizes) from An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, by Marian I. Doyle.

For my own experience with curling tongs and permanent waves, read “Curling Iron Memories.”

Witness2fashion in the late 1940s. I hated having my hair curled.

One of the more intriguing articles I found about Twenties’ hairstyles suggested that young women occasionally wore chic wigs — in many hues. See “Chic Wigs for September 1927.”

Transformations in the mode of the present day.... All the pictures are of the same charming woman. Top of page 37, Delineator, September, 1927.

If you still want to read about hairstyles from before and after the 1920s, just type the word “hair” in the search box at top right!

A final shout out to dancer Irene Castle, who bobbed her hair in 1917!



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13 responses to “How to Marcel: Video

  1. Could this be the video that finally solves the problem?! My hair actually waves in a natural almost-marcel fashion, but it is not quite enough!

  2. anna

    Using the old fashioned flame-heated curling iron on your own hair sounds dangerous! My sister could do her own hair, though I don’t remember her using a curling iron on it, just did her own braids and up-dos (and it was a good thing, as her hair reached the backs of her knees). I still can’t do anything that requires working with my reflection in a mirror, which is part of the reason I wear a Louise Brooks bob and have for many years.

  3. Just realized my mother, born on the cusp of the twenties, wore the same hair style all the time I knew her – shingled with a slight marcel wave she’d “set” as her hair was drying. No idea when she originally had it cut but I bet it was late 20’s or 30’s. Thanks for the post!

  4. The permanent wave photo looks scary. ;D I didn’t know that these waves were called Marcel, it is the same name as the sleeveless undershirt for men, or is that not called like that in English?

    • Marcel was the name of the hairdresser who invented the permanent wave in the 1870s. I have never seen a man’s sleeveless under shirt called a Marcel in England or the U.S Those curlers were very heavy.

  5. So wonderful to hear from you again! I have naturally curly hair and when I was young I wanted nothing more than to have it naturally straight.

    • anna

      I have a friend from Senegal who had just got her first weave and was telling me about it. I’ll never forget what she said: “White women get suntans and perm their hair, we African women get weaves and use skin bleaching creams. Nobody has what they want, or wants what they have.”

  6. The big revelation here to me was that you only really have to marcel the top layer. Handy!

  7. seweverythingblog

    I love fashionable family stories, and photos to go along with the stories. Thank you for sharing!

  8. John Vonundzu

    A small correction – Irene Castle bobbed her hair in 1913, or the latest, by the middle of 1914. There’s a well known series of dancing pics of Vernon & Irene (with her bob) taken in July 1914 & published in Ladies’ Home Journal later that year.

    • Thank you. You’re right, of course; I copied the photo, dated 1917, from an old post whose accompanying text linked to her pre-surgery haircut circa 1914, when it influenced British women during WW I.

  9. Love, love, love Nell Brinkley!

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