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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Metal curlers for curling hair overnight
in the mid 20th century

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metal hair curlers, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s

Metal curlers, from my mother's effects.

By the time I was born in 1939, curls were back in fashion.

There were several ways of encouraging naturally straight hair to curl. This page is about how my mother used curlers overnight while I was growing up in the 1940s and early 1950s.

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Metal curlers

Metal curlers must have been incredibly uncomfortable things to sleep in, but throughout the 1940s that is what my mother did.

The end of a strand of hair was placed between the two open metal prongs of the curler - see the curler on the left-top of the photo. Then the curler was turned over and over to wind the strand round the prongs. Finally the prongs were bent back into the curler and secured in the slot at the slot - see the curler at the bottom of the photo.

Curling hair with old metal curlers

Curling hair with metal curlers, Screen shot from an old film.

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How metal curlers were used

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

My mother made one curl by pulling all the hair on the top of her head forward and making a curler just above her forehead. Then she made other curls so that they would lie around her neck. There was thus no curlers on the back or sides of there head, and if she placed her head carefully, she was therefore never actually resting on them while she slept.

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How metal curlers affected women's hair styles

Comfort in bed with these curlers would explain the fact that the most common hair style seemed to be straight at the back and on top with curls just at the ends and at the front. As a young child, I used to think that hair just grew that way.

The following examples are screen shots from old films. If you have better examples, I would be grateful if you would get in touch.

Women�s hair styles in the early to mid-1900s as a result of metal curlers � hair only curled at the ends, 1 of 5 Women�s hair styles in the early to mid-1900s as a result of metal curlers � hair only curled at the ends, 2 of 5"
Women�s hair styles in the early to mid-1900s as a result of metal curlers � hair only curled at the ends, 4 of 5 Women�s hair styles in the early to mid-1900s as a result of metal curlers � hair only curled at the ends, 3 of 5 Women�s hair styles in the early to mid-1900s as a result of metal curlers � hair only curled at the ends, 5 of 5

Women's hair styles in the early to mid-1900s as a result of metal curlers which were hard to sleep on - hair mainly straight but curled at the ends.

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Hair nets

Hair net designed for daytime use, still in its original packet, 1940s and 1950s

Hair net designed for daytime use, still in its original packet. Photographed in Nidderdale Museum.

The curlers were generally kept in place with a hairnet. Even into the 1950s when I had a Saturday job serving in a department store, there was a regular call for hair nets.

The hairnets came in different thicknesses and different colours to match fair, dark and grey hair. The thin ones, described as 'invisible hairnets' were for daytime use - usually by older women.

Torn hair nets

Hair nets would get holes in them, so my mother often slept with two, arranged so that the holes in one were covered by the sound parts of the other.

Paulene Allett

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