The past two years, have been a rollercoaster of events, but mostly hair experiments. At the beginning of 2020, I decided to experiment more with vintage hairstyling. Why? Well, first of all I had a lot of time for obvious reasons. Secondly, if you’re slightly interested in vintage hairstyling, you’ve watched a dozen (and probably more) hairstyling videos on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. I sure did, but until then I’ve never seen anyone do vintage hairstyling on very dark brown, long South Asian hair.
However, on contrary of what a lot of people may think, South Asian hair does not fall between other hairtpes. It’s an entirely unique hairtype and even has its own sub-hairtypes. I couldn’t really find examples of other women who did vintage hairstyles on South Asian hair, so I decided to experiment with it myself. And after all that experimenting with different techniques & styles, I’ve definitely learned some lessons about vintage hairstyling for long, natural wavy South Asian hair like mine. So here’s a list of 10 things I’ve learned about vintage hairstyling.
1. Variety of vintage hairstyles
First of all, there are so many vintage hairstyles to play around with. My initial link with vintage hairstyles like 7-10 years ago, was: luscious, fluffy 1940s/1950s vintage waves. Although that’s definitely part of it, and I’ll get into that later in this blog, there are so many other vintage hairstyles to choose from when you’re not in the mood for curls or setting your hair.
The best part: they don’t necessarily take a lot of time. Which is great when you love minimum effort and maximum results. Also, vintage hairstyling is of course not restricted to the 1940s/1950s, there are a lot of other eras to discover. I like the play around with 1960s hairstyles as well, and occasionally 1970s and 1920s inspired styles.
Besides that, vintage hairstyles are not restricted to (Classic) Hollywood and the western world. I also get my inspiration from South Asia (Old Bollywood), but there are many other cultures to get inspiration from when it comes to vintage hairstyling.
2. Accessories for the win!
First of all, I would like to thank hair donuts. We all know hair donuts are perfect for a classic donut updo at the back of your head, on top of your head or to create that classic Dita bun in the front. But did you know that a half hair donut (cut open) is perfect to fake 60s high hair without teasing? Which is very pleasing, because brushing out teased hair at the end of the day is no fun and it’s also not great for your hair obviously.
Next to that, Christmas tree hair anyone? I mean it’s September as I’m writing this, so we can already talk about Christmas. A hair donut and a cardboard roll is all you need for glamorous, over-the-top Christmas hair. Last but not least: faking short hair is very comforting on hot days or when you want to spend 5 minutes max on styling your hair. A hair donut or wired bandana saves your hair on those humid days.
Besides that, hair flowers, berets and of course hats can instantly give you that vintage look, even if you don’t put any other effort into styling the rest of your hair. Thanks to all these accessories, you can basically be done in 5 minutes, while making people believe that it took you at least 2 hours.
3. Heatless curling methods v.s. curling irons
Flashback to 7-10 years ago, when I used to curl half of my hair with curling irons. I only did the front parts, because that took me long enough: 15-20 minutes. I also could get away with that, because of my overall natural waves. Little did I know that curling my hair with rollers would take me less time AND give me more fluffy results.
Another great thing about using any type of (heatless) rollers: It stays put all day, unless it’s a really hot Summer day or when it’s raining cats and dogs. Not to mention the fact that heatless curling methods are much better for your hair. Or the fact that I wouldn’t have to think “Is that curling iron really off?” when I would leave the house (and check it at least 3 times)! In other words: a win-win-win.
4. Find the right products for your (coarse) hairtype
And in this case, I mean products that match with your hairtype AND hair structure. I’ve definitely spent some time on finding the right hair products for my hair when I use hair rollers to create vintage waves. At first, I didn’t really know where to start. So I tried out a few products that are usually recommended by vintage bloggers for setting the hair.
Most of those products dried out my hair, so I started searching products that not just style, but also nourish my dry to normal, natural wavy hair, without making it greasy of course. I actually hit the jackpot not long after and stumbled upon the brand Creme of Nature. And well, the rest is history.
It’s the only brand that leaves my hair silky soft and shiny, it doesn’t matter which type of rollers I use. I’ve been using the argan oil line and recently I’ve also started using their styling mousse with pure honey and avocado. Side note, if you don’t like vintage hairstyling: these products are also perfect for enhancing natural curls or when you use the Curly Girl method!
5. No wetsets and less is more
I can hear you thinking: “What, is she serious?” Yes, I am. If I’m going for vintage inspired waves and curls, I don’t do wetsets. Rollers work best for me on dry hair in combination with the products mentioned above. But now the most interesting part:
The less rollers I use, the better. On regular working days, I use 4 extra long flexi rods overnight, which gives me enough longlasting vintage inspired floofiness the next day. I use different methods to curl my hair, from different rollers to pincurling, because I still like to experiment. But the 4 flexi rods method is still my most used roller method, because it saves so much time. It only takes me 5-10 minutes before bed and I keep the rollers in for at least 8 hours.
I started experimenting with this way of rolling, because I could’t be bothered rolling my hair for 45-60 (or more!) minutes on workdays. And as it turns out, it worked perfectly on my hair. Which brings me back to my hair type and structure. The reason this works probably has to do with my South Asian hair structure, which is typically thicker in texture and coarse. My hair also curls easily, because I already have natural waves. Either way, it’s my favorite curling hack!
6. Brush it out, but not too much
Ah yes, the vintage brush out process. Brushing, brushing and brushing some more to go from the lion look to those smooth vintage curls. Only…that’s not how it works if you’re blessed with natural waves or curls. I definitely get that lion look, but taming it is gonna be a lot harder. So, the secret to getting the vintage hair effect is brushing your curls enough to get rid of the Shirley Temple look, I mean hello, we want some fluffiness!
However, stop the brush out when you’ve gotten rid of the pipe curls. Another thing I noticed is that regular brush out videos start with brushing from the root to the end. I get smoother results if I slowly start brushing from the center to the ends, while smoothing it with my hands. If you want extra volume after that at the roots: just use some volume powder or dry shampoo at your roots. Same effect without having a hard time taming the lion!
Last step is to brush the ends inside, which is much easier for me when I clip the rest of my hair with wave clips. It’s a win-win, you’ll extra define the waves on top this way and it’s much easier to brush the ends inwards for 1940s or 1950s inspired hair.
7. Embrace the frizz
I definitely love my natural waves, but every hairtype has its (dis)advantages. There will be days, when the frizz is gonna be a bit too bliss. Hello, humidity days!
However, if you have naturally wavy or curly hair, you already deal with more frizz than for example someone who naturally has straight and/or thin hair. If you do brush out to get the vintage hair look, you will always have more frizz, because of your hairtype no matter which pomade you use. And I’ve tried a lot of pomades. At first, I was kinda annoyed by it, but after a while I decided to embrace it. Also because I discovered that some frizz was actually normal back in the day.
8. Matte bobby pins rule the long hair world
Bobby pins are inseparably linked to vintage hairstyles. There are different types of bobby pins and you will often see the shiny, small hair pins. If you have long, thick hair matte, bobby pins will make a huge difference. These type of bobby pins have a lot more grip and instead of 50 regular bobby pins, you’ll need like 20. If you use them for an updo, your hairstyle will hold until you take them out. Better yet, it will even hold when you accidentally nap 3 hours on the couch. True story.
9. Don’t strive for perfection
Another thing I’ve learned is that your hair will look perfect when you’re NOT striving for perfection (or when you’re about to go to sleep). And when you really want it to look good (a.k.a. perfect), your hair will not cooperate. Which can be kinda frustrating, until you decide to go with the way your hair wants to flow. The picture below was made on a hot humid day. I actually wanted to go for loose curls, but that was definitely a bad idea and the curls were not cooperating. So, I turned it into a simple poodle updo!
Last but not least, experimenting sure is key to discovering what works for your specific hairtype and what doesn’t. After these years of experimenting with vintage hairstyles, I’m definitely not done yet. I would actually say, I’m just getting started. In my case, the best experiments begin when I either don’t have time or when I don’t want to spend too much time on hairstyling. The style below is an example of that fake short hair look. I wanted something else than curls, so I decided to check if I could fake short hair. Mission accomplished, especially with those accessories.
Interested in my other hair experiments and tutorials? Check my Instagram, where I often post easy vintage hairstyle tutorials for long hair!
*All pictures on this blog are my own. Only re-use with my permission.