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short vintage hair

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short_vintage_hair_luckylucille

Every vintage era has at least one iconic hair cut or style that defines the period. Some decades are known for short hair and some aren’t, but the truth is: some women have always preferred short hair whether it was trendy for their time or not. Though I have been known to don a long wig and feel pretty glamorous in it, I’ve always preferred short hair on myself because it’s so easy and carefree. As a vintage lover and general history nerd, I’ve been wondering if any women of the past felt the same way as I do about short hair. I’m excited and surprised by what I found!

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There are quite a few photos here so I’ll just list the basic details and let you focus on the hair! If you’d like to know more about any of these amazing women, just click the links to visit the original sources.

Shown left: Lucile Blanch – Artist – photo taken in 1930. Credit: Peter A. Juley & Son Collection at Smithsonian Institute.

Shown right: Charlotte Gower Chapman – Ethnologist, Author, and US Marine – photo taken in unknown year (my guess is 1930s). Credit: Acc. 90-105 – Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives

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Deseronto Ponies, girls’ softball team – photo taken in 1929. Credit: Deseronto Archives

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Unknown factory worker spinning silk at William Skinner and Sons in Mt. Holyoke, Massachusetts – photo taken in 1936. Credit: U.S. National Archives

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Matilda Moldenhauer Brooks – Botanist, Harvard Graduate, and researcher (discovered an antidote for carbon monoxide and cyanide poisoning) – photo taken before 1927. Credit: Julian Scott via Smithsonian Institute.

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Helen Richey – pioneering female aviator, WWII pilot, and the first woman to be hired as a pilot by a commercial airline in the United States – dates of photos unknown (my guess is early 1940s). Credit: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives

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There isn’t much listed about this photo unfortunately, but it appears in an album titled “Jewish American Women and WWII“. Credit: JWA Commons. (The two women on the far right have really short hair!)

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Shown Left: Judy LaurentSarasota High School Sailor Circus acrobat – photo taken in 1955. Credit:State Library and Archives of Florida.

Shown Right: Mildred Adams Fenton – trained in paleontology and geology – date of photo unknown (my guess is mid 1920s). Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives.

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Unknown catalog models – Sears and Roebuck Spring 1954.

Amazing, right?!
If you’re interested in building a library about vintage hair (long or short), I highly recommend both of these books by Daniela Turudich.

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Both books are excellent resources, though Art Deco Hairstyles is significantly larger than 1940s Hairstyles. They include all kinds of information on popular styles and trends of the era, cutting diagrams for authentic vintage haircuts, and styling tips to finish off your look.

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I was surprised to read about the super short Shingle haircut of the 40s which was a popular for factory workers and women in the service. The 1920s version of that super short cut was called The Eton, and if you know anything about Josephine Baker, you probably know she’s the one who made it famous.

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The classic 1920s bob might be the most recognizable short vintage cut you can get, but as you can see, that’s definitely not your only option. So if you’re like me and love early vintage hairstyles but don’t have the patience for roller sets, or any hair that reaches past your chin: Rejoice! Women have been rocking the Pixie cut for a long, long time.

What do you think? Is your short haircut more “vintage” than you thought it was? Mine is!

xo
Rochelle

 

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  • Rebecca

    This post was so wonderful! I have had a pixie now for several years and love it, but I missed having “vintage” hair. Now I feel a lot better after seeing these photos! Thanks!

  • Liz

    My hair is short (ear length in front and following that line to the back) and VERY thick and curly, with big fat curls rather than thin tight ones. Similar to Helen Richey’s in the photo on the left. It looks like some brushing, blow-drying, product-application, and bobby-pinning is employed to get a part and a swept-back portion. Interesting. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lynne Johnson

    I hope you don’t mind me adding my experience with difficult hair. For you gals with thin or oily hair, rollers can be your best friend.The rollers add body, lifting the hair away from the head. Here’s how. Wash your hair in the morning with a good shampoo. Partially blowdry hair so that it is just damp. Set on rollers. You can use a setting solution if necessary.You’ll have to experiment on the size of rollers for your length of hair and style you want. (Rollers are still sold at the dollar store.) Dry hair under a hair dryer for 15 or 20 minutes until totally dry. Yes, you can still get hooded type hairdryers.Check out the different types that allow you to move around.You can have your breakfast, do paper work or computer work while it dries.Remove rollers and brush into shape. Spray lightly with hair spray that won’t weigh your hair down, if you need to. The shorter your hair the faster this will be. With practice this can be fast enough to do everyday and your hair will look good and stay.

  • viviane

    Meus cabelos estão médio, adoro cabelo curto mais ainda não tive coragem de cortar, amo cabelo curto. Beijos

  • Olivia

    Hi Rochelle! I love this post! My hair has been long since I was little, until I cut it when I was about 7 and had it shoulder length until i was around 11, it grew a little past my shoulders (about where it’s at right now actually) when I was 12-13, then I had it cut into a bob (shorter in back, longer following my jaw line to the front) and that’s the shortest I’ve ever had it in my life. To note too, I have always had bangs all my life (usually parted to the side mid length, or parted down the middle, and for a brief Taylor Swift loving time, the cut across forehead bangs.I have since then been letting my hair and bangs grow out. I have hot rollers from my mom when she was about my age (14 or so) and I have tried to use them many times in many ways, and they just don’t seem to work. I leave them in for around 20 to 30 minutes till completely cool, spray them with a bit of hairspray while rollers are still in, and then take them out, brush through my hair a little so it’s not all frizzy (I have naturally straight hair, but has begun to wave up some as I have gotten older. I also got a spiral perm about 2 months ago and that didn’t turn out well. It didn’t even last two days! So I ended up with straight hair again, but now have some wave and frizziness in it from the perm.) yet the curls always tend to fall out about a half an hour later even after spraying with hairspray. When I go outside, the wind just takes all the curl and body out of it. HELP! I thought maybe cutting it shorter again would help with keeping the curl. (Like I said, my hair is about right below my shoulders-mid-chest right now). I have always LOVED vintage hair, and thought the Middy Cut might work for me. Rochelle, I wanted to know what you thought about the Middy Cut, how I could style it as an everyday thing, and if you could at least help me some. :) 15 and hair-helpless!! Thanks SO SO much! Please get back to me. ;)

    • Olivia

      Also to add, my hair is naturally blonde, kind of thin but not real thin, and is fine. Fine as in, I walk outside for 5 minutes and it’s all knotted up and everywhere on my face. ANYBODY can reply to this, I would really appreciate the help!!

      • Rochelle

        Hey Olivia,

        Have you tried doing a wet set with sponge rollers or pin curls? If you’re not having any luck with a “dry set” (like hot rollers) then it’s probably not a strong enough method for you. Try a wet set with sponge rollers and give them plenty of time to dry (over night or longer if possible) and then see what kind of results you get. Use setting lotion like Lotta Body brand to help set the curls, and don’t use too much product afterwards if you can help it. Too much hairspray can make the hair damp and heavy which will make your curl fall out faster.

        Also, as far as the middy cut goes, IF you plan to style your hair “vintage” every single day then I think it’s great and it really helps with setting your hair. If you’re lazy like me and don’t want to do vintage hair everyday, then get a haircut that works for both modern and vintage styles. A lot of hair stylists won’t know what a “middy” is so it helps to take them a book or some kind of instruction, especially since most photos of middy cuts are fully styled so you can’t really tell what it looks like when it’s wet. Also keep in mind that a traditional middy is only 4-6 inches long which is SHORT compared to what modern women imagine!

        Hope this helps a little :)

        Good luck!

        • Olivia

          Thank you Rochelle! The only problem I have with using curlers over night, is my hair gets oily/greasy overnight so my hair makes me take a shower very morning. I have been trying to figure something out. It gets oily over night, so i’m not sure how leaving the rollers in my hair would turn out, having to wash my hair…do you have any suggestions??

          • Rochelle

            Hmm, well my only other suggestion would be to try the wet set in the morning right after your shower and hopefully it has enough time to dry before you have to get to where you’re going for the day. Try talking to your hair stylist about it and see if she has any other ideas for you :)

        • Olivia

          Also Rochelle, what is the next closest thing to the Middy Cut? I mean, I don’t want it SUPER short, but I was wondering what would be the next cut after middy? Like one, just a bit longer or so, IF there was one. Do you know of one or any?

        • Olivia

          Rochelle, sorry for the second and third replys, but also another question. How easy is the Middy Cut to maintain and take care of everyday? And what about being in the wind or just outside? Do you think it’d stay? I don’t want to get the cut and then not have anything work out for me, such as it not curling or anything, so then i’m stuck with odd short styled hair…

          • Rochelle

            Technically you can get a middy cut at any length, it would just be a long version of the traditional cut. But, since you’re having trouble with your curl sets right now, I would hold off on getting any kind of vintage cut right now. Get a hair cut that will make you happy EVERY day, not just for the time your curl stays in ;)

        • Olivia

          Thank you. :) Problem is, I don’t have a local stylist or anything. My mom usually just always cuts my hair :P

        • Olivia

          Thanks. :) I need to find some haircuts that would work them for everyday even not styled…what cuts have you gotten that seem to work for you styled and not styled?

          • Rochelle

            I highly recommend finding a hairstylist. They will be able to tell you what styles and cuts will work well with your face shape and general lifestyle. Just because a particular hair style worked well on me, doesn’t mean you’ll like it on yourself! I love really short hair, which is the whole reason I wrote this post, but it sounds like you need something longer so you can curl it. A professional will be able to answer all of your questions and help you find a cut and style you love :)

            Best of luck, xo

        • Olivia

          Thanks again Rochelle! Thanks so much! Lots of good advice. ;) Last question. If I buy a dry shampoo, could I put the wet set foam rollers in my hair, sleep in them, and then spray the dry shampoo in between the rollers on my scalp? Or take all the rollers out in the morning and then spray the dry shampoo?

          • Rochelle

            Honestly I’m not sure, I’ve never used dry shampoo!

        • Olivia

          Ok, thank you anyways Rochelle! You have been much help, and I really appreciate it! It was good talking to you! Thanks for the tips! :D

  • misscrayolacreepy

    Now, let’s see a photo of your new cut and color!

  • Helen Snell

    Spooky! I’m about to write a blog post about having my hair cut short! I’ve always loved vintage clothes (40s and 50s mainly) but have always had short hair. When I started a vintage based business a year ago I felt that I needed to grow it to look ‘more vintage’ I loved my long hair when it was curled and styled but really couldn’t be bothered with pincurls and rollers every other day. 6 weeks ago I cut it all off and have found it really liberating and it really does suit me much better short and I definitely feel more like ‘me’ again. Like you I found various photos and pattern envelopes with gorgeous short styles – just goes to prove that you can still look vintage with short locks! Thanks for the fab article.

  • Diana

    Is that Tippi Hedren on the left in the Sears Catalog?! Great article

  • Nikki H.

    I love love love having a pixie cut. Every time I get a haircut I am so happy. Whenever anyone tells me they’re thinking of cutting their hair I say DO IT!
    These photos are so inspiring as to how I can tweak it if I want to dress up like a certain decade. That aviator woman was especially vivacious and charming.

  • JJ

    I’ve been looking at vintage short hairstyles lately too. I have an appointment to chop it all off this Saturday. :o) I picked my pixie cut back in the early Spring when it was still cold, but it’s good and hot now so off it goes!

    http://www.dressupnotdown.blogspot.com

  • sallie

    This post basically confirms my belief that women with short hair are generally BADASS women! Haha! Thanks for the fun pictures Rochelle! I’ve always gone back and forth between pixie cuts and long hair my entire life, and there is definitely something liberating about not having all the hair!

  • Philippa

    I love this post so much! My hair is just too thin/fine to do long successfully since I had a bad illness a few years ago. I currently sport a short bob, more along the lines of the 60’s mod styles, but have recently been getting a fringe cut in and a few layers up the back. Done like that I have so many options – smooth and modern or curly and wild or curled with combs in the side which I like to do for a 30’s evening look with wide trousers. I knew short hair could be vintage because I have a book about Coco Chanel and it shows the massive shift at between the 1900’s and 1920’s from when women used to wind their very long hair into the nape of the neck to the liberation of cutting it off. I enjoyed reading that those pioneers used to cut each other’s hair off and one woman left it on a hook as a gesture of defiance to her lover!!

  • Jessica Cangiano

    Love this post!!! I’ve been searching high and low for well over a year now for a shorter vintage appropriate wig (that doesn’t look glaringly “flapper costume”, not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, but I wear 40s and 50s styles, so the two don’t mesh well usually), to no avail. I never got a chance, one might almost say ironically given that I now shave what remains of it off, to wear my natural hair very short and really want to experience what it’s like to see myself with just a few inches of locks at least once in my life.

    ♥ Jessica

  • stgilbert

    This is so cool! I am particularly pleased to see short haired ladies with glasses! I love my Louise Brooks bob and have a pair of 1920’s style round tortoiseshell frames that just need prescription lenses. More posts like this, please!

  • Lauren Fleming

    It seems like a lot of these women were true badasses, too!

  • Victoria

    One other thing all those ladies had in common besides their short hair- they all looked like a bunch of badasses!
    I love short hair but I am going to try growing mine out once more and try actually learn to style it.

    • Rochelle New

      Haha, you’re so right! Maybe it’s just because I love short hair so much, but I think even the 1950s Housewife types in the catalog photo have an extra air of mystique about them with the cropped cuts.

  • zilredloh

    You’d never know from my blog, but prior to 4 years ago I’ve always had pixie length hair. Short hair is so easy & wonderful… but I have since discovered curls. heh So I’ve had long hair ever since. I’m due for a cut though – no telling how short I’ll go. :D

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Rochelle New

      That’s so awesome! I’m trying to picture you with a pixie cut and it’s REALLY cute in my head lol. Your long hair is beautiful and you always style it so well …but now I’m really curious about Liz with a pixie! Doooo itttt ;) ;)

  • Cory

    I have done WWII impressions, and have the book, but have been too chicken to get one of the cuts in there because I don`t know how it’ll look without being curled. I guess I could just be a rebel and wear it short like Helen Richey or Amelia Earhart!

    • Rochelle New

      I’m not sure what impression you usually do, but I find a Rosie/Land Girl style bandana is an excellent way to conceal short hair, or long hair that doesn’t style well. I do Home Front impressions and the turbans/bananas are my go-to! If you really want to try a short hair look I say go for it and be a rebel …I have a bit of a biased opinion on the subject though ;)

  • Helen Mae

    I love my longer hair but every so often I get frustrated and want to cut it all off. I love seeing vintage photos of gals with short hair – I’ve never yet had too much cut off my hair but I stockpile all the inspiration in case I decide to go through with it in the future.

    • Rochelle New

      Short hair isn’t for everyone and there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as you look in the mirror and see the best version of yourself, it doesn’t matter if you have short hair, long hair, or no hair at all! Just have the hair that makes you feel good :)

  • Sarah

    I’ve often thought it is a strange thing that more vintage-loving ladies don’t sport short hair. So many film stars, advertisements and popular icons focused on women with short hair. Most of the pattern envelopes I find have short-haired women drawn onto them, as well!
    I gave up my waist-length hair at 18 and haven’t looked back. For me, short hair feels like freedom!

    • Rochelle New

      I love the look of Victory Rolls and pin curl sets (such beautiful styles!) and I’ve definitely given them a try myself on a few occasions, I just don’t have the patience to do it every day! I agree, short hair is freedom ;)

  • Stephanie

    I adore short hair! :D I’ve had all sorts of different short hair cuts and they are all awesome.

  • Col

    And over a hundred years earlier, Lady Caroline Lamb!

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A Blog By Rochelle New

I'm a fabric wizard and wielder of needles with a passion for quilt industry cottons, bygone eras, and natural things.

i.e. I mostly do nerd things like pretend I'm a wizard, collect moldy books, and spend too much time picking up acorns in the woods, all with my spirit animal (a dog named Lucille), my personal photographer (a man named William), and a few literal fat cats in tow.

Making magic and messes in the backwoods of New York.

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