Curly hair was the order of the day for 1930s fashionistas. Women sported tight finger waves and brush curls, while men kept their look short, sharp and topped with a hat. Just like today, children modeled their looks on their grown-up idols. Waves were a popular choice for girls — a look embraced by the young Shirley Temple, who often wore a head full of tight curls and a side parting.

Shoulder- and Chin-Length

Shoulder- and chin-length hair were popular looks for girls. Hair was often parted to the side and clipped back to the right or left with a bow. This length proved a versatile way for parents to experiment with introducing a few curls to their children’s hair, and it was an easy look to maintain.


Shirley Temple’s ringlet look remained popular with children throughout the 1930s and 1940s. The style was characterized by ringlets that framed the face, started close to the roots and stopped at the chin or shoulder. Today the look is easy to achieve with curling tongs. Back in the day, the look was created with rollers.


Finger waves were a popular choice for a smart occasion. The look was characterized by glossy, tight waves that framed the head. The look is achieved by rolling the hair around the finger and pinning it to the head. Remove your finger so the curl remains in place. Work your way down the head, pinning the next pin farther back, but bringing the third pin back to the same position as the first. This means that the pins line your head in an S shape. Leave hair to dry and remove the pins for a sleek and elegant look.

Pin Curls

This look is a relaxed version of the finger wave. The hair has distinctive curls that frame the face in soft waves, while the back of the hair is curled underneath at the bottom. The look is achieved by folding wet hair into even sections and pinning to the head with a hair clip.

Water Wave

A head full of tight curls, this is a look often sported by children in movies depicting the 1930s. It is also a look that works well for people with naturally curly hair. Water waves are created with the help of combs that are placed teeth upward into wet hair. When the hair is dry and the combs are removed, the result is a dense mass of natural-looking waves.


It was considered uncouth for men and boys to let their hair grow as long as the collar. Consequently, trips to the barber shop were frequent and boys sported very short hair at the back and sides of the head. The top of the head allowed for some flexibility, with some boys and men growing a longer layer that they could comb to the side with a side parting, or brush back. Hats were a popular fashion accessory and boys would often wear flat caps.