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HAIR HISTORY - History of Finger Waves

In 1920, a major shift in women's hairstyling occurred. The waist length locks were shorn to chin level and the "bob" was created. Women's lifestyles were also changing and the need for a more simple style to accompany their liberation was born.

A famous hairstylist from Paris named Antoine, was very influential during this time and people from all over the world looked to him as a trendsetter. He designed many hairstyles and wigs for the famous Parisian singer, Josephine Baker.

Not everyone looked good with a flat, sleek, bob so waves and curls were incorporated into the craze. A gel was applied to the hair and then, while using the fingers in unison with a skilled comb, waves were sculpted into the hair. The ends of the hair were then wound around the finger and pinned, thus named "the pincurl". Long metal clamps were applied to the waves to keep them in place while the client sat under the dryer. For a fancier evening look, colorful combs, barrettes with beads and feathers, and headbands were placed within the hair.

A recipe for a gel was to use 1/4 cup of flax seed to 1 cup of water -- Boil on the stove until thickened, and strain the liquid into a jar; add 3 drops of rosemary oil, and refrigerate. Josephine Baker was one of the first to have a commercial gel that was promoted as "pour se bakerfixer les cheveux".

Not every woman's hair would finger wave successfully. The development of the permanent wave brought a lot of women into the salon to achieve these wondrous waves. This craze also opened the door for women to become hairstylists. At the turn of the century in London, only one in ten hairdressing professionals was a woman. Now there are far more women in the profession than men.

Cosmetology schools still require students to learn the fine art of finger waving. There is not a student alive that doesn't complain about this assignment. The fear of every student is how they are going to score at the state boards with their finger waving. "Why do we have to learn this?" "What is the point?" are sentences continually being stated year after year.

We should respect our roots and give tribute to all those hairstylists that paved the way for us to have a great profession. And who knows? History always repeats itself, and one day finger waves might make a comeback! Better get out that comb and gel!






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