A Little Chat About Victory Rolls

I recently took over as admin for a Facebook group called Authentic 1930s and 1940s Hairstyling for Ladies. As you know, I am passionate about creating an authentic vintage look with my clothing, makeup, and hair. I’m hoping that this group will serve as a valuable resource for those who are seeking ideas, inspiration, and strategies for creating authentic hairstyles within these eras. If you are interested in joining the group, please click the link below and answer the membership questions to join, we’ll be happy to have you.

Authentic 1930s & 1940s Hairstyling for Ladies

In the group, I posted a question asking which hairstyles or techniques they struggle with and I noticed that a lot of our members (36%) cited victory rolls as the style or technique they had the most trouble with. It didn’t really surprise me as most ladies starting out on their vintage journey see victory rolls as the ultimate vintage hairstyle.

This blog post, while I hope will be helpful for you, is not, in fact, a tutorial on victory rolls. Instead, I want to provide some guidance that will hopefully build a better foundation for you to eventually get to the point that this style becomes easier for you. Or will broaden your horizons on the many other amazing hairstyles of the 1940s.

I’ve had a very frank conversation with several professional vintage hairstylists and they all agree with me that on a scale of 1-10 of difficulty, victory rolls lands at about a seven or eight. Of course, this depends on your general skill level and expertise with doing your own hair in general. But it seems that most people who are just starting out learning about vintage hair are desperate to master this hairstyle first and foremost. The fact that they just can’t get the rolls right, time and time again typically results in disappointment and frustration and in a lot of cases giving up on the whole idea of vintage hairstyling. And this is something that I do not want to see happen.

So, from my own experiences (and recommendations from the aforementioned vintage hairstylists) here are some of my suggestions:

Learning how to properly set your hair in curls is the absolute basic foundation for just about every single authentic vintage hairstyle. Curling the hair whether with a wet or heat set – using foam rollers, pin curls, rag rollers, curling iron or hot rollers – was the essential first step for ladies during the 1930s and 1940s. Once you have mastered your set, you will have a much firmer foundation for doing almost all hairstyles.

Foam/Sponge Roller Pattern

My most recent wet set pattern – 2020

Pin Curl Tutorials

The Primrose Pin Curl Set

The Vintage Vanity Basic Pin Curl Set

I know that it’s difficult to evaluate ourselves, but doing so can be very freeing and gratifying. We weren’t all born with hair that does exactly as we want it to, so we need to learn what our hair needs to give us the best sets and styles. I, for example, have incredibly curly and dry hair, so sleek styles such as the pageboy will always elude me. So if you have thinner hair, maybe you need to learn some teasing techniques or use a hair rat for some volume. If you have curly or dry hair like me, you might need to learn what products work best to hydrate and smooth the hair. Have a real heart to heart talk with your hair and let it “help you help it”.

There are many different hairstyles that resemble the silhouette of victory rolls without actually making the rolls. This was actually how I began my journey when I was 15 or 16. I learned how to twist my hair and use hair combs or bobby pins to secure my hair in a way that gave the same silhouette as victory rolls without the fuss and frustration.

This is the basic silhouette of victory rolls

Examples of styles that mimic the victory roll silhouette without the rolls

I have my own feelings about this style and it’s not one that I wear often as I attribute it too heavily with the pinup fashion that I personally do not care for. I have not found many photos of “regular” women sporting this hairstyle. I’ve mostly seen it on celebrities, pinup models and other women directly related to the war effort who were using the hairstyle for the “V for Victory” ad campaigns. When I have seen victory rolls in authentic photos, they are generally smaller and lay flatter on the head. The very large voluminous rolls are typically a modern pinup interpretation (especially when they are paired with cat-eye/winged eyeliner). I don’t personally find this style representative of an authentic 1940s hairstyle. There are many others that serve this purpose better.

It took me years to fully understand the anatomy of a victory roll. When I was learning how to style my hair, there was no YouTube and certainly no vintage hair tutorials on the internet, and neither was there in the 1940s. So, it all comes down to trial and error. You need patience, determination and time to really get the hang of styling your hair in any vintage style.

I will reiterate the importance of a strong foundation, i.e. a good strong set, for all of your vintage hairstyles. I urge you to practice your sets, figure out what works best for your hair/texture, try different setting lotions, different patterns and see how they change the curl pattern. With a little work establishing your knowledge of the basics you’ll be on your way to broadening your repertoire of hairstyles, including victory rolls, in no time.

And remember, I’m available to answer questions if you have any. You can reach me here, on Instagram or in the Facebook Group.

Love~

Christine