Perm & Haircut Talk

Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

I've gotten a few questions from you guys about how I do my hair each day.  Well, it was about time for me to get a perm, so I figured I would photograph the process to show you guys the "base" of my daily hairdo.  

I LOVE having short hair.  I know it's not as common in the vintage community, but this "baby" cut was the military standard for women in the U.S. in WWII, and it's super easy to deal with.  I just pin curl my hair at night, and it takes 5-10 minutes to brush out and hairspray in the morning.  I highly recommend it!  This is what it takes to get this 'do:


First off, the haircut!  My hair is pretty short, about 4-5" long all the way around, and naturally VERY straight.  I forgot to take a picture before my perm of what it looks like in its natural straight state, but the picture below is pretty close.  I think the only differences are that my top layers are a bit shorter and my part is on the side.  


Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk
source

The stylist called my layers "round layers," should you need that information in getting your own cut.


In a previous trip to a stylist, I took the 1940s baby middy chart that I had seen floating around the interwebs.  An older stylist with a lot of experience said the chart was not very helpful and was missing some important info.  He said, though, that most haircuts had a similar technique in shaping and layering up until the 1980s, so... basically I've found the phrase 'old lady haircut' quite helpful in describing what I want, ha!  It never hurts to bring in more sources to help your stylist, though, especially if they may not be used to vintage looks. I will oftentimes bring the chart and a bunch of reference photos to help.


These are some of the photos I brought in to help my stylist understand what I wanted in a cut and style:


Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

Next is the perm!  Here is all the relevant information I have about the type of perm I get:


- I use the gray rollers; these are the second smallest size, I believe.  I have a lot of baby hairs, so the stylists used whatever perm paper technique on each roll that kept all the little hairs in.


Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

- The set is a basic one with all the rolls going downward.  Nearly all of the rolls are the normal length with a couple half-size ones used where necessary.  

(For this particular set, there was a bit of "contouring" at the side back sections just to accommodate the necessary tightness needed on the roller to get a good curl.)

After the perm, this is what my hair looked like:


Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

It was really curly and already started to show the shape that I wanted: volume around eye level and at the top, tapering down to the neck, with a side part.

After getting a perm, you aren't supposed to wash your hair for a day or two to help it really set in.  I just wet it a bit and set it in flat pin curls.  (I'll have a video about my pin curl set in a couple days!)

After the pin curl set has dried and I have brushed it all out, this is my finished style:

Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

The perm makes a huge difference to the longevity and volume of my style.  Before this perm, my hair wouldn't cooperate at all.  Curls wouldn't set well, my hair wouldn't wave properly, and that's why I have been wrapping my hair so often lately!  The perm does wonders! 

I also asked the stylists about which kind of perm would work well for those of you vintage ladies with highly textured hair.  They said that it depends strongly on the texture and coarseness of your hair, but you can do one of three things to achieve this same kind of look:
- A perm, like what I got
- A relaxer then curly-perm combo
- A curl reformation

A professional stylist should be able to help you determine what would be best for your hair texture in creating a vintage 'do.


Flashback Summer: Vintage Perm & Hair Cut Talk

Okay, one last bit of insight about my haircut: the length of time since a perm and trim makes a big difference in the "bounce," volume and longevity of my hairdo.  Since my hair is short, even small trims can have a big effect on how the hair falls around my face.  It just takes a bit of getting used to after long hair, but I roll with it and it's okay!  You may see subtle differences in my upcoming pin curl set tutorial and post photos in how my hair lays even though it's the same set, and this is the reason why.

Have you ever gotten a perm?  Does your hair routine require any special work to get your locks into a vintage look?


Other vintage hair posts:
Lavender & Twill: Middy Plus cut
Bobby Pin Blog (vintage hairstyle blog)
Vintage Current: My Middy Cut
Styling Coarse and Curly Hair

13 comments

  1. I have gotten a perm before, but it was a disaster. I wasn't going for a vintage look back then - I just wanted beachy waves - but my hair wouldn't take the perm, strangely enough. I knew it would make a big difference to my vintage hairstyling efforts but I was gutted when it turned out so badly. I'm afraid to try it again :-\

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    1. Aw man, that is sad! I got a perm when I was younger that didn't turn out well, but it seems these shorter, more traditional perm styles are a little less variable since ladies have been getting the same thing for literally decades! But my fallback is always a month of head wrapping if need be, haha! It is a risk that has to be taken into consideration, definitely.

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  2. I would love to get a perm, but my hair is color treated, so I'm not sure it would work out that well for me. I love the bounce that it gives your hair though, and the baby middy is such a sweet, pretty style. I feel like shorter hair holds curl so much better too.

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    1. Oooo, yeah, color treated hair with a perm probably isn't a great idea. But sometimes dyeing your hair can still help "damage" it enough that it will hold curl better!

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  3. If you get your hair relaxed and then a perm. Your hairs going to fall out. The chemicals recact to each other in a negative way. Same with coloring your hair and perming it. Always have your hair tested before getting any treatment done to your hair. Your hairstyle should, but if they don't, ask them to for your safety. And a patch test at least 24hours before getting the hair treatment done. To make sure you aren't allergic to any of the chemicals. Perms are amazing for stubborn hair that won't take a curl from hot tools or wet sets. It's a game changer. I have thin hair strands and a big head of hair and a perm is the only thing that helps.

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    1. I only suggested a relaxer then a perm because it was an option recommended to me by the salon instructor that herself had highly textured hair. A professional will know what kind of time frame and technique is needed to make it work, I'm sure. And, yes, a test is a good idea if you're nervous about the process, definitely.

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  4. I've been thinking about talking to my hairdresser about a perm but need to grow out the shingled part of my hair at the back first so it's all one length. I'm a little bit nervous about it so will ask loads of questions before I go ahead but it's great to have your tips to go armed with, so thanks!

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  5. This is great info! I would still like to get a vintage style haircut but I'm terrified of getting layers! My hair has always been long and straight so it would be a big change, plus I'm not sure I want something has needs to be styled all the time to look good. I love dressing vintage but I admit I'm also really lazy!! Ha! I will likely take the leap in the next couple weeks, my birthday is the end of the month and as scary as it is I'm really ready for a different do. The think the hardest part will be finding a good stylist in my area. We don't have a lot of options.
    -Emily

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    1. The wonderful part about this kind of perm is that it really is a more commonly known style because of all the old ladies that still frequent salons these days. It seems this kind of basic, short haired perm is less risky because salons do so often on the older generation!

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    2. P.S. I actually got my perm done at a student salon here in town, and it still turned out great! It doesn't necessarily require a vintage-educated, specialist stylist.

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  6. Oohhh so tempted to grow my hair out now!! I've been toying with the idea of a perm too!! Thanks for the informative blog post! I'll have a chat with my hairdresser :)

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  7. Awesome post, sweet gal. Thank you for the lowdown on how you get your fantastic hairstyle. I tried perms back in the day, but none would hold (even with double the setting lotion) an even half decent curl in my super fine, bone straight hair. It's wonderful that yours takes nicely to being permed. It adds so much to the classic mid-century 'dos that we adore.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this information on your blog. It is very useful to me. I got good information on your blog.
    Regards,
    perm hairstyles

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