Curls Through the Centuries …

As a child I detested my naturally curly hair.  Every morning was a battle to untangle the knots, and at times I resorted to cutting them out in desperation.  The adult me is horrified I did this!  All my hair craved was moisture – lots of it – but I didn’t know that!

These days I appreciate my curls and have found some great curly hair products, so my tresses look and feel their best!

But have you ever wondered how those without the blessing of natural curls have curled their hair throughout history?   Come with me on a fascinating magic carpet ride through the centuries.

Creating Curls in Ancient Times

Our journey begins in ancient Egypt, where the clever Egyptians have been curling their hair since 1500 BC.  Their method of choice is to wrap hair around wooden sticks, then use the heat of the sun to set the curls.

Not to be outdone, the ancient Greeks take things a step further.  They warm a hollow tube made of iron in wood ashes, use it as roller, then set the curls using beeswax.

Over in Rome, circa 520 BC, a roller device called a calamistrum is used to create lots of tight curls, a process that could take hours.  Curls are so highly revered that even the men curl their hair. 

Stepping back onto our magic carpet, we now travel to the 19th Century, where rag curls have just been invented.  Damp hair is wound around strips of material before bedtime and in the morning, you awaken with luscious curls.  This method is pure genius – curls with minimum time and effort!

The Fashion for Curls

We now visit the  Victorians, who are using curling tongs for the first time.  These tongs are heated over a flame, and each section of hair is folded first into a length of paper (fittingly called a curl-paper) to prevent the hair from burning.  While this is a great idea in theory, accidents are common.

Next stop is the 1920s, where short hair is all the rage.  Curls are created via pin curling (where hair is coiled into curls that lie flat against the scalp and are secured with bobby pins) and ‘marcelling’ where the hair is wrapped around high-heat curling tongs to produce a tight wave.

Moving on to the 1940s, long hair is back in fashion.  Glamorous smooth waves, victory rolls and curly up-dos are favoured, like those worn by Ally in the movie “The Notebook”.   If you’re wealthy, a hairdresser curls and styles your hair, but otherwise a combination of pin curls, rag curls and barrel curls is used.

Now we zoom to 1959, when the first electric curling iron is patented by two French men.   

Decades of war-time rationing are coming to an end, leaving extra money for luxuries like hair curlers.  In 1965, hair curlers are upgraded with different size barrels, meaning that creating curly hair is easier than ever.

Rolling on to the 1980s (pun intended!) perms are the hottest way to curl your hair.  For the first time, curls are ‘permanent’, lasting for months.  How convenient!  But on the downside, the chemicals smell nasty, and many of us look like poodles! 

So there you have it! Curls have always been lusted after, but these days, it’s easier to create them than ever. If only the ancient Egyptians could see us now!