Monday, June 9, 2014

༺ Pin Curls 101: The Basics of Pin Curls ༻

Pin curls. The essential hair styling technique for a vintage lady’s repertoire. There’s no denying that an authentic 1940s or 1950s look requires curls, and the best way to achieve that is to set your hair the way that they used to back in the day.

On the surface, pin curling doesn’t seem like it’s all that complicated; roll your wet hair up, let it dry, brush it and style! But as I have found out to my chagrin after many failed, or not-quite-right pin curl sets, there is a lot more to it than just that.

Vintage pin curling illustration - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

There is so much information out on the internet regarding pin curling and how to do it, but it’s not that easy to find, nor is there a comprehensive compilation in any one place. I found that there was a lot of gaps in my knowledge of pin curls and wet sets that I have had to fill in by researching a vast array of different resources.

In order to assist any beginner vintage or pin up aspirants out there, I thought I would try to track all this information down and compile it into an easy to follow ‘How To’ format. I shall not rewrite the information, or try remake the tutorials I have found, rather I aim to bring them all together in such a way as to hopefully make the art of pin curling easier to accomplish.

With this in mind, I am starting a series on pin curling, and after this introduction we will cover the basics; what is a pin curl, the different types of pin curls, and how to do them. Later on in the series, we shall review advanced pin curling techniques, what tools you will need to create successful wet sets, guides to hair setting patterns and more. So please join me for Pin Curling 101 and beyond.

What is a Pin Curl?

The structure of a pin curl - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

A pin curl is a strand of hair that has been rolled from tip to roots in concentric circles that lie inside each other. The ends are tucked into the centre of these rings to create a nice smooth curl with a corkscrew effect, that is wider at the base {roots of the hair; near your scalp} and is narrower at the ends {tips of your hair}.

Pin curls were used to style hair for a smooth, sophisticated look; as the setting of the pin curls in certain directions, with mind to particular partings, forces the hair to fall in a specific manner. This allows for greater control over the final look, as well as a sleek, pleasing finish to the style.

Pin curls were in their heyday during the 1940s and 1950s, and somewhat during the 1960s as well, although less so. Fashion of the times was greatly dictated by the allure of glamour and flawless femininity, and the pin curl lent itself nicely to this because of the appeal of hair control as well as the elegance of style it produced.

A sleek vintage style that radiates glamour - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

4 Easy Steps for Perfect Pin Curls:

A sculptured pin curl is characterized by each loop being tucked inside the last loop, the ends carefully secured inside the curl. The result is nice, neat sculptured curls, that look professional and beautiful. There are four steps for rolling a pin curl manually.

Step 1:  Part hair, and clip away sections you are not working on. Portion out a inch sized square strand of hair using a comb, preferably a rat’s tail comb. Comb through to remove tangles.

Step 2:  Dampen hair if necessary. Apply setting lotion to strand, particularly paying attention to the mid-length to ends as they need the most hold. Applying setting lotion to each individual strand, rather than the whole head, before pin curling is important for those with hard to curl hair and can make or break the success of your set.

Step 3:   Carefully wrap the ends of the strand around two fingers ~ one for a small curl, three for a large one. Remove loop from fingers and carefully roll the loop towards the scalp, making sure that the loops are wrap up in each other and that the ends are securely tucked in.

Important: Do not twist the strand of hair at any point of creating the pin curl, because this will make the curl frizzy!

Step 4:  Secure with a clip on the ‘open side of the curl’; that is the side of the curl opposite to the side with the stem, or roots, of the hair. 

For those that learn visually, here are some selected videos detailing how to pin curl.



Two Types of Pin Curls and Their Function:

There are two types of sculptured pin curls ~ flat pin curls that are clipped securely to the scalp, or standing pin curls, sometimes known as barrel pin curls, that are clipped in such a way as to stand away from the head.

The flat pin curl can be rolled in two directions; either clockwise or anti-clockwise. Like so:

Clockwise pin curl - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

A clockwise curl that faces away from your face on the right side of your head ~ or otherwise known as a backwards curl

 Anti-clockwise pin curl - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

An anti-clockwise curl that faces towards your face on the right side of your head ~ or otherwise known as a forwards curl

Standing pin curl or barrel pin curl - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

These barrel curls are commonly used on the crown to create volume on the top of the head, and are useful for styling fluffy bangs, or smooth rolls, such as Betty Page bangs, or victory rolls.

Barrel pin curls on the crown create volume - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

Barrel curls can also be rolled two ways. An Underneath Roll, as depicted above, or with an Upper Roll, where the roll sits on top of the stem, opposite to the picture. Naturally, the upper roll will not produce volume at the roots, but it is one method to create looser curls for your fringe.

Now that we have looked at the anatomy of the pin curl, here is the step by step guide for creating a pin curl wet set.

The resulting pin curl elegance - Pin Curls 101 | Lavender & Twill

10 Simple Steps for a Successful Pin Curl Set:

  1. Towel dry clean, shampooed hair. Hair should be damp, but not wet. Use a spray bottle to dampen if necessary. If the hair is too dry it will not hold the curl.

  2. Comb through hair to remove tangles.

  3. Apply setting lotion and comb through hair.

  4. Part hair neatly, and section ready for curling. Clip back any sections of hair that are not being worked on.

  5. Select an inch square portion of hair to curl.{This is standard  ~ the size of the portion may need to be adjusted for hair thickness and setting style.}

  6. Roll hair carefully. The curls can be done in neat rows, or according to a setting pattern. If using a hair setting pattern, pay particular attention to the parts, placement and direction of the curls. Take note if the curls are standing or flat, whether you need rollers or pin curls. Taking time and care to set the hair results in better hairdos.

  7. Make sure the curls are completely dry before removing clips or rollers. A hair dryer, or a hair drying cap can be used to speed this process up. Most sets will take seven hours or longer to dry completely, depending on the thickness of the curls.

  8. If there are loose curls, touch them up with a curling iron or hot rollers.

  9. Gently finger comb through the curls to separate them, then brush out and arrange in desired style.

  10. Apply a flexible, soft hold hairspray to keep the curls in place, or alternatively, use a light application of pomade to smooth down fly-aways.

Next up in the series,  we will cover in depth the all important topic of The Brush Out. There is a lot more to brushing our your pin curls than simply running a brush through your newly bouncing coiffeur, so we will look at the different techniques needed to achieve your dream of a sleek, charming ‘do.



༺ ♡ ༻

Find me:

Instagram | missbjvear
Pinterest | bjvear
Ravelry | BJVear
Twitter | bjvear
Youtube | Bonita Vear


  1. This is great! I recently cut my hair shorter and I've been wanting to try some retro styles and pin curling is at the top of my list. My hair is naturally curly but I want to give it the retro curl look. I've been meaning to buy rollers since mine broke a few years ago, but I have reason to get some again!

    1. Oh, that's exciting Justine! It's always fun to experiment with pin curls and new hair styles. : ) My hair is naturally very curly and thick as well, so I have a post coming up on pin curls work when your hair is already curly. ♡



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...