Vintage Hair Tools

Tools of the Trade


Hello Lover!

Today I am talking about specific hair tools that help achieve vintage hair styles. My vintage journey started less than a year ago. I have always been enamored with Old Hollywood glamour and dabbled with bits of the style here and there. When I finally dove in I was shocked to discover that the hair was no easy feat. It required skill but most importantly specific tools. I spent many months obsessing and crying over my hair and the amount of work it took for me to achieve the covetable Vintage styles. I hope that the tips I share can help simplify or even answer some questions you may have.

Cutting my hair into a classic u-shape  was the first step (watch my video about it here!)  but the finesse came from the tools I used.  If you are just starting your vintage journey or  trying to learn even more than I hope the tips I share tonight can help. They have seriously changed my hair game and I couldn’t be happier. Buying these items doesn’t cost a fortune. For those just starting I will write a recommended ‘invest in these first’ list at the end of the post.

Hair Tools for setting a ‘do’


There are so many ways to achieve the Shirley Temple curl that brushes out into glamorous rolls.  I will list all the options below but dive in further on the two that I use to cultivate my Lauren Bacall pageboy look.

  • Hot Rollers/Curlers
  • Sponge Rollers
  • Curling tongs also know as curling irons
  • Curling rods
  • Pin curls

Hot Curlers


*Affiliate links within. This simply means that if you choose to purchase an item that is affiliated with me I will get a small percentage for the mention. As always, I only link what I feel is valuable and has personally worked for me. 

Hot rollers have been my go-to tool for creating all my hair looks. When purchasing a hot curler set you will notice that most come with 3 different sized curlers. Usually these will range from 1/2 an inch to 2 inches. Modern day curls and beachy  waves rely heavily on 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch rollers. Vintage ringlets and rolls dictate a smaller curler size. When it is time to curl my hair I only use the 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch sizes.

When I first started rolling my hair I purchased Remington rollers. Which is a fantastic brand but the curler size was not small enough nor did they get as hot as I wanted. Heat is very important to a successful roll. You want the heat to be even and just hot enough that your hair ‘bakes’ but doesn’t burn! If the rollers are to hot for you to handle than they are probably to hot and should be dialed back or replaced with another set. Allowing your hair to cool during the ‘baking’ process is also very important as this initially sets the curls to last all day. I try and allow my hair to set for 25-45 minutes. This is a great time to put on makeup and pick your clothes out for the day.

Different sets and brands will offer a range of curler sizes to choose from. Vintage hot roller sets contain curlers that are all the same size. However, the newer modernized hot roller kits no longer sell curlers that are all the same size. They now have stacked the sizes from large to small. Some sets go down to 1/2 an inch while others will only go down to the smallest size being 1 inch. Please note, It took purchasing 4 sets of the Conair hot rollers to get the amount of curlers I needed in that particular size.  I usually place anywhere from 28-30 rollers in my hair. Shopping for the perfect brand of hot rollers took a bit of time. By far the Conair sets that I own are my absolute favorite. I find they heat the most evenly and the curlers are the perfect size. Ranging from 1/2 inch, to 3/4 of an inch, to a full inch. I use Conair in my pro kit and it hasn’t failed me yet!

Many of you have requested a how-to showing the techniques I use to hot curl my hair, and the way I brush it out. It is coming soon! Make sure you’re subscribed to my YouTube Channel so you don’t miss it. ❤

Sponge Rollers


Sponge Rollers are truly unique. As the name implies they are indeed round oblong sponges with a plastic clip at the end to help hold the hair in place . They’re extremely affordable and easy to find. Sponge rollers can be purchased from your local hair supply store or even found at Walmart (although a bit more expensive)

They are meant to be used when the hair is slightly damp, followed by applying a setting lotion, and then either slept in, left to air dry, or be placed under a heated dryer. There are many sizes to choose from but unlike a hot roller set that comes with a pre-determined number of curlers; sponge rollers are purchased per pack in the size that you need. Personally I have been testing the 1 inch and 1 1/2 inch sizes on my own hair. Sponge rollers shrink in size as you roll the hair towards the head. This creates a smaller tighter spiral and also means less curlers to place on the head. I am currently sitting with a set of sponge rollers in my hair. 😊 I use about 26 in total and my biggest tip to share is placing a large wefted hair net over top to help hold them closer to your head as they dry.

Once the set is completely dry you remove the sponge rollers and brush your hair into its style. Setting the hair while it is damp helps to change the molecular level of the hair shaft which will allow the set to last longer than a heated style. At this time I am still testing that out and plan to do a hot roller vs sponge roller blog post in the near future.


When deciding on which tool is best for you and your hair I would ask these simple questions.

  • How much time do I have to dedicate into doing my hair?
  • Am I opposed to sleeping in sponge rollers over night or any over night apparatus?
  • How often do I wash my hair?
  • What hair type do I have? Fine, Medium, or Coarse?
  • How long is my hair and what style do I want?

HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE TO DEDICATE INTO DOING MY HAIR?

When it comes to doing a vintage hair style the ‘set’ is the most time consuming. For instance it takes me 15-20 minutes to do either a wet set or hot set. The brush out to follow, for a set always needs brushed out, takes another 10-15 minutes tops. Practice will make you more efficient.

Each time you learn a new way to style or set your hair means commitment and commitment means time. Be realistic to what you want on a daily basis and practice that first.

AM I OPPOSED TO SLEEPING IN SPONGE ROLLERS OVER NIGHT?

This can only be answered per experience. Personally it does not bother me because the ‘Juice is worth the Squeeze’ for some though it isn’t an option. In that case allowing your set to air dry or sitting underneath a dryer hood is the best bet. Unfortunately this is time consuming. Air drying will depend on the thickness of your hair and how much hair you roll into the curler. Using an actual blow dryer can cause frizz, so beware. A heated dryer hood is your safest option for speeding wet sets a long.

HOW OFTEN DO I WASH MY HAIR?

I wash my hair every 3-4 days. Every time I wash my hair I will have to re-set it. If you decide on a wet set this means you will have to re-set it every time you wash your hair. Same for using hot rollers. I personally have to set my hair twice if I use hot rollers.

WHAT HAIR TYPE DO I HAVE AND WHAT STYLE DO I WANT?

Your hair type is going to determine how many curlers you will need to achieve the desired look. Time and practice is the only way to answer this. From experience heavier thicker hair takes longer to roll and needs more curlers than finer hair. In essence this means more time for gals who have thicker locks.

HOW LONG IS MY HAIR?

I am going to be very honest. If your goal is to have a pageboy, think Marilyn Monroe or Liz Taylor, than a shorter cut is best. When I started my vintage journey I had very long hair (see more in my Youtube tutorial about my hair cut ) It was extremely time consuming to do any vintage style other than Victory Rolls because my hair wasn’t cut for vintage styling. After waiting almost a year I finally chopped my tresses and I do not regret it! I love my hair the length it is and the u-shape hair cut. Even when worn straight my hair works for me. You will want to consider what your hair goals are and what you need to do to follow through with them. If you love longer hair than don’t cut it. Remember Bettie Page had longer hair and was a Pinup Goddess.

Hair brushes for ease & success!


Once I mastered the curling part of my vintage hair journey I realized that my brushes needed an update! This again does not need to cost a fortune! I have purchased a lot of my brushes from Sallys Beauty, and Professional Salon Supply stores.

Here are the ones I recommend and why

  • The Denman Brush. Denman was started in 1938. Mr Deman created this amazing brush, a first of its kind, for the sole purpose of helping his sister style her hair into the coiffures of the day. Since then it has been used by women, movie stars, and stylist to achieve beautiful rolls and bouncy waves. Originally based out of the UK Denman Brushes took the world over. There are multiple styles to choose from but my favorite is the D3.  The teeth work to gently shape and mold the hair into the rolls that are perfect for vintage styles. My hair game changed after I purchased this brush and I do not regret it. I found mine at Sally Beauty. Denman Brushes are available online and in salon supply stores.

Where to Buy:

    1. Denman brushes can be purchased from the Denman website.
    2.  Amazon Denman D3
    3. SALLY BEAUTY
  • Boar Bristle Brush. If your opposed to using boar you can find a synthetic option. I love the one I have from Sam Villa but Sally Beauty has a mixed boar and nylon brush that I use in my Pro Kit. Boar bristle brushes are great for starting the brush out and smoothing the hair. It evenly disperses the hairs natural oils and creates that ‘gleam’ or ‘shine’ that we all want from our hair. I do not use this brush for creating my rolls. I leave that to my Denman and Teasing comb. My Boar brush is used to start the brush out process and finish off the crown by smoothing it down.
  • Teasing Comb or Rat-tail comb. These combs help in separating hair and teasing sections for greater volume. I also use mine to disperse setting lotion or setting spray and part my hair for easy sectioning.
  • Teasing Nylon Brush. This brush is great for back combing but I mainly use it to smooth the back portion of my head without disturbing my rolls and curls. The goal with vintage hair styling its to keep hair sleek and grouped together without looking piecey.  The small nylon brushes help to do that with ease and precision.
  • Duck Bill clips. These are a must for holding hair in place or creating S waves. They do not contain teeth which could leave marks on the hair. Instead this are meant to help set styles and mold waves into place.
  • Alligator Clips for separating hair. I use these religiously in every set whether hot or wet. Separating sections of hair just makes life easier.

For a more in depth look into all the tools mentioned above and learn a bit more please watch the tutorial I created below.

Know what this is???


Below are several photos of a 1940’s or older Marcel wave clamp.

This is a hair jewel and rare to find as it is now an antique. I have Vintage Ooollee to thank for the loan on this delectable hair gadget. Stay tuned as next weeks  post will take you into the world of one of my favorite vintage stores!

Invest in these ‘first’ List


Everyone has a budget and all budgets differ. For those just starting their vintage hair journey here is what I recommend.

  • Rat-tail comb to separate and backcomb hair for volume.
  • Denman brush to create rolls and glamorous waves.
  • Boar or Nylon brush to help smooth hair into place.
  • Either hot curlers or a set of sponge rollers.
  • Setting spray for either hot curlers or sponge rollers. Please be aware that these differ between each other. At this time I love Redken or the ISO hot setting spray for hot curlers and Lotta Body for my sponge rollers/wet sets.

I hope you all have loved this post. If you did please let me know in the comments below!

Stay Glamorous,

Miss Audrey Monroe 💋

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