Hot Vintage Hair Tools of the Past

If you think maintaining your appearance in today’s world is difficult, just imagine how hard it was 100 years ago! Home-use electrified hair appliances were not yet offered and women who wanted waves or texture had to go to great lengths to ‘get the look.’

Can you believe the things women used to do their hair? If you think maintaining your appearance in today’s world is difficult, just imagine how hard it was 100 years ago! Home-use electric hair appliances were not yet offered and women who wanted waves or texture had to go to great lengths to ‘get the look.’

National Library of Ireland

Using heat to alter hair shape or texture is an old concept, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that Marcel Francois Grateau created a hairstyle that became popular and required the use of specific heated tools. Known as the Marcel Wave, the style consisted of an arrangement of waves achieved by crimping and curling the hair using heated irons of various sizes and shapes. Later techniques using chemicals and irons ‘set’ the hair for a much longer amount of time, leading to the usage of term ‘permanent’ waves.

In order to shape the hair, the the irons were heated over a flame or coals until extremely hot. Unlike today’s tools, with no temperature regulation, the tools could easily burn skin or damage hair. Using vintage or antique irons today is not recommended due to safety concerns. The irons came in various diameters and shapes, and some irons did not even have any insulating material on the handles!

While not extremely valuable, non-electric curling irons are fun beauty-related items to collect and do have some resale value. Selling prices can vary, with most models going for under $20.00. If your hair iron is an ornate sterling silver model or if it has any kind of gemstone or pearl inlay, it may be worth more.

Watch this video to see 100 years of beauty in one minute!