The Best of 1930s Hairstyles: Elegant Waves

Joanna Elizabeth


Updated November 7, 2022

Marlene Dietrich 1930s Hairstyles
Marlene Dietrich was known for her on-screen glamour and wore a shoulder length style. Photo Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

In the 1930s, the major trends for hairstyles were all about waves. With a softer look than the sleek bob and tight ringlets of the 1920s, women began wearing their hair in more feminine styles with parts sweeping to the side or down the middle. At the beginning of the decade, short hair still reigned for men’s hairstyles as well as women’s hairstyles.

But as the 1930s fashion trends marched on, women started opting for longer hair. Lengths would reach to the shoulder length with some choosing to pin their hair underneath. Bangs also took the spotlight as women wore short fringe at the front. We absolutely love these retro hairdos, and we hope you do! Discover vintage images of 1930s hairstyles below.

Related: Golden Girls: Hollywood’s Most Iconic Blonde Actresses

1930s Hairstyles on Actresses

Vivien Leigh Long Hair 1938
Known for her long hair and dark tresses, Vivienne Leigh wore Hollywood waves. Photo Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Long Hair

Despite short hair being all the rage, in the 1930s, long hair was a popular hairstyle too. Women often wore hair in a ponytail or loose and commonly curled.

Stars like Vivienne Leigh showed off wavy tresses that ran down the back. But to cheat a short look, a faux bob would be pinned underneath. The look is great for formal events.

Most women wore their natural hair color as dyes were not well-advanced during the 1930s. However, some stars like Jean Harlow dyed their hair. In fact, Harlow is how we got the term platinum blonde with her shockingly light tresses.

Jean Harlow Blonde 1930s Hairstyle
Jean Harlow was famous for her platinum blonde hair color. Photo Credit: Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Short Hair

Short hair was quite popular in the 1930s. The bob was still a common style, and a woman could wear it in various ways. It could be curled or straightened, parted down the middle or off to one side, and worn loose or pinned up. In addition, short hairstyles could feature chic bangs. Stars like Carole Lombard and Marlene Dietrich were famous at the time for their finger waves and bobs.

Carole Lombard Tight Curls 1930s Hairstyle
Actress Carole Lombard wore short hair with bangs. Photo Credit: Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo

Tight Curls

In order to get that curly and wavy look, women would place their hair in pin curls overnight so the style would stay in place. Wearing one’s hair straight wasn’t a popular look. Taking the pins out so the curls fall, women could comb their hair out so that not all the hair was tightly curled for a looser option. Another popular way to style the hair would be by using finger curls. Popular in the previous decade, this style would continue with 1930s hairstyles.

Hair Clips 1931 Dorothy Lamour
Dorothy Lamour wears gorgeous hair accessories to pin her hair. Photo Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Hair Accessories

Bobby Pins

Bobby pins became popular a decade before, but when it came to 1930s hairstyles, they were still an excellent way to keep hair in place. During this time, bobby pins were often worn on their own or as part of an elaborate hairstyle. Stars like Dorothy Lamour would use hair accessories and pins to adorn the hair and add to the overall look. Pins would also be a good way to create a faux bob hairstyle.

Greta Garbo Short Hair 1930s
Greta Garbo wears one of the common 1930s hairstyles in this picture with a polished look. Photo Credit: Allstar Picture Library Limited. / Alamy Stock Photo

Clips & Accessories

Clips and accessories were the perfect way to add some glamour and sparkle to any vintage hairstyle. Many different types of accessories were available, including hair bands, combs, headbands, and even hats. This would be a good way to dress up even when one wore their hair straight.

The most common type of accessory was a simple metal hair clip that could be used to secure a section of hair back from the face or hold it in place above one’s ear.

Hair clips were often decorated with rhinestones or other embellishments, and some had small mirrors attached so that a woman could check her makeup while wearing them. This would look great with classic finger curls.

More Hairstyles from the 30s

Romantic Waves 1930s Hairstyles Comb
Romantic waves were a major part of 1930s hairstyles. Photo: Deposit Photos
Blonde Woman Brushing Hair 1930s Center Part
A blonde woman wears soft curls with a center part. Photo: Deposit Photos
Thick Curls 1930s Sun Hat
A woman wears thick curls underneath a sun hat in the 1930s. Photo: Deposit Photos
1930s Hairstyles Short Curly Bangs
Short and sleek bangs evoke 1930s glamour. Photo: Deposit Photos
Short Fringe 1930s Wavy Hairstyle
Glamorous waves show off short fringe as well in this 1930s hairdo. Photo: Deposit Photos
Wave 1930s Hairstyles Woman Phone
Posing with a smile, a woman wears 1930s sculpted waves. Photo: Deposit Photos

1930s Hairstyles Now

The wavy hairstyles of the 1930s live on today, although many women wear their hair in less defined waves compared to decades past. In fact, even for guys, many of today’s modern hairstyles and haircuts for men are based on old-fashion trends and styles that have just been updated and brought back into the mainstream.

Films like “The Aviator” and “Water for Elephants” also showcased curly coifs of the decade. In modern times, finger waves are often only seen at formal events and red carpet settings. Often, the hairdos will have a smooth flat top with curled ends, a great look for long hair. See modern examples of 1930s hairstyles below to get that vintage vibe.

Katy Perry shows off a short and wavy black hairstyle evoking a bygone era. Photo: Everett Collection /
Katy Perry shows off a short and wavy black hairstyle evoking a bygone era. Photo: Everett Collection /
Daisy Ridley wears a medium length hairstyle featuring tight curls and a romantic side part. Photo: Tinseltown /
Daisy Ridley wears a medium length hairstyle featuring tight curls and a romantic side part. Photo: Tinseltown /
Taylor Swift shows off 1930s inspired pinned up waves at an event. Photo: Everett Collection /
Taylor Swift shows off 1930s inspired pinned up waves at an event. Photo: Everett Collection /

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