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How to Style Your Hair in Vintage Finger Waves

The vintage finger wave hairstyle, reminiscent of the roaring 1920s, is a symbol of elegance and sophistication. Popularized by silver screen icons of the era, this style has seen a resurgence in modern fashion for its classic appeal and dramatic flair. Creating finger waves might seem daunting, but with the right tools and techniques, it’s an achievable task. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of styling your hair in vintage finger waves, ensuring you can recreate this timeless look with confidence.

1. Understanding the Style

Before diving into the styling process, it’s essential to understand what finger waves are. They are S-shaped waves that are formed and set along the hair, creating a pattern that lies flat against the head. It’s a versatile style that can be adapted for various hair lengths but is most commonly associated with shorter hair.

2. Preparing Your Hair

Finger waves work best on clean, slightly damp hair. Start by washing your hair with a smoothing shampoo and conditioner to ensure it’s free of frizz and manageable. Towel dry your hair gently until it’s damp but not wet. This level of dampness is crucial for the waves to hold their shape.

3. Gathering the Necessary Tools

To create finger waves, you’ll need:

  • A fine-toothed comb
  • Gel (preferably a strong-hold gel)
  • Hair clips or bobby pins
  • A hair dryer with a diffuser (optional)
  • Hair spray (for setting the waves)

4. Applying the Gel

Once your hair is damp, apply a generous amount of strong-hold gel throughout your hair. The gel is essential as it helps to set the waves and keep them in place. Make sure to distribute the gel evenly, from the roots to the tips of your hair.

5. Creating the Waves

Part your hair on one side. Using the fine-toothed comb, comb your hair flat against your head. Then, place your finger horizontally against your hair, just above your ear. Press the comb against your scalp next to your finger and comb the hair in an upward direction, forming an ‘S’ shape. Use your other hand to hold the wave in place. Secure the wave with a clip or bobby pin at the crest.

Continue this process, working your way around the head, forming one wave at a time. Remember to keep the waves uniform in size for a consistent look.

6. Drying the Waves

Once all the waves are in place, you can allow your hair to air dry or use a hair dryer with a diffuser to speed up the process. If you’re using a hair dryer, keep it on a low heat setting to avoid disturbing the waves.

7. Setting the Style

After your hair is completely dry, carefully remove the clips or bobby pins. If any waves have loosened, use your comb and fingers to adjust them. Once you’re satisfied with the look, apply a generous amount of hairspray to set the waves in place. This will ensure your finger waves last longer and stay intact throughout the day.

8. Adding a Modern Twist

While traditional finger waves are classic, you can add a modern twist to this vintage style. Consider leaving the ends of your hair loose for a more contemporary look, or accessorize with vintage-inspired hairpins for added glamour.

9. Maintenance and Care

Finger waves are a high-maintenance style and may require touch-ups throughout the day, especially if you have naturally curly or frizzy hair. Carry a small bottle of hairspray and a few bobby pins with you for quick fixes.

10. Tips for Success

  • Practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt isn’t perfect. With practice, your technique will improve.
  • Use a gel with a strong hold to ensure the waves hold their shape.
  • Be gentle when removing clips or bobby pins to avoid disturbing the waves.
  • If you have longer hair, consider pinning the length into a chignon or bun to complement the finger waves.


Styling your hair in vintage finger waves is a wonderful way to pay homage to the glamour of the past while adding a touch of elegance to your modern look. Although it requires patience and practice, the stunning results are worth the effort. Whether you’re attending a themed event, a formal occasion, or just want to experiment with a new style, finger waves are a timeless choice that exude classic beauty and sophistication.

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