How to do your hair in victory rolls

Even if you aren’t into rockabilly, burlesque, swing-dancing or other retro dress-up scenes, at some stage you will definitely be invited to a themed party where it’ll be appropriate to wear the quintessential Forties hairstyle, the victory roll – as modelled by Betty Grable, above.

We have done the hard yards of trawling through all the bazillion YouTube tutorials on the subject (this Scottish chick and this American chick are probably the most helpful), then practising until our arms ached. Here’s our step-by-step guide, plus some other observations.

1. Part your hair. A side part is traditional. Section off the hair you’ll use to make the rolls by parting it where a headband would sit: behind your ears and across the crown of your head.

2. Hold one section of hair out to the side and brush it into a smooth, flat ribbon. Grab it by the ends and roll it in to form a cylinder. This is the tricky bit and it may require practice.

3. When the curl reaches your scalp, arrange it next to the part and pin the bottom with at least two bobby pins: one inserted from the front, one from the back.

4. Repeat with the hair on the other side of the part. It doesn’t matter if the rolls aren’t the same size or symmetrically placed.

5. Smooth down the wings of hair, tuck in any stray hairs, and spray the shit out of it.

Start with ‘dirty’ hair. Clean hair is too slippery to work with. Back in the day they used setting lotion; mousse is probably the best contemporary equivalent as you can easily distribute it through your hair.

Don’t bother with hair rats. ‘Rats’ are any foreign object tucked under your hair to give it support and body. Some people use foam rollers or purpose-made mesh cylinders, or use wads of their own hairbrush hair. But really, you don’t need this stuff.

The roll should be hollow. You should be able to see into it, if not right through it, as it stands upright on your head. If you look like you have little teddy-bear ears on your head, you’re doing it right.

Short hair: You can get a victory roll going in any hair that’s long enough to form a loop the size of a 50c coin. You can always cover the rest of your hair with a Rosie The Riveter-style scarf.

Layered hair: Curls take better in layered hair, so back in the day everyone had layered haircuts. But if you find that the ends of your hair won’t stay in the curl, use gel or wax to slick them down.

Long hair: If you have long hair with few layers, the easiest method is creating a loop . This is cheating as you don’t roll the entire length of your hair up into the roll. But the end result looks just as good.

Fringes: If your fringe is long enough you can incorporate it into a roll. But if it’s short, pin your victory rolls just behind it.

If you’re really into 1940s hairstyles, Daniela Turudich’s book of the same name is an excellent guide. It’s not just a how-to but is also a cultural history of wartime hair trends.