Beauty & Hair

Finger & Marcel Waves – Stylish Hair of a Bygone Era

 I have long loved the glamorous hair styles of the past – starting with the loose pin curls of the 1940s, who could not love the luscious locks of stars such as Rita Hayworth! But my all time favourite is the Finger Wave and Marcel Wave, so hugely popular in the 20s and 30s.

Marcel Waves

So sleek and gorgeous! The wave was developed, as a way of softening the hard appearance of the fashionable bob of the flapper period. Finger Waves and Marcel Waves look very similar, with the only real difference being the way in which they are achieved.

Finger waves were created with, well, fingers (duh!) and a comb on wet hair – if only it was as simple as it sounds!

Fingerwaves(Image source Revamp Vintage)

 Whilst Marcel Waves were created with a heated curling iron, making it longer lasting and easier to achieve. Designed in 1872 by Francois Marcel, a French hairdresser, the curling irons revolutionised hair styling and made the marcel wave (and variations of the wave) popular for over 50 years.

Marcel Wave(Image source Bobby Pin Blog)

 Francois Marcel’s invention made this style achievable for all, not just the rich and famous……

True Vintage Finger Wave

True Vintage Finger Wave

…..but it was immortalised, by some of the most famous, and sexiest, Hollywood stars of the era……

Joan Crawford Finger Waves

Joan Crawford 

Bebe Daniels

Mary Brian Marcel Waves

Dorothy Mackaill Finger Waves

Dolores Costello

Claudette Colbert

Bette Davis Finger Waves

Helen Twelvetrees Marcel Waves

Nancy Carroll Finger Waves

Billie Dove Marcel Waves

Billie Dove

Mary Pickford

Loretta Young

……and, as with all timelessly elegant fashions, it remains popular with many of the most stylish and glamorous stars of today!

Keira Knightley Finger Waves

Diane Kruger Marcel Waves

Evan Rachel Wood Finger Wave

Kate Bosworth Finger Waves

Fan Bing BingFan Bing Bing – my new style crush!

(Image source The F Word Fashion)

Emmy Rossum Finger Waves

Carey Mulligan Marcel Waves

Although easiest to style on short or bobbed hair the look can be created with long hair by tying it at the nape of the neck – it looks so beautiful pinned with a vintage hair accessory or for a more bohemian look, with a whimsical flower…..

Flower Finger Wave

I can’t help but wonder, what came first – is this style synonymous with glamour because of the stars of the era that made it popular, or did this sleek and sexy hair style add to their timeless appeal?

I realise ‘vintage’ and the 1920s in particular may be on trend at the moment but this look has a refined elegance and enduring beauty that makes it truly timeless.





  • Hi Amy. Thanks for this great information, I really enjoyed the reading. The world owes Francois Marcel.

    • Liz Flood says:

      I have spoken to hairdressers across the world no one can do these beautiful elegant styles any more. Why! I am sue if only one person could get marcel waves or finger waves everyone would want one and it would start a new fashion. All they say is I can;t get the proper clips to do it. All they do nowadays is short curly blow and go. No good and definitely no style.

      • Amy says:

        Ooh Liz, I think you’re right and someone missed a trick with the recent Art Deco revival – where was the update to the marcel wave tool? You would have thought someone like GHD would have come up with something! Keep looking though Liz as I know some stylists manage beautiful waves for shoots and brides, so they can be done! It’s just finding the stylist with the skills. Amy x

  • Grace Healey says:

    I absolutely adore vintage hairstyling. So chic and completely timeless. Finger waving is one hell of a technique! Its a great way of creating elegance for a style in just one element. I do a lot of vintage styling in my work and have seen a huge rise in popularity for it, especially in wedding hair. I shall be following you from now on to hear more!

    I’d love it if you could check out my blog when you have the chance it’d be much appreciated :)

    • Amy says:

      Oh Grace, if I could wear my hair in finger waves every day I would! :) You’re so right about it being chic and completely timeless – I am hoping to see lots of examples of it in Baz Luhrman’s Great Gatsby!!
      I love your blog (Mr E and I spent many of our dates at Brighton – drinking Pimms along the beach front bars) so pleased to hear you will be following… I will have to start thinking of more hair inspiration posts! Amy x

  • Koel says:

    I love the collections of pictures and hair styles.

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