100 Finger Waves Hairstyles That Will Spice Up Your Look


Throwback hairstyles like finger waves are back again, and they are spotted on the runway and red carpets. A great thing, the modern iterations of the 1920s hairstyle still look chic and cool whether you got short or long hair. So, if you’re stuck in a beauty rut, keep on reading for the 100 finger waves hairstyles that will spice up your look.

What is Finger Wave Hairstyle?

It’s an old-fashioned hairstyle created without the use of curling irons or heating tools. As the name implies, you can get the look by pinching and teasing your hair with your fingers and a styling comb that will create the waves naturally. The goal is to create s-shaped waves worn flat against your head.

While a waving lotion made of karaya gum is an old-fashion hair product that can be used to retain the waves, you can now opt for hairspray or styling gel to set your hairstyle. A great thing, finger wave hairstyle will look cool on casual weekends, and glamorous on fancy parties.

History of Finger Waves Hairstyle

Have you noticed that modern hairstyles focus on your face shape while throwback ones, especially in the 1900s styles focus more on politics and even social movements? Yes, a specific hairstyle can also define a decade so let us dig deeper to its history.

According to hair experts, the Victorian era in the 1910s is known for hairstyles with lots of volumes. In fact, some style icons would style their hair on tops of their heads, get long drop curls, or even wear headpieces to add some volume to their hairstyle.

During World War II, women helped out with the war effort, and they need a more practical hairstyle that wouldn’t take too much time to style. Victory rolls are a more utilitarian hairstyle and a glam retro look, which involves teasing the hair to lock the style.

During 1920s, hairstyles abandoned the standards of Victorian era. In fact, 1920s was a decade defined by social and cultural rebellion. On contrary to voluminous Victorian hairstyles, the Roaring Twenties introduced short, bob hairstyles to channel the independent, carefree, and festive spirit. In fact, it was the same decade where women started wearing makeup, sported short hemlines, and revolted against social norms.

Back in the day, a hairstyle can serve as an indicator of one’s choice to break from tradition. Long hair used to be the ideal look for women, and the drastic change in the length of a woman’s hair from long hair to short hair coveys the idea on rebellion in the 20th century. Some stated that women who sported the short, bob hairstyle are trying to act like men, which is a huge controversy back then.

In fact, bob haircuts have been donned by some rebellious women decades before, and finger waves were used to make the hard look more feminine and modest. Do you know that short bobbed hair used to be associated with rebellious women who wore heavy makeup, donned miniskirts, and drank alcohol?

In the beginning of the 20th century, cutting off your hair to just-below-the-ears length is a sign of rebellion and even androgyny. In fact, many hairstylists refused to do them, since they only used shears on cutting long hair. More than that, short, bob haircuts were banned on schools.

Sooner, the short bob hairstyle became popular and acceptable where more feminine and sleek versions were created. One of them is the finger wave hairstyle that was made using fingers and comb, adding some flair to the boyish haircut. More than that, hair accessories like headbands and hats were designed to make the bob hairstyle more feminine and classy.

Do you know that the finger wave hairstyle became popular just to soften the hard look of flapper bob hairstyles in the 1920s? In fact, it was Depression era and women need a hairstyle that look stylish and can be done at home without the going to a hairstylist. It was also the decade where fashion for men and women became more similar because of social equality issues and assertion of woman’s rights.

Back in the time, setting your s-shaped curls barely with your fingers and comb was easier said than done. There were no styling tools like curling iron to hold your curls, and your waves needed to be dried without being disturbed. Just imagine the time and practice you’ll need to master wrapping your hair around your fingers just to create the perfect curl or wave. Though a hair lotion was sometimes applied to set its shape, the use of clips and tape also became popular to retain the curls.

In the 1930s, hairstyles became bold and flamboyant on contrary to 1920s bob hairstyles and finger waves. According to hair experts, women seek for more feminine look over boyish bob hairstyles. It was also the same decade where women’s clothes began to show off the natural curve of woman’s body. Yes, the 1930s was all about accentuating femininity whether it’s on your hairstyle or fashion choices.

In the 1940s, romantic curls, updos, buns, and chignon hairstyles became popular. Since the war raged on, fashion was defined by practicality since women needed more practical hairstyles on their daily life. In fact, some of them would wear headscarf to cover their hair while showing off the curls. Victory rolls became a popular hairstyle since it was inspired by World War II jets, mimicking the roll of clouds in the sky.

In the 1950s when the constraints of war were at an end, glamorous hairstyles and glam fashion became popular. In fact, makeup looks became more dramatic and bold, along with hairstyles, defining the 50’s ideal beauty. Also, women started visit salons to get soft curls, rolled bangs, big bouffant hairstyles, and such. The popularity of finger waves hairstyles might have come and go, but it never really disappeared. A great thing, it maintained its connection with an empowered woman.

The Difference of Finger Waves and Marcel Waves

You might love the glamorous hairstyles of the past, especially Finger Waves and Marcel Waves that look very similar. Do you know the difference between these two throwback hairstyles? As the name implies, finger wave hairstyle was created with fingers and a comb on wet hair, while Marcel waves were created with a curling iron.

Traditionally, finger waves hairstyle is created using the fingers on gel-dampened hair with the help of fine-tooth comb and clips. But do you know that used egg whites were also used to give the hair some sheen in the early 20th century? Sooner, hair products like Bakerfix hair gel and brown gel were introduced to give women a polished hairstyle.

They have similar curls, but the difference lies on the technique used. Yes, Marcel wave hairstyle is simply the modern finger wave. If you’re still wondering why the hairstyle was named as Marcel waves, it is because French hairdresser Francois Marcel created the look. In fact, Marcel waves became the popular hairstyle after the invention of curling irons, which made finger waves longer lasting and easier to achieve.

Finger Waves Hairstyle in Fashion

Bette Davis and Anita Page were some of a few actresses who popularized the finger waves hairstyle. And it made a comeback in the 1990s when Madonna sported the look. Nowadays, designers like Salvatore Ferragamo, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, and Stella McCartney modernized the iconic hairstyle through their fashion shows.

You might still remember when Marc Jacobs sent his models down the runway in their finger waves hairstyles, but do you know that the hairstylists behind the glamorous look were sent back to beauty school?

The beauty team really wanted to master the retro hairdressing technique especially on finger waves since the hairstyle become a lost art. Some designers and stylists got its modern take on the finger waves hairstyles by adding some high shine to the look while embracing natural hair texture.

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However, the retro hairstyle became a bit unexpected and glittery as hairstylists styled dual-textured finger waves into models. In fact, you’ll notice the sleek finish, or even sparkling, glossy ridges at the top of the hair, but dry though the lengths.

Who would have thought that Marc Jacobs will be able to make the classic finger waves punk-inspired? According to the hairdresser, it’s all about the silhouette of the finger waves. Fashion designers are creative on making their collections and even their fashion show theme more unexpected and strange. In fact, models in the show have bleached their eyebrows, making the finger waves hairstyle more pronounced.

More than that, the 1920 finger waves were styled with 1980s punk-inspired makeup, and other models with shaved heads were painted black, covering their hair in glitter that looked majestic. In fact, models were painted black—think of black eye shadow, black lips, or abstract black design around the eyes without adding blush or color to the face.

Apart from it, have you noticed that finger waves were the choice of hairstyle at the London Fashion Week? A great thing, a modern spin was introduced to the retro flapper hairstyle. In fact, some designers sent their models in finger waves with a mix of contemporary twists and slightly messy look. Some even incorporated tight ponytails, sculptural curls, and top knots that made the retro hairstyle more statement-making.

Finger Waves Hairstyle in Film

Have you watched Baz Luhrmann’s film The Great Gatsby based on F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel? Some experts say that film is just betrayal of 1920s fashion since some details are not historically accurate, but still its styling showed the glamour of the past. Some even stated that the film is just a 21st century Gatsby that was only set in the 1920s.

Even though the colors are richer than the real flapper fashion of the past, the film was able to portray the social and cultural meaning of clothes and beauty in the 1920s. You’ll see the finger waves hairstyles in the extravagant party scenes, adding some glam to the edgy bob haircuts.

In fact, the The Great Gatsby hair designer stayed true to the 1920s. According to him, the hairstyling of the characters were based on research and descriptions from the novel, but since the 1920s felt modern at the time, they added some modern elements to the look. If you’ll notice Daisy Buchanan’s hairstyle, she got a more modern bob hairstyle with softer bangs over fringe ones.

When it comes to hair color, there were no highlights on the character’s styling just to be authentic on 1920s look. In fact, some extras have used wigs just to channel the look, especially on partygoers’ finger waves. More than that, filming in 3D gave designers more challenge since they have to be careful about stray hairs.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, actress Ruth Negga sported the finger wave hairstyle but got its modern take on the retro look by having the waves in the front and leaving the sides of her hair natural-looking. This only proves that even if you have a natural hair texture, you can still make the finger waves hairstyle work for you.

Old-Fashioned Ways to Do Finger Waves

Back in the 1920s, the hair styling tools weren’t the ones we use today. The traditional way of getting the finger waves hairstyle is to create the curls with your fingers with some hairstyling tools—styling clips, strong sculpting gel, setting lotion, hair mousse, hair clamps, hairspray, and small tooth comb.

According to hair experts, you should style your hair while it is damp, but not dripping wet. Start by washing your hair with your favorite hair products whether it’s a shampoo or conditioner and blot it dry. Keep in mind that a damp hair is all you need for this hairstyle to take hold, so don’t entirely dry your hair.

If you like, you can apply a hair gel on your wet hair, but make sure it’s evenly distributed. Any type of strong-hold hair gel will be great, but you should apply more on areas you’ll get those finger waves and a smaller amount on the rest of your hair.

Start by combing your hair back and part your hair on your desired part. When it comes to finger waves hairstyle, make sure your part is nice and straight, not crooked or zig zag. Molding the hair into s-shaped waves and secure it with hair clamps. If you want more pronounced, dimensional waves, go bigger on your waves. Repeat the process until you create waves on the rest of your hair.

Do you love the Great Gatsby-style finger waves? To make the process easier, you may reach for curling tongs and glide them to your hair to create the desired waves. If you like to get tighter curls, simply turn the curling tongs while sliding them to your hair. According to hair experts, you may even place hair pins to add some unique shape to your hairstyle, but don’t forget to set the look with a hairspray.

Do you still remember the finger waves Lady Edith wore on Downton Abbey? To create an extreme wave, you have to part your hair first and begin the first wave by using a fine-tooth comb. You can place your finger on the wave to create the raised groove of your curls. As a hairstyling hack, you may even push your finger upwards to make your waves bigger and more pronounced. Just secure the groove with a hair clip.

Remember, you must let your hair dry before removing the hair clamps, or else your waves will fall out. Once it is completely dry, remove the hair clamp, and set your finger waves hairstyle with hairspray. Just complete your looks with flapper-inspired accessories like jeweled hair clips, fedora hat, sequined headpieces, and feathery headbands.

Modern Ways to Do Finger Waves

If you’re pressed on time, you have to use a curling iron or flat iron to make your finger waves last longer. This time, you’ll need the heat styling tools and a hairspray instead of a hair styling gel. Also, you should start with a dry hair as you’ll only damage your strands if you use heat styling tools with damp hair.

A great thing, it’s just easy to vary the size and smoothness of your waves with these heat styling tools compared to traditional ones. Most of the time, the size of your curl will depend on the size of your curling tongs or wand. Do you know that finger waves hairstyle was not originally designed for women with long hair as the curl won’t last?

Back in the day, there were no curling irons and blow dryers to style their hair. If you have a long hair, it’s more practical to do the finger waves with the help of heat styling tools, so it will be easier to set your hair.

To make the styling process easier, use a rat tail comb that will separate your hair strands effortlessly. Instead of rolling your hair around your fingers, simply roll it on your flat iron or curling iron, and don’t use a styling gel when using these heat styling tools. Repeat the process till you complete the rest of your hair. This time, set your finger waves hairstyle with a hairspray that will make it last longer.

If you wish to get the glamorous look of finger waves yet in a modern way, add some structure, shine, and color to your hairstyle. Most of the time, sculptural hairstyles will tend to look more futuristic than retro, but it will still keep your statement more feminine yet bold. Just don’t be afraid to experiment on your partings whether you prefer it to be on center, on the side, or even deep sides.

In fact, disheveled hairstyles are considered modern and fresh nowadays. Do you love that model off duty look? Then think of creative ways to make your finger waves look more effortless and cool. If you like to embrace the texture of your hair, you may even think of deconstructed version of finger waves.

Instead of going for 1920s-inspired accessories, you may get a modern look my leaving the rest of your finger waves in a casual low bun that will look chic every time. If you have a short hair, you can do a bob, but curl your tips. Modern finger waves hairstyles will look great on weddings, dinner dates, parties, special occasions, and even holidays.

How to Channel the Spirit of Jazz Age with 1920s Finger Waves

Before getting a new hairstyle, you should consider how much maintenance you are willing to do. After all, styling your bob haircut with finger waves isn’t easy at all. Also, consider your face shape complement your natural features with a good hairstyle. Have you noticed that most retro styles pull the hair away from the face? A great thing, finger waves hairstyles are universally flattering.

We all know that finger waves hairstyle dates back to the Jazz Age, when short bob haircuts are of the moment. In fact, it made the short hair more acceptable by looking more feminine and soft compared to edgy and masculine-like bobs.

When it comes to 1920s makeup, arched brows styled with finger waves are one of the most glamorous look you can get. If you like, you may even go for smoky eyes, rosy cheeks and even bold red lips. Your eyebrows frame your face, and it can definitely define your 1920s-inspired look. Do you know that the iconic 1920s brow was highly sculpted, yet a bit slimmer than the arches we tend to get today?

Do you know that smoky eyes became a beauty trend in the 1920s when King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered—and women fell in love for everything Egyptian along with Cleopatra’s inspired look? A great thing, getting smoky eyes made easy with a smudgy black eyeliner and eye shadow. If you like, you may even add some false eyelashes into the mix and you’ll make a bold statement.

Finger waves hairstyle has stayed popular through the decades, and a great thing it will add a touch of the Twenties to your everyday look while making your style statement cool.


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