Book Review: “Vintage Hairstyling” by Lauren Rennells

Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step-by-Step Techniques
Lauren Rennells
2nd ed.
(c) 2009 Lauren Rennells
ISBN 978-0-9816639-1-3

If you are like me, you have pretty much no knowledge of how to create vintage hairstyles …. and also no hair.

I bought “Vintage Hairstyling” hoping it would teach me some basic techniques for how to create hairstyles from the 1920s through the 60s, and that it did.

The Pros:
The entire book is in full, brilliant color, with professional photographs showing each hairstyle clearly and from different angles, and step-by-step instructions for how to create the coifs.  A full list of tools, products, images of these things, and suggestions on where to purchase them is included, along with page after page of rather technical, but easy to follow pin curling, finger waving, and roller technique.

“Vintage Hairstyling” moves through various styles ranging from the 1920s to the 1960s, with emphasis on the 1940s, specifically pompadours.  Most styles use rollers or the curling iron, and many include instructions for how to add rats, hair extensions, barrettes, scarves, and other decorations.

Via Bobby Pin Blog, the author’s blog

The guide for finger waving was particularly useful, and shows how to wave in wet hair as well as hair that has been previously curled.  This book single-handedly taught me how to finger wave!

The Cons:
Being a girl of short locks, I was a little disappointed that nearly all of the styles in this book are for long hair, really long hair.  Several styles show how to create a mock bob, but only a few show how to coif already short hair.

Via Bobby Pin Blog, the author’s blog

The emphasis is on 1940s styles, with the use of victory rolls, pompadour structures, snoods, and other accessories.  I suppose it makes sense for the popularity of WWII re-enactors and Rockabilly girls, but I would have liked a little more support for the 1930s and 1950s.

The Verdict:
“Vintage Hairstyling” is a great book, and the perfect one to get you started on the mysterious hair constructs of the past.  It is incredibly enlightening and easy to use, and even contains a bit on period makeup and finger nail finishes.  I highly recommend “Vintage Hairstyling”, so go and buy it and find the answers to those hairstyling questions that have been keeping you awake at night.  🙂


  • Mistress of Disguise

    December 27, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    I absolutely love this book. 😀 I used to have short hair, and found that one or two of the looks in the book can be pretty easily modified to work with short hair. It takes a bit of finagling, but I would wet set my hair in foam rollers overnight to give myself a lot of curl, and worked from there in the morning. My victory rolls weren't quite as full, but it usually turned out pretty well! 🙂

  • Lynn Brooks

    December 27, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    This book has become a bible of sorts for me. Funny enough, I was thinking this morning of doing a blog post on same book.
    Many of the styles in the book are difficult to do on yourself, I bought it to learn how to do vintage looks on my clients, but with practice, similar variations can be done on yourself.
    Although the majority of the styles focus on the 40s and a certain length of hair, the main thing here is to practice the techniques on yourself. If you can master the techniques, you can create your own variations of each style. And she does teach all the basic techniques for vintage hairstyling.
    I have been following her blog, and since writing the book, I know at one point she cut her hair short and has had to deal with the challenges of doing vintage styles on her shorter hair. Maybe we can do a write in campaign and get her to do a book on all short hair, or a series of books going decade by decade (featuring models from supershort to superlong and everything in between).
    I'm currently saving up for her makeup book.

  • Isis

    December 28, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I absolutely agree with you! Though I don't mind the focus on long hair and the 40's as it suits me, it would still be nice with more variation. I also think that the structure she used in her last book about make up would have worked well here too- sorting the hairstyles after decade with an introduction to what makes the key looks for the particular decade.

    As a source for information on how-to's I find it absolutely wonderful though!

  • M'lady

    December 30, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    Thanks for the review. I nearly bought this book, but have short hair (a ear hight bob) so would prefer a book which covers how to do short hair. Particually accessible for someone wanting to do thier hair themselves.

  • Angela

    January 1, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Great resource Lauren. Yes, I, like you have cut the hair short and am finding it difficult to do a variety of hairstyles for period fashions. Wigs work up to a certain point and as I am a bit older often times wigs make you look like mutton dressed as lamb… 🙁 Anyway, thank you for this resource. Do you have 1940's Hairstyles by Daniela Turudich? It shows how to pin-curl shorter styles but it is strictly 40's. I prefer 30s and 50's styles. Cheers.

  • Eileen

    January 23, 2012 at 3:36 AM

    Lovely and informative blog!

    As to 20s – 50s styles with short hair, there is an answer: curls. I see from an earlier post that you know how to rag curl. For looser curls use several rags for each curl. Keep brushing and pinning until you've got the look you want. Try to find some good, small, flexible combs. They'll help.

    Also, "divide and conquer"–you do that too, it seems…front hair and back hair will help. Another thing (don't know if you've tried it): for 20s try a version of an Eton crop, with addition curls. It's easy with a shorter style. Just English schoolboy + a few decorative curls, not unlike a less fussy early Regency style.

    Again, really terrific blog! I loved the post on tying a turban.

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