Last time in Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to some rather “exciting” sounding Edwardian shampoo and hair dressing recipes, taken from “The Manual on Barbering, Hairdressing, Manicuring, Facial Massage, Electrolysis and Chiropody” by A.B. Moler, published in 1905. I would also like to introduce you to another book, “Beauty Aids, or, How to Be Beautiful,” by Countess C—, 1901, available in full on Google Books.
This time we will look at how the hair was cared for in terms of brushing, combing, singeing, roughing, marceling and crimping.
Brushing and Combing
You will see two very modern instruments in Moler’s book – the air-cushion hairbrush, made of boar bristle or wire; and the comb, then made of rubber, now plastic, with varying spacing of teeth.
The comb, of course, is used to work through tangles, recommended to start from the ends of the hair and work upwards. They are also used for parting the hair, and in the singeing method, which we’ll look at later. Countess C– warns against combing too roughly, so as not to damage the scalp.
It is the brush that is secret. A brush made with real boar bristles is extremely important. Boar bristle is the stiff hair of pigs, and has been used to make brushes for centuries. It moves the oils of the scalp through the hair in a unique way, and also stimulates the scalp and encourages new growth. You will find when you use a boar bristle brush, the hair becomes fuller and fluffier – this is because this kind of brush sortof “binds” the hair together rather than separates, as a wire or plastic brush will. Bristle brushes also make far more effective teasing and smoothing implements than do combs.
Of brushing, Countess C— notes, “The brush is preferable to the comb, to rid the skin of the impurities and dust which fly about in the atmosphere…”
Crimping and The Marcel Wave
Crimping is what we would call just curling today, achieved with hot irons, like it is today. Irons back in 1905 were heated on a gas stove, and applied to hair divided into fairly small sections. Moler describes the technique as follows:
Hold the iron closed in the righ hand, pick up the strand of hair divided for the curl in the left hand; hold the iron about one inch from the head an begin winding he hair around the iron, starting in the center of the iron and winding towards the end until about one-half of the length of the strand is crimped, then turn the iron down to the head, crimping it close to the roots.
The idea was to curl the hair, then comb it out to create fluffy waves. For straight-haired ladies, this was done before any styling. For curly-haired ladies, you get to skip this step.
Marcel Waving is something entirely different. Named after Marcel Grateau, who invented the technique in 1875, this kind of wave was done with a specific iron that was clamped on the hair right-side-up, then up-side down, alternating all the way down, creating three dimensional waves. The entire head was marcel waved before styling.
You can do both crimping and marcel waving today with your curling iron, and you don’t have to keep sticking it in the gas stove to keep the heat. We even have triple-barreled irons just for waving, like this one:
The smaller the iron, the tighter the wave, but also the smaller the divisions of hair must be, and the longer it will take.
This is the old-fashioned word for teasing, ratting, and backcombing. Quite a lot of roughing was done to achieve the large styles of this period. Don’t be afraid of it! Where you want volume, hold the hair straight up and comb backwards, towards the scalp, on the underside. I like to use a bristle comb for this, and give it a mist with the very anachronistic hairspray, before smoothing into place.
I don’t think I need to tell you not to do this…but don’t do this. Singeing was the technique of burning the ends of your hair to keep them from splitting. Moler claims that this “closes the pores and keeps the fluid in the hair and gives it a livelier and healthier appearance.” Riiiight.
To singe the hair, divide it into sections and twist the sections tightly, then pass an open flame over the top, burning away the little short hairs that are ticking out. After lighting your hair on fire, Moler recommends brushing away the burnt ends to “avoid the appearance of singed hair.” Y’think?
If you’ve ever wondered why Edwardian women’s hair looked frizzy, singeing it probably the answer. Then again, maybe this is the key to fantastic period hairstyling, and we are all too sensible to try it (and that includes me.)
So now we’ve washed the hair with funky Edwardian shampoo, have combed it out, brushed it, and either curled or waved it (and you crazy lot have singed it). We’re now ready to style the hair, coming up in Part 3…