Hairdressing Fashions in the 1940’s and make up

When I was very young, my Mother always insisted that I had short hair, 

a style, if it could be called such a thing, favoured by Florence 

who was to feature on the television cartoon, “The Magic Roundabout”, many years later.




There was no precision cutting in those days, 

scissors were wielded round the edge of my hair, and then across my forehead to form a fringe. There was and never has been a hint of a wave let alone a curl, 

but I was blessed with very thick hair.

Every so often I would be taken to the Co-operative Hairdressing Dept., 

one particular day, my Mother took me and as we waited outside the door of the hairdressers, 

we could hear a heated exchange of words. 

The assistants were adamant that none of them was going to cut that child’s hair, 

because that child had a “funny shaped head”. 

Even at four years old, such remarks were “cutting”, to say the least, 

however one of the assistants was press ganged into performing the necessary haircut, 

she was in such a bad temper, she cut the lobe of my ear. 

I bled and screamed like a stuck pig, there was a further heated exchange, 

this time, between my Mother and this dragon of a so called hairdresser. 

The positive outcome of this, was that I was never taken there again. 

I don’t know who would be the most relieved, myself or the staff at that establishment. 

When I grew older, I was allowed to have long hair, and I thought that was wonderful, 

I had always longed for plaits. 


The red letter days, such as, going to a Birthday party, Whitsuntide were extra special, 

because then I could have ringlets. 




I cannot profess that I looked like Shirley Temple, 

and the torture of having my hair twisted in long pieces of old clean rags, 

used to make me wonder if it was worth it. 

Going to sleep was impossible, yet, when these instruments of torture were removed, I did have long curls, which would last the whole of two hours if I was lucky.

Women went through an even more agonising procedure to have their hair curled, 

this was called a Permanent Wave and was done by electricity. 

I can remember going to a hairdresser called Dora Quinnell, 

who had a shop in Shambles Street, Barnsley, 

my Mother was to have a Marcel wave and her friend Alice Atherton nee Andrews went along too, taking her daughter Christine, who was the same age as me. 

For quite a while, Christine and I were fascinated by the procedure, 

of our Mothers hair being connected up to long pieces of wire, 

emerging from a metal drum, which was suspended in the air. 

After a while, we became scared at seeing our Mothers resembling something like Medusa and worried that they would not survive this operation. 


The fright soon turned into boredom, as nothing appeared to be happening to justify our fears, 

so we started poking about behind the curtain, which was the back drop to Dora’s shop window. 

Much to our glee, we came across some rouge (now known as blusher), 

lipsticks and face powder, these were a novelty to me, 

as the most make up my Mother used was a spot of “Snowfire” or “Pond’s” vanishing cream, sparsely rubbed into her face and a smear of Tangee lipstick, which was practically colourless. We had the time of our lives, we “made each other up”, 

and by the time we had finished we both looked like Coco the clown, 

bright red lipstick, slashed across our mouths, 

and the rouge looked as if it had been laid on by a trowel. 

Suddenly I heard my Mother say, “where’s our Mary and Christine”?, 

much to Dora Quinnell’s horror two garishly painted faces peeked round the curtain, 

and she gave one loud shriek of anguish, 

we had successfully demolished practically all her stock of make-up, 

remembering that this was war-time it could not be replaced. 

Once our Mothers were freed from these instruments of torture and “finished off”, 

they were ready to nearly “finish us off”.

That meant another smacked bottom and an early night, and no bed time story.



Not long afterwards, all the women became quite excited, 

an new invention called the cold perm was available, but these were a lot more expensive. 

A hairdresser at Hoyle Mill, was, as far as I know one of the first to perform these wonderful transformations. She started a “perm club”, which meant that if so much money was paid by a number of women per week, then they had to take it in turns to have their hair permed, 

it was literally the luck of the draw, as to whose name came out of the hat. 

If someone’s hair looked particularly well, 

it was a well known saying that she had had a Ruth Proctor, 

which was the name of this very special hairdresser. 

If my Mother had a long wait for her turn, then she would bend her head forward, 

take the front locks and wind them round a clothes peg, 

hair grips would then be inserted to hold this role in place. 

Steel curlers for the ends of the rest of the hair, would be put in and slept in overnight.

Another trick was for the women to wind an old stocking round their head 

and roll all their hair and tuck it into the stocking, pinning it with hair grips, 

which were none too plentiful, as the war progressed.

The most comical hairstyle of the day, was the “ear phone” look, 

the hair would be parted at the back of the head. 

Each side was carefully plaited, and then wound around the ears and gripped, 

many a lady thought that she was becoming hard of hearing, 

when in fact it was the thickness of the “ear phone” plaits, which blocked the sound

By the way, Shirley Temple I was not.


music "A Train" ~ Duke Ellington