How I do a vintage back roll using a scarf

Hello my dear readers! I hope those of you in the U.S. had a lovely Thanksgiving. I know I did!

Today I’m excited to share a quick hair tutorial with you. I love the look of a 1940s-style back roll. It can be an elegant evening style or wartime factory worker casual. There are several great tutorials for this type of hairstyle, including at Va-Voom Vintage and Eileen’s Basement. My version is a little different, as it doesn’t use a rat to form the roll, but a scarf instead. So this hairstyle is a little twist on an old favorite.

I whipped up this style a couple of weeks ago on a particularly blustery day. I just needed something quick and easy for running errands and I knew my second day set would look like crap blown about in the wind. I’m sure many women in the 40s sported versions of this hairstyle. In fact Lauren Rennells does a lovely scarf roll style in her book Vintage Hairstyling using a different technique, a hot roll set and a front updo, but my take is a bit more casual and less involved, and can be done on un-styled hair. And it barely takes 5 minutes!

This hairstyle works best on un-styled hair or second day (or older) curls. I don’t recommend it on freshly set hair as the curl tends to make the roll look more sloppy. In these photos, my hair had been wet set with foam rollers two nights prior and was slept on with no rollers the night before the tutorial, leaving me with loose curls.

How to do a vintage back roll using a scarf


  • hairbrush
  • several bobby pins
  • a pretty scarf


Start off by brushing your hair well. If your hair was set, brush out as much of the curl as you can. Soft waves or loose curls will be just fine.

If you have bangs, now is the time to style them as you’d like. (By request, I plan on doing a curled bangs tutorial soon!)

As you go, smooth down your crown. (This is also my attempt to tame the truly un-tameable whorl at the back of my head.)

Roll up your scarf (diagonally to get enough length, if it’s a square scarf) until it’s a few inches wide. Holding the ends in your hand, place it at the base of your head, pulling the ends up towards the top of your head.

Tie it in a knot at the top of your head, rather tightly.

On either side of the knot, place a bobby pin back to front, anchoring the scarf to your head. This is especially important if you’re using a slippery scarf, otherwise it will never stay put.

(You can later remove these as needed, or hide them better.)

Grab a small section of hair (one or two inches wide) at the very side of your head. Pull it up towards the crown of your head.

Tuck it down under the scarf and tug gently to pull the hair all the way through.

Adjust the hair to neaten it up slightly, but don’t put in any bobby pins at this point.

Repeat on the other side. It should look like this…

Grab all the rest of your hair…

Take that hair, and start tucking it into the scarf. There’s really no precise way to do this, just start shoving it in until it’s all tucked in. Each time I do this I never think it’s going to work, but like magic, it does.

And what you get is a back roll!

Now is the time for bobby pins. (Do not use bun pins! You need the grip of bobby pins.) Slip pins inside the top of the roll, where it meets the base of your head. Try to grab a bit of hair from the roll and a bit from the base of your head.

The important thing here is to place your pins as shown below. If you place them like shown in the photo on the left, it will anchor the roll in place. If you do it like the photo on the right, it basically won’t do anything except jab you in the nape of the neck when you tilt your head back.

(Note: I’m a leftie, so my arrows are going left to right… if you’re right-handed, you’d just be doing it right to left.)

You’re done here, except tidying up. If you have any loose bits that poke out, tuck them in and anchor with a pin. Feel free to use a little pomade or hair spray. At this point you can either re-tie your scarf if it loosened up or tie it off into a bow. Whatever you’d like.

The end. Now go about your day with your quick new hairdo and be merry!

Filed: Tutorials, Vintage Hairstyles


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