The S-Wave Is Back — & Cooler Than Ever

Back in 2012, it seemed as if every celebrity to hit the red carpet was wearing an S-wave. (As a refresher, S-waves are old-Hollywood-inspired, brushed-out curls; you could also call them retro waves or a vintage set.) Veronica Lake was the style's poster girl in the '40s, and then, six decades later, everyone got on board, from Blake Lively to Beyoncé.

The translation was literal — a sharp side part, hair swooped over one eye, mirror-like shine — and it proved to be a revived red carpet hair trend that eventually fizzled out. But now, after season upon season of lived-in, air-dried texture reigning supreme, it appears that coiffed 'dos are making a comeback off the runway, too.

"If you look back through trends, we're always jumping from rough to smooth," celeb hairstylist Kristin Ess says."It's natural for us to be drawn to smoothness next." In fact, just the past few months have brought a huge uptick in those wearing the throwback style, only this time around it has a fresh spin. That's mostly thanks to the use of a beveled flat iron, Ess explains. "It used to be that we would just set the hair in big curls and brush them out. Now, we set the curls, brush them out, and perfect them with this iron."

The result is softer, almost a balance between a true '40s set and a beach wave. The secret? "Straightening the ends a little, quickly tapping the waves after they're brushed to loosen them up, or even creating stronger peaks and valleys," Ess says. "We used to be at the mercy of whatever comes out of the roller set. Now, we've got full control."

Ahead, we've rounded up shining (literally) examples of the resurgence over the past few months, from Anne Hathaway's bigger, bouncier set to Zendaya's mermaid-y take. Ready your irons, gather your clips, and prepare to re-embrace the '40s wave.
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Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images.
Hollywood hairstylist Jenny Cho is one of the driving forces behind the trend's rebirth, giving clients like Amanda Seyfried, Emilia Clarke, and Anne Hathaway updated versions.

Hathaway wore this bouncy bob — which you can recreate with this easy tutorial — to an event in L.A. in May.
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Photo: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage.
Zendaya sported a fresh twist on tight, brushed-out waves by adding one simple update: a middle part. Cop her look using tips found in this how-to.
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Photo: Mike Marsland/WireImage.
Cho created this look on Jennifer Lawrence in May. Your best bet is to break out your flat iron and craft a retro wave using this hairstylist-favorite technique. The secret? Don't muss it up at the end.
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Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/ Getty Images.
A more casual interpretation by hairstylist Bryce Scarlett, who gave Gigi Hadid barrel curls with just a touch of messy texture for an event last month in L.A.

Tip: Focus on creating a soft part and don't stress about the look being perfect; then, just follow these tips.
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Photo: George Pimentel/WireImage.
Chanel Iman wore this classic recreation in Cannes this spring. For a traditional '40s wave, heed Ess' advice: Prep wet hair with a thickening or setting spray for hold and create a side part. Once hair is dry, twist pin curls with a 1.25-inch iron and duck-bill clips. Be sure they're all going in the same direction and let hair fully cool before brushing out with a boar-bristle brush.

"Most importantly, keep brushing until you see a nice pattern develop," she says. "If you feel like the waves are too tight, quickly tap through them with a flat iron to loosen them up." And don't forget the hairspray — this style has to hold.
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Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/ Getty Images.
Lily Collins rocked this classic look for an event in L.A. this week. To follow her lead, tap it back to the tutorial on slide three.
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Photo: Denise Truscello/WireImage.
Selena Gomez wore these tight waves for the opening night of her Revival tour. Revive the throwback yourself with these tips and tricks.
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Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images.
Just like Zendaya, Ashley Madekwe gave this literal style a modern touch with a center part for an event in March in L.A. This tutorial will get you there.
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Photo: Lester Cohen/BBMA2016/Getty Images.
Craving Jessica Rabbit vibes like Gwen Stefani at the Billboard Music Awards this year? Check this story for all the tips you need.
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Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/ Getty Images.
You can get Emily Ratajkowski's glossy waves by following Ess' tips on slide five — just swap in a 1-inch iron and finish with a shine-and-texture spray, like Oribe's Apre Beach.
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