How To Get Jessica Chastain's Modern Retro Curls

Photo: Rex USA.
It's always chic to channel Old Hollywood. Retro-glam looks are forever on-trend, gracing red carpets season after season. Think scarlet-red lips, cat-eyes, and playful pin-curls. Veronica Lake and Lana Turner were two of the iconic, silver-screen beauties who helped popularize the classic 40s-inspired finger-waves, and the look is still making its way down red carpets. Today, it simply has a more "undone" curl — one that is not so defined, and not as hard to get. 

The modern take on the retro wave is softer, looser, and edgier than its historic counterpart. There's lots more volume and movement, plus a versatile quality that can work for both day and night, red carpet and real world. Jessica Chastain's recent Golden Globes look was a perfect example. Ahead, find a walk-through of the wave — its old and new iterations — plus how-to tips and techniques for recreating the look on your own.

The Retro
Decades ago, the curl process could take an entire day. The finger-wave was originally created with finger-wave lotion, setting gel, and a comb — as opposed to the curling irons that we grew up with. The process was time-consuming in part because it required the woman to actually sit under the salon dryer until the thick setting gel dried completely. Depending on the amount of hair and its thickness, this could take quite a while.

Once dry, the waves would be brushed out with a flat brush. There were no irons or round brushes back in Veronica Lake’s day. To actually create the curls, you would take a comb and brush the setting gel through the hair, using two fingers to push the hair one way while combing in the other direction. This back-and-forth wave pattern would be repeated starting close to the scalp and moving all the way to the ends. A lot of setting gel was used, which often led to dry scalps. 

Old Hollywood hair was also partially defined by the haircut. Generally, women had haircuts that were one length. There were few cuts containing layers or angles or asymmetrical pieces; thus, the actual style and curl created the shape. The look was usually extreme, with a very deep side part and severe front wave pressed close to the face. 

Photo: Rex USA.


The Modern

The modern take on the classic curl couldn't be more different in terms of end result and execution. For one thing, our haircuts these days are diverse in shape, angle, and layering. Today, the cut is a key consideration in creating waves. For example, a layered bob with finger-waves will look drastically different when compared to long, one-length locks. While Veronica Lake's hair was all one length, Jessica Chastain has subtle layers, plus a shorter side bang that was delicately incorporated into her overall wave.

To create the modern Old Hollywood wave, texture and length are the two essential factors to consider. Depending on your hair texture and personal preference, you'll want to incorporate a mousse or gel product into your routine. We like Kérastase Bouffant Mousse and Frederic Fekkai's Styling Gel. For hair texture that is thick and coarse, you'll want to use just a little product (mousse or gel), which will help to eliminate puffiness and volume. For fine hair, you can use product more generously to get the body and texture you want. 

For length, remember this: The longer the hair, the larger the curling-iron barrel. A 3/4-inch-diameter iron is typically used on long hair (past the shoulder). If hair curls easy and holds the curls, you don't need to make them too tight. If there is a shorter piece or angle in the front, start by curling that section away from the face. After curling the front section and pinning it aside, start with one side and curl a section away from your face, following that pattern in different sections on the same row, horizontally across the head — all the way to the back. Once you've curled all of your hair, brush the curls out from the roots to the ends to enhance the wave pattern. 

There are many ways to finish off the style. For more volume, gently tease underneath the curls to really enhance the waves, and finish with a shine spray, such as Kérastase Gloss Appeal Shine Spray. To get Jessica Chastain's Golden Globes look, opt for a deep side-part and tuck the hair behind your ear on one side. Use a few bobby pins to secure hair at the nape of the neck, so it falls in front of the pins and stays intact all night. If you're aiming for an edgier look, try a center part, as opposed to a deep side part, or leave one inch out at the ends for that of-the-moment, unfinished appeal. 
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This look is playful and trendy while still giving a nod to the most classic hairstyles of Old Hollywood. We bet a few stars will be wearing it at the Oscars, too.
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