Hair History: The Art of the Curl

For as long as women have had hair long enough to style, they’ve wanted curls or stick straight hair. If you’re like the average woman today, you have at least one hair appliance in your possession.

We’re so spoiled when you think about it. Hair stylers come in different materials and are rechargeable like our Lunata wireless hair styler. Some of them even come with removable and varied barrel sizes!

But do you know of the curler’s early beginnings?



The invention of the hair curler

Depending on your source, the inventors could be American François Marcel Woelfflé or Frenchman, and salon owner, Marcel Grateau. (Reports suggest he is the same person.) What is agreed on is the timeline: the hair curler made its first appearance in 1872. It wasn’t patented until 1905 by François Marcel Woelfflé.

The first hair curlers weren’t electric. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb wasn’t patented until 1880 and, for years, electricity was only for the rich. Instead, hair tongs were heated up by being held over gas burners. The rudimentary hair curler comprises of two metal tongs with a metal clip attached. It’s not dissimilar from some hair curlers you can still purchase–a barrel replacing the tongs.

A fun fact: Erica Feldman is credited with using a hair straightener to curl hair. She didn’t create either appliance, but she was a woman ahead of her time as many women over a century later followed her footsteps and learned to do the same with their own personal straighteners.

Electricity makes waves in the 1950s

The 1950s and 1960s improved upon Woelfflé’s hair curler.

In 1959, Frenchmen Rene Lelievre and Roger Lemoine patented the first electric curling iron. Hair curlers were no longer a luxury that only the rich could afford. In addition, many households had the money to spend after decades of imposed thriftiness due to wartime rationing.

In 1965, hair curlers went through another upgrade: different sized barrels. Your curls no longer had to be the same as every other woman: you could be as understated or as bold with your hairstyle. 

Throughout the 1960s, curls were a popular feature in hair styles. Big bouffants and beehives were styled in part with a hair curler.

The modern hair curlers: straighteners and sophisticated curlers

In the mid-2000s, over a century after Erica Feldman, legions of women and girls stumbled upon the method of using a straightener as a curler.

Straighteners were far popular in the 2000s and they were largely more sophisticated than hair curlers in terms of materials and versatility. Ionic or ceramic plates were common, and they often had various heat levels.

Curling wands also went through a change in the last twenty years. Barrels are tapered or uniform, made of similar materials to straighteners, and can come with or without a clip.

Whether you choose to curl with a straightener or a traditional wand there are many different options for styling your hair–all due to the work of some stylish inventors!

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Today was great and the Lunata was such a great addition to my kit!! It was the perfect size and the zero cord was the best!!

— Clariss Rubenstein, Celebrity Stylist