Vintage ’40s beauty salon services: Hairstyles, manicures & more in 1942

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A visit to the beauty salon in 1942

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

Here’s a look back from the 1940s at some of the women at Francois de Paris, a hairdresser/beauty parlor on Eighth Street in New York City, all getting ’40s beauty salon services.

The photos show the ladies getting perms, dye jobs, manicures, sitting under hair dryers — along with a peek at the front desk staff running the business.

All of the salon pictures were taken by photographer Marjory Collins in September 1942.

What to expect at a vintage ’40s beauty salon, during WWII

Stylist sees change in coiffures: Emile Matte predicts new waves

By Margaret Ellington – The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) November 13, 1942

This war, as all previous wars have done, will bring a decided change in hairstyles, according to Emile Malle, Baltimore hairstylist.

Of French and Spanish descent, Emile discloses his foreign ancestry in gestures and speech. “Coiffures will border on the fantastic,” he says. “Waves upon more waves.”

40s beauty salon hairstyle
Hair waves from a ’40s stylist (but not Francois or Malle)

The prediction is carried out by forecasts of new hairstyles from New York. Already fashion photographs and sketches from the style centers show Fifth Avenue models with waved hair instead of curls. These hairstyles are usually copied by women throughout the country a season later.

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Shrugging away the currently popular feather bob, be explained, “It is in demand now because it is so simple to keep up — but it’s just a variation of the wind-blown bob, which enjoyed temporary fame after the last war.”

“By next spring, you will see the new styles of the future,” he said.

Vintage 1940s actress Eleanor Parker
Vintage actress Eleanor Parker with a 1940s hairstyle

Fortunes of war

The war has brought more than a mere change of hairstyles to beauty salons all over the country. Beauticians are harder to obtain because of higher wage offers in defense industries. Girls today are demanding and getting higher salaries.

Another effect of the war on the beauty industry is the fact that later hours must be kept by the beauticians to conform with the working hours of so many women who used to be free to patronize the shops by day.

“We’ll just have to put on a night shift,” laughed Monsieur Mane, who thinks nothing these days of a 6 or 7pm appointment.

Although many women have more money to spend on professional beauty care, they no longer have the time to devote to it or — the means of transportation to their favorite salon.

NOW SEE THIS: 40+ fabulous ’40s hairstyles for women

This has brought about greatly increased business to neighborhood shops, and the number of these small salons has jumped in the last year.

Feminine patrons, in years before the war, thought nothing of driving in town from a distant suburb to receive the services of their favorite stylist. Now they go to neighborhood shops.

Vintage actress Elizabeth Taylor
Vintage actress Elizabeth Taylor with a 1940s hairstyle

Old school

Emile is a hairdresser of the old school, having been in the business since he got out of school about twenty-three years ago. His father was a hairdresser.

One of his chief complaints about women customers is that they announce in definite tones that they want their hair this way or that way.

“I take suggestions, but never dictations,” he declared. According to Emile, the proper way to approach a hairdressing session is to say: “Do what should be done to it.”

He explained at great length how he determined the type of coiffure to style for each individual.

With the aid of much flourishing of hands and fingers, he said, “The shape of the head, the type of features, posture and carriage of the individual, height, weight and usual style of dress are all important in determining just what coiffure is suitable for a person.”

MORE: Vintage hair dryers for the home: Dry it yourself the 1960s & 1970s way

Vintage 1940s woman all dressed up

The ideal oval

The general rule to follow, he said, is to try to make the face and head as nearly the ideal oval as possible.

The war has brought about a gradual reduction in the services of beauty salons because women no longer have the time that they used to spend in getting facials, scalp treatments and pedicures.

ALSO SEE: Women’s shoes from the 1940s: Stylish high-heeled vintage footwear

In this way, a salon has become less of the thorough institution that it used to be, and now finds that finger waves, permanent waves and manicures are about all that the modern woman can find time for out of her busy day.

Sticking to his theory that despite the increased activity of women in this war, he predicted that women will eventually demand more elaborate hairdress for contrast with the work they do by day.

Always he returns to his new coiffure. “Waves and waves,” he says.


Senes from a 1940s beauty salon:  A woman getting a manicure while she sits under a hairdryer

A woman getting a manicure while she sits under a hairdryer


A manicure, 1940s-style

DON’T MISS: See top vintage nail polish colors & retro brands

A manicure, 1940s-style


A day at a 1940s beauty parlor: Front desk

Sign says “We cash no checks – we extend no credit. – Francois”

A day at a 1940s beauty parlor Front desk


Patron calling to book a beauty appointment

Patron calling to book a beauty appointment


A man (presumably Francois) rolling this woman’s hair in curlers for a perm or set

PSSSST: 1950s hairspray brands: See the most popular styling products they used back in the day

Giving a woman a perm or set in the 1940s

A man (presumably Francois) rolling this woman's hair in curlers


Woman at a 1940s NYC beauty salon getting her hair colored

Also notice the person in the background, getting some sort of facial treatment

A salon professional highlights a woman's hair in the 1940s

Woman at a 1940s NYC beauty salon getting her hair colored

Blow drying the hair at a vintage forties salon

ALSO SEE: How to do ’50s eye makeup – brows, lashes, shadow & more – with tips from the pros


A haircut and style back in 1942

A haircut and style back in 1942

A hair trim and style from 1942

ALSO SEE: How is lipstick made? Look back to the lip makeup’s 1940s heyday


Woman in 1942 getting a haircut at a vintage New York beauty salon

Woman in 1942 getting a haircut at a vintage New York beauty salon


1940s woman reading a magazine while she waits for her hair to dry

Vintage 1940s woman under a hair dryer at salon

NOW SEE THIS: 40+ fabulous ’40s hairstyles for women

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