[Hair story] Rollers, the eternal comeback

If there is one styling accessory which is constantly being reinvented, it’s rollers. Sometimes slammed and dismissed as museum pieces, sometimes updated and given centre stage, they have earned their stripes as the best accessory for making curls. But do you know their history?


Since ancient times, curls have been a popular hairstyle among royalty as they were a symbol of wealth and youth. Women used to use reeds heated on embers as makeshift curlers to make beautiful cascading curls. The popularity of curly hair has transcended time, as proven by the Sun King himself. As not everyone was blessed with thick curly locks, noblemen very quickly started making wigs, curled beforehand in the oven thanks to the ancestor of modern day rollers: clay or wooden rollers known as bilboquets.

The first rollers

It was in the 19th century that rollers, as we know them, made their first appearance with the comeback of natural hair, which had have beautiful silky curls to follow the fashion of the time. They were metal rollers (generally lead) covered in fabric and leather, around which the hair was rolled. They were worn at night to shape the hair into beautiful curls the next morning. However, they were very quickly rivalled by Marcel Grateau’s “curling irons” which were much easier to use. This major invention dating back to 1872 consisted of cylindrical tongs which were heated using a machine.

Things are hotting up for rollers

The fight between rollers and curling irons continued with an innovation from German stylist Karl Nessler: heated rollers designed to create the first permanent curls. The hair was coated with caustic soda before being wound around rollers. To hold the curls in place, the rods were connected to an electric heating device with heated clips. Despite a few unsuccessful attempts, the stylish ladies of the time were not put off giving it a go.

In the 20s rollers were a roaring success!


After the First World War came a hair revolution for women. They cut their hair short and wore bobs no longer than earlobe length. To create beautiful long-lasting waves on short locks, they would spend hours at the hairdresser getting rollers put in under a hooded hairdryer. This was much more comfortable than the old machine!

Marilyn’s secret

The glamorous 50s star Marilyn Monroe fascinated both men and women with her iconic curly bob (and her famous Hollywood platinum blond look). A hairstyle created using rollers which sculpted her hair on several layers and created waves in the front section to perfectly frame her face.

The 80s: the golden age of the perm

Still influenced by the stars of the silver screen such as Olivia Newton-John in “Grease”, women go in for the perm and show off tight curls that give them XXL hair. They go crazy for curlers!

Standard rollers


With this passion for curls, rollers designed for home use started to appear. Rollers took the form of tulle tolls around which women would wind their damp locks, holding them in place using hairpins and blow-drying them or leaving them to air dry. For different sized curls and looks, rollers came in different sizes and materials. Some were very soft and made of foam, specifically designed for night time wear. Hardly very sexy, but effective. Other types were covered in Velcro to make putting them in easier.

New-generation rollers


To appeal to women wanting on-trend curls, rollers got another facelift with the brand new idea of taking care of the hair. Made from ceramic materials and preheated before being put in, they now put out heat gently and evenly. Other types make it possible to create beautiful curls without heat:

Flexi-rollers are very soft foam rods which you hold in place by bending the ends to form even curls in your hair.

– “Magic rollers” are soft twisted tubes into which you insert damp hair using a rigid hooked rod. You then twist the tubes and the hair takes the wavy shape of the twisted tube as it dries.

With the big comeback of the perm this Spring-Summer, there is no doubt that curlers will be on a roll for a long time to come!

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