92. Wearing Curlers in Public

1 Apr

I can count on less than one finger the number of folks I’ve seen sporting curlers between here and Los Angeles. I’m not sure if they even sell curlers here, though you could surely find some on Amazon. Is there anything they WON’T sell?

In the South, you’re likely to encounter ladyfolks wearing curlers in the grocery store, Walmart, the dentist’s office, or most commonly, the mall. Whenever I encounter a be-curlered person, I wonder: “Where are you going later that’s SO FANCY? And why wasn’t I invited?”

Surely curlers aren’t some kind of ironic fashion statement. Yet. In fact, many ladies attempt to cover them with a jaunty scarf. Not that they’re fooling anyone. Nobody’s head is shaped like that. I hope.

The best I can figure, wearing curlers in public is all about multi-tasking. How else can you shop for kitty litter and get your hair done at the same time?

I’m probably not qualified to comment on curlers, seeing as I’ve never used them myself. But since when has that ever stopped me?

As far as I know, there are two types of curlers – hot rollers and, um, room temperature ones? I believe that hot rollers work faster, so the kind you see in public are the latter variety.

Yes! They sell these on Amazon!

You’ll find quite a few styles of room temperature rollers. I’m most familiar with the spongy pink foam ones with a plastic snap contraption that holds them in place. All of the other varieties require bobby pins or clips of some sort. Actually, I think there are some rollers that claim to stay in place all by themselves, but those are probably marketed by the same folks who tried to sell us the specialty tape that would magically hold one’s boobs up. (Don’t waste your money.)

I don’t know how long one must wear rollers to achieve the desired amount of curl. How do you know when you’re done? Are there directions on the curler packages?

You’d think that the roller thing would have phased out back in the 80’s, once The Perm Generation started up. But perhaps they’re making a comeback. Hey, if parachute pants can do it, anything can!


While many folks use curlers to preempt bad hair days, this technique has been known to backfire. Back in high school, my mayonnaise-hating friend Sandy decided to optimize the curling power of the pink foam rollers by sleeping in them. She might’ve even started off with wet hair. She showed up at school the next day with WAY more curls than she’d wanted/aimed for/thought possible. The look was reminiscent of a certain Saturday Night Live character so naturally, she earned the nickname “Rosanne RosannaSandy.”

Do you now or have you ever used curlers? If so, have you ever worn them in public? If so, why??

Photo credits – Flickr Creative Commons: Blythe doll in green curlers by Squirrel Junkie, Red-headed Blythe by Aimee Ray

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35 Responses to “92. Wearing Curlers in Public”

  1. Hippie Cahier April 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    I use the electric ones all the time, but nevereverever in public. Have you ever seen someone in public with those on? I’ve only ever seen the velcro or the old plastic two-piece ones. I’m not sure why I use them, because ten minutes after I leave the house, my hair’s stick straight again. But for a few glamorous moments, I make like I’m a Breck girl or somethin’.

    The secret to the velcro ones (you’re right – they do not stay in by themselves) is the good ol’ fashion bobby pins. You dry your hair most of the way, put those in, dry it the rest of the way, and you get nice volume.

    And if you’re me, it lasts ten minutes and then stick straight again.

    • Kim Holloway April 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

      Breck girl! Love it!

      Growing up, I always envied folks with stick straight hair. I’ve grown to love my curls, but almost always opt for a blowout when I get my hair cut. It’s such a novelty to have hair that I can run my fingers through.

  2. Joe April 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    OK…I have to tell you, that I actually never saw any women that I knew wearing curlers in public. Not even back in the 70’s when the girls were using coke cans to get a larger curl. Most of the women that I knew went to the beauty shop for a tease & freeze twice a week (my mom still does) and the younger girls (including my sister) were never allowed to go out with curlers in their hair. I go back to Mississippi at least a couple of times a year and never have seen that. I wonder if that was more regional?

    • Kim Holloway April 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      I don’t personally know anyone who’d be seen in public wearing curlers, but I have witnessed this phenomenon many, many times.

      I can’t recall seeing curlers in public in recent years, but I’m never back home long enough to get a good sampling. Also, I try to avoid Walmart, where I believe you’d find the worst offenders.

  3. Karen cronacher April 1, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    I wore the pink snap on kind and slept in them, but would never dream of going out in public with them. You must be talking old ladies, right? My grandmother once used cloth ties to curl my hair. It really hurt to sleep on curlers. In high school I used a curling iron and was so stupid that once I laid it to rest on my plastic green wastebasket, and of course it melted a half circle in the wastebasket but the curler was still okay. Fortunately I never had to explain myself to my parents. Then I discovered a miracle-curlers you could heat up and then put in your hair for only a few minutes. I woke up so early to get my hair curled and full make-up on. I never, ever got the farrah cut or wings because even then I thought they were awful.

    • Kim Holloway April 3, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

      I always wanted the wings, but curly hair just doesn’t lend itself to winging.

      I used to have a curling iron, but can’t exactly remember how I used it or why. Between my mom, my sister and me, someone was always leaving it on. But, thankfully, it sat on the counter and didn’t melt anything.

  4. Val Erde April 2, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    When I was a child, the woman next door to us always wore curlers. Here in the UK, it used to be a common enough sight. Not seen it for a long time, though. Not done it myself, either – have used curlers a few times (in my teens, I think, long long ago, far far away) but not in public!

    • Kim Holloway April 3, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

      I wonder if people are just not using curlers as often or if they’ve finally decided to primp in the privacy of their homes/beauty parlors.

  5. Valerie April 2, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    When I lived in a university co-op at UTexas in the 70’s, I met my future husband. He did not think women should even come out of the bathroom with curlers on, much less outside. One night when he picked me up for a date, all 16 members of the house was somewhere in the public area, doing homework, watching TV, in the kitchen, ALL wearing curlers – just to see if he noticed. Took him a few minutes of embarassed silence.

    Now if you could do something on how southern men don’t mind wearing dirty clothes to go shopping?

    • Kim Holloway April 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      That’s hilarious, Valerie!

      Hmm…now that you mention it, why DO Southern men think it’s okay to show up sporting mud-encrusted clothing?

  6. Debbie April 2, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    I tried the electric ones once after I had a “body wave,” but they were a nuisance and, as Hippie noted, my hair was still stick-straight! A lot of my friends used to use orange juice cans to get a bigger curl — how they slept on those things I’ll never know. Anyway, a curling iron is so much more practical (as is getting a cut that plays up the stick-straightness!)

    • Kim Holloway April 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

      I agree! Never underestimate the value of a good hair cut. I recently heard (or maybe read) someone say that when you’re considering whether or not to spring for a pricier cut, you should remind yourself that your haircut is something you wear every single day.

  7. Renee Mason April 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    I used to see this all the time in Texas, but even here in redneck Eastern NC, not nearly so much, thank you Jesus!

    • Kim Holloway April 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

      Good to know it’s a dying trend. Now if we could just get men to stop walking around with toothpicks in their mouths…

  8. sunflowerleo April 12, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    I knew some girls that would wear their curlers if they were in a pageant later that night. Like, the Miss Strawberry pageant or the Miss Boiled Peanut Pageant.

    • Kim Holloway April 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

      Please tell me the Miss Boiled Peanut Pageant actually exists!!

  9. John Hutchison April 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    I grew up in Memphis & saw curlers all the time (Mom too!). Moved to NYC & didn’t see them for years till I went to a wedding on Statin Is. Curlers at the wedding & gowns at the catered wedding party later. Even freaked my NY girl out. Had a long talk with my new wife in Seattle & agreed no curlers.

    • Kim Holloway April 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

      I’m glad you and your new wife are in agreement. I would be shocked to happen upon someone in Seattle wearing curlers. Less shocked than non-Southerners would be, but still.

  10. sunflowerleo April 13, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Not sure if the correct name is Miss Boiled Peanut, but there is a pageant associated with the Peanut Festival held in a small town in my state. Sad, but true.

    • Kim Holloway April 13, 2011 at 10:02 am #

      love it!!

  11. Jessie Steele July 29, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    I live in Memphis, and have seen a few people go out with curlers..but its usually on a saturday, or in summertime. I’m actually in curlers for a Bob Dylan concert tomorow, and I’m planning to wear them to a movie tonight…I did utilize the jaunty scarf, though. Bare curlers just seem…tacky. and like someone said, i have seen girls wear them for pageants, or plays.

    • Kim Holloway August 8, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      Love it! Yes, perhaps the jaunty scarf makes them seem more like a fashion statement. Pretty soon, it’ll be showing up in Vogue!

      P.S. Hope you enjoyed the Dylan show!

    • Staci Roslein June 29, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      I grew up in New York City, my mom set her hair and my hair in hard plastic rollers and metal pins and clips every night before bedtime and slept in them. Friday night she set them and keep them in till church Sunday morning. Saturday we shopped, when to eat, and I even played with my friends in them but a lot of women and girls when out in rollers back then. I never stopped wearing rollers and wear scarf if I go to ran errands but around house and outside house like taking out trash or working garden I usually do not wear a scarf. I rarely see another women in rollers, I miss the days when neighbors use to talk outside in their rollers

  12. Anonymous July 31, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    Here’s a twist (no pun intended). I’m a guy and I wear curlers regularly. I go out in public in them sometimes, but only at night and then only to make a mad, embarrassing dash to the dumpster with a bag of garbage. I love the look that the small blue ones give me, even though the larger pink ones give a nicer wave. I’ve been seen a couple of times by neighbors and yes, it’s awkward. But the results the curlers give me are worth it!

    • Kim Holloway August 8, 2011 at 11:03 am #

      Oh, I LOVE that the curlers in public thing has spread to the male population! Perhaps try the jaunty scarf look when making a dash to the dumpster. Or one of those big shower caps…Ok, those might be more embarrassing than the curlers themselves…

      • username17 January 13, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

        Curlers are like any other styling tool. If curlers are feminine, then are combs masculine? (My girlfriend is laughing at me as I type this. I don’t know why, since she helped set my hair this evening. Whoops! Now she’s gone into the kitchen because she thinks I can’t hear her giggling in there.)

        • Kim Holloway March 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

          Hmm. I never really thought about it, but I do kind of think of combs as masculine. But then I don’t own a comb, brush, or curlers, so I guess I’m not the best judge of the gender of styling tools.

  13. Anonymous April 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Breakthrough! Tonight I calmly took the trash out, all dolled up in hair curlers for the world to see -or at least that stray cat who hangs out behind the dumpster. Actually, styling my hair with curlers no longer freaks out the neighbors enough to call the nearest SAC base and order an air strike. Tomorrow I hope to look nice (and masculine) for work. Otherwise I’ll have to call in and get a perm!

    • Kim Holloway June 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Too funny!

  14. Tiffany November 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    HAHAHAHA! Oh, my word! Your blog has kept me entertained all afternoon at work! Thank you!!!!!!!

    I see plenty o’ curlers traipsing around the town, but I could never bring myself to do my ‘do in public. Until I brought it back to the 40’s and started pincurling my hair! I go total Rosie the Riveter and scarf it up in public. I feel like its the Beverly Hillbilly approach to it… It’s not *as* bad as the pink foam curlers… I would say, anyway. Haha!

    • Kim Holloway November 7, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      I like the idea of a Rosie the riveter retro look! Way better than the pink foam…

  15. Kristin February 2, 2013 at 1:33 am #

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.

    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thank you

    • Kim Holloway February 8, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks! I haven’t a clue how to get listed. Sorry!

  16. username17 January 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Having seen American Hustle, I feel more emboldened than ever to wear my curlers. Not so much in public, as I’m a wimp, but occasionally while waiting for my hair to dry I run errands. Of course, those are limited to those errands which can be completed without having to get out of the car. It was right about the time that I had finally worked up the nerve to put gas in my car with forty some-odd pink plastic curlers in my hair that some little kid belted out, “look mommy! That guy has the same things in his hair that granma has!”, thereby drawing the attention of several amused customers and an Airedale. I still haven’t gotten a perm yet, but boy am I pretty once my hair is set and sprayed!

  17. auairman February 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm #

    well my wife put my hair up in those big plastic rollers eather in day or before bed time sleapin on 4or 5 inches higher reall made me breath easer

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