6 Vintage Hair Accessories to Rock Your Retro Look

When you want to keep your retro aesthetic but don't have time to finish a hair style, turn to these easy vintage hair accessories.

Published January 13, 2023
Diana, Princess of Wales, with silk flowers in her hair, 1988

If you grew up in the 2000s, your hair probably still hasn't recovered from the intense heat damage everyone did to their locks by trying to get the straightest hair imaginable. Thanks to social media, retro is back, and people are experimenting with all sorts of hairstyles and techniques from the past instead of just frying it into submission. No matter what kind of hair you have, a quick way to take your retro look from amateur to expert is by adding a few vintage hair accessories.

Nail Your Old School Look With These Vintage Hair Accessories

Throughout the 20th century, people have been adding bling, texture, and color to their hair using accessories. You can time travel through eras just by switching up the accessories in your hair.

Celluloid Hair Combs

Art Deco Celluloid Faux Tortoise Hair Comb Painted Accents - Paste stones

Some of the most iconic and expensive vintage hair accessories from the 20th century are hair combs. The 1920s-1940s mostly used celluloid and bakelite to make durable, slightly flexible hair combs. These combs helped hold waves in place and added a little sparkle to an otherwise unadorned head.

Women typically wore the combs either on the sides of the temples or at the base of the skull, depending on the hairstyle. Because they were really popular, you can find cheaply made and designer examples. The teeth on the combs were delicate and broke regularly, so any you can find today in perfect condition will probably be valuable.

Celluloid becomes fragile with age, so these hair combs are a little pricey. Don't expect to find them listed for less than about $40 apiece. For example, Witchy Vintage has this Art Deco hair comb currently listed for $65 on their website.

Pro Styling Tip: When inserting your hair comb, it's important to drag the comb through the part of your hair you want held back, pushing towards the back of your scalp, and then dig it back down towards the temple or ear to make the most secure hold.

Hair Snoods

Vintage Snood 1940s-50s

We know what you're thinking. This accessory isn't some cousin to the Onceler's sneeds from The Lorax. Hair snoods have been around for hundreds of years, and are just knitted yarn or wool that's tied around a person's hair. The hair snoods people are most familiar with are those from the 1940s. They had a distinctive u-shape and came in a rainbow of colors.

Like stockings and slips, hair snoods were an important part of people's dress. Before elastic ties and natural hair styles were popular, women set their hair into a style and needed to protect it from the elements. This is where snoods come in. Snoods held the hair in place so that women could be active, both at home and in the workforce. You could add bling to them with a broach or ribbon, or just leave them plain if you had a long day ahead.

Genuine vintage hair snoods from the '40s aren't easy to come by, and you'll end up paying about $50-$70 for them. However, you can get period-quality reproductions for much cheaper (we're talking in the $10-$20 range). For instance, a vintage half-snood costs about $40 through one Etsy seller. Meanwhile, this full-sized reproduction snood only costs $23.95.

Pro Styling Tip: Check the size on the snood before buying one. People with long hair won't always fit into many of the real vintage snoods - most hairstyles from the period were about shoulder length.

Silk Hair Flowers

With flowers in her hair, the new Lady Jersey formerly film star Virginia Cherrill

Another common accessory in the 1930s-1950s was hair flowers. While Billie Holiday popularized wearing real flowers in her hair, a more cost-effective way to achieve the same look was with silk flowers. Cutting and steaming silk flowers into the perfect shape is a dying art, so vintage silk flowers can cost a pretty penny. However, if you care for them correctly, they'll last a long time.

People used hair flowers much like they used hair combs to frame face or at the base of their skull with the large blooms. This added color and texture and could dress up a drab outfit in a pinch.

Silk flowers were usually attached to a pin, comb, or fascinator so you could stick them in your hair. Unlike other vintage hair accessories, silk flowers are hard to come by, and when you find them, they can be expensive. On Etsy, a 1950s fascinator covered in red flowers is listed for $54, and this flowered curl corsage (a circular piece that was worn in pin-up curls) from the 1940s is on sale for $61.80.

Pro Styling Tip: Pull your hair back as far as you can on whichever side you're putting the hair flowers on. It's because they need to rest further back on the temple, as they're usually pretty big and will overtake your face if they're sitting too close to it.

Plastic Barrettes

Vintage Plastic Hair Barette Clip 1970s 1980s

When people think about the 1970s and 1980s, they often think about long hair and hair scarves, but one common accessory people forget about is plastic barrettes. As pop art filtered into the mainstream, the mid-century took a quirky turn, and common items from everyday life were turned into fashion. If people could print it in plastic, then there was a barrette for it. Think bright red apples, yellow bananas, and blue elephants. On top of it, plastic bows and flowers were all the rage for little girls to pin their center parts back.

With fashion today being so democratized, you can easily find an outfit to match any of these cheap, plastic accessories from your parents' childhood. They're also one of the best vintage hair accessories to buy if you're on a budget. You can get a dozen of these old barrettes for a couple of dollars in thrift stores and online.

Pro Styling Tip: Barrettes are all about being seen, so don't use them like you would a bobby pin and cover them up in your hair. Let them show!

Hair Scarves

Cotton scarf and flower decorations for the hair, modelled by Pat O'Reilly. July 1955.

Another protective accessory that people rocked in the 1960s and 1970s were hair scarves. Almost always patterned and long enough to be seen over the shoulders, hair scarves were a super common tool that women of all hair types used to upgrade their hairstyles. If you've got longer hair or aren't well trained with creating hairstyles, vintage hair scarves are a great way for you to create a look that reads vintage without having to put a lot of work into it.

With pricing, vintage hair scarves are unpredictable. You can find cheap and expensive ones for sale at various prices, all seemingly without rhyme or reason. Older examples are sometimes cheaper than newer ones, and small scarves are sometimes more expensive than shoulder-length. All this to say, you can find just about any vintage hair scarf for your price range. With kerchiefs making a comeback, you might be interested in vintage hair scarves like this one from the 1970s that'll only cost you $18.50.

Pro Styling Tip: When tying your hair scarves, tie them off-center towards one side of your neck. Then, shift the scarf to put the tails at the open area on your neck.

Zigzag Headbands

1990s Vintage Zig Zag Hair Comb Headbands

The ultimate lazy hairstyle from the 1990s was created using zigzag headbands. These circular headbands full of plastic teeth would not only rip your hair out in a heartbeat but also choke you when you inevitably tried to wear them as a choker. With 90s fashion making a comeback, it's a good idea to grab one of these so you can achieve that perfect 90s kid aesthetic with little to no work.

These vintage headbands are a must-have for anyone trying to create a quick 90s look on a budget. You can find a ton of them for around $10, like this caramel-colored one, which is listed for $11.99.

Pro Styling Tip: Brush your hair back so that you don't have a part anymore, as this will give you the most amount of volume and lift when you push the headband back into your hair. It should also make the zigzag pattern really visible.

A New Hair Style for Every Day of the Week

If there's one thing to remember when it comes to vintage hair styling, it's that some styles aren't ideal for certain hair lengths or textures. If you can't master a vintage technique, then it might be because your hair isn't primed for the style. But the best way to get around having to cut and grow out hair just to wear a retro look is to use vintage hair accessories. Using the real deal gives you an authentic vibe, and most of them are kind to just about any type of hair. With these vintage hair accessories, you'll never have a bad hair day again.

6 Vintage Hair Accessories to Rock Your Retro Look