Monday, August 27, 2012

A Vintage Hair Rollers Buying Guide

I thought I'd write a few buying guides for anyone buying vintage hairdressing items. The first one is for vintage (or vintage style) rollers. I hope this will  help you find ones that are in good condition and  suitable for use, whether they are used or new old stock on the original box (best possible condition for vintage items).

NOTE: Based on some comments from a friend, I realized that mot of the rollers here are typical of those used in North America and some types may be unknown or uncommon elsewhere. For that matter I may be leaving out some rollers common in other parts of the world. If you think I'm missing something, provide me with picture and write a few lines to go with it, and I'll be glad to include it in this blog entry.

Original Wire Mesh Brush Rollers

Notice the woven wire mesh on this original brush roller
The outer mesh on these rollers are woven metal, not fabric. There are excellent if not the best wire brush rollers because the mesh is quite solid and secures nicely with piks. Before buying, take a close at the mesh to see the difference between fabric and wire mesh. On any used rollers, looks for breaks and rusting in the wire mesh or deformations in the rollers and avoid ones that look too beat up. Also look for rusting and deformations on the spring-like coil that gives the roller its shape. If the mesh is good, but the brush looks worn, they rollers can be used nicely without the brush, or the brushes can easily be replaced with brushes from newer rollers of the same size. 

Original Woven Fabric Mesh Brush Rollers

Very similar to the wire mesh variant, these rollers have are made with a firmly woven fabric mesh. They are almost as good as the wire mesh rollers, but the fabric may be a bit more prone to wear and tear. Inspect the fabric carefully. Like the wire mesh rollers, look for rusting and deformations on the spring-like coil that gives the roller its shape. These original fabric rollers often come in colors other than the classic black. Like the wire mesh variety, the brushes can be replaced if needed and its well worth it – and like the wire mesh variety, these are excellent rollers and well worth getting.  I just bought a bunch from eBay - see the second image above.

Plastic Non-woven  Mesh Brush Rollers

This better quality roller bonds the mesh together where it overlaps. Cheaper ones don't and the mesh is too loose to secure the rollers well with piks.
These seemed to follow the woven fabric ones in the mid 60s. Rather than using a tight woven mesh, the synthetic material for the mesh loosely fitted over the roller and the mesh itself is quite loose. One better ones, the plastic strands that make the mesh are joined where they cross one another. Poorer quality and more modern ones don't join the strands.  On many of these from the 60s the mesh seems to be disintegrating making the roller useless, although if the brush part if good and you can use the brush to replace the brush on older better quality rollers – watch for disintegrating mesh on both used and unopened packages of rollers. These rollers also often had the spring made out of aluminum rather than steel "to make the lighter and more comfortable" but you really cant tell the difference in weight. The aluminum bends more easily and can get deformed, so look for that if you are buying used ones.

Brush Rollers in the Stores Today

The mesh is solid and well made on these modern Conair brush rollers

These all seem to be of the plastic, non-woven mesh variety although some professional hairstyling supply stores have some good quality woven fabric ones, some with various forms animal hair for the brushes bristles to be easier on the hair. Many seem to be from Italy (the last makers of good quality brush rollers?) and sold under the Diane brand. Conair brand brush rollers available in drug stores also seem to be pretty good. The mesh on the Conair rollers is plastic but more rigid than some of the cheap varieties and they actually secure nicely with piks. If you cant get a good quality vintage or professional rollers, they would be a great alternative. 

German "Drahtwickler" Brush Rollers

In some ways like North American style "Original Wire Mesh" rollers, these rollers have a very solid wire mesh which is so solid that there is no need for the mesh to be wound around a spring. They are so well built they seem to hardly deteriorate except for the brush, which, like for other rollers, can deteriorate. One caution about these rollers. The mesh is so fine that the usual plastic piks cant be used. You need the original wire piks so look out for these if your buying these otherwise top quality rollers.

Tip Top Hourglass Plastic Brush Rollers

See the broken part of the roller top right

If you come across used rollers of this type, look for breaks in the plastic both in the middle areas of the rollers and the edges. The moderately hard plastic of these rollers seems to have a tendency to crack as they age and due to normal usage war and tear. If you are lucking enough to come across the less common variety with brushes inside look for the same issues as with wire brush rollers. And like wire brush rollers, the brushes can easily be removed and replaced if desired.

Wil-hold Plastic Brush Rollers

Vintage Wil-hold Brush rollers in original packaging. So lucky to have come across these!

Top left are missing bristles

These classic salon and home rollers are made of harder plastic and the rollers rarely break. However, the plastic bristles (ie spikes) are sometimes partly missing on used rollers. How they could get broken is a mystery to me – harsh washing perhaps? So look carefully at the pictures of any eBay ads before bidding.

Solo Sleepeasy Plastic Brush Rollers

These great soft plastic brush rollers also hold up well with time. However, the plastic on some uses ones seems to have cracked so watch out for that. It seem to be more prevalent on the one made with more opaque plastic ones rather than those with more translucent plastic.

Magnetic Rollers (aka Smooth Plastic Rollers)

I have yet come come across a damaged one of these, but with anything vintage, inspect carefully before buying. You can easily get new mag rollers, so no real need to buy vintage unless you would like then in the vintage box for display purposes.

Sponge (Foam) Rollers

I have never purposely bought vintage sponge rollers since like mags, they are available new. However, did get a few once in a bag of vintage rollers. The sponge certainly deteriorates with time. If you a do buy new-old-stock rollers of thing king in the original packaging, don’t open the package as they may not make it out intact.

Chinese Rollers on eBay

These seem to be various new vintage looking curlers on eBay. I have never tried them. It would be great to hear from anyone who has – are any of them as good as vintage rollers?