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Spit curls are small curls of hair that look as if they are glued on, usually around the sides of the head. They became popular during the 1920s, and were worn by several actresses including Clara Bow. The cartoon character Betty Boop further popularized spit curls, and they remained popular through most of the 1930s. Since then, they’ve come in and out of style depending upon the year’s hair fashion trends.
The unglamorous name for spit curls suggests how they stayed locked on the head. Normally women would set small tendrils in the front of their hair with bobby pins, and then would position them by licking or wetting their fingers to produce the spit curls look. Actually, modern spit curls are probably more durable and better shaped by using plain water, gel, pomade or styling spray. To keep the spit curls in place and firmly against the head, a generous supply of hairspray is needed to finish the look.
While in the 1920s spit curls might cluster around the forehead, temples, and sides of the head, more modern styles might only feature a spit curl or two, normally on the sides of the head at the cheekbone. These are relatively easy to produce; it gets much more difficult when you’re trying to frame the face with lots of spit curls.
One of the keys to producing good spit curls is either not washing the hair first so it is fully dry, or placing bobby pins in the little side hairs while it is still wet. It can help to use a curly hair spray or gel so the curls will hold. The hair should be completely dry before the bobby pins are removed, especially if you have very straight and fine hair. This will produce the greatest hold. With spit, or any of the above-mentioned products, arrange the hair into a spiral and use hairspray once you have the spit curl arranged as you like. Some people prefer only a tiny curling upwards, while others want a full circle in their spit curls.
Women may wear spit curls only on occasion. You’ll see celebrities wearing them at special events like awards shows. This is because they’re challenging to produce and labor intensive. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to produce the look with a curling iron, which would save significant time. Usually spit curls are simply too short to work on even the narrowest of curling irons. If you do have naturally curly hair and it is cut short on the sides or forehead, you’re in luck, since the style of your hair will lend itself easily to producing spit curls.