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François Marcel marcelling his wife's hair, 1922.
Edna Fearon (Liverpool, UK) models the Marcel Wave, circa 1930.

Marcelling is a hair styling technique in which hot curling tongs are used to induce a curl into the hair.[1][2] Its appearance was similar to that of a finger wave but it is created using a different method.

Marcelled hair was a popular style for women's hair in the 1920s,[2] often in conjunction with a bob cut.[2] For those women who had longer hair, it was common to tie the hair at the nape of the neck and pin it above the ear with a stylish hair pin or flower. One famous wearer was Josephine Baker.[3]


Accounts vary about the invention of the style, but Marcel Grateau (October 18, 1852–May 31, 1936) is widely credited with inventing the hair styling technique in the 1870s (differing accounts report 1872 or 1875).[3][4][5] The inventor and stylist emigrated to the United States and changed his name to François Marcel Woelfflé, sometimes reported as François Marcel.[6][2] He was granted U.S. patents for implements for performing the technique; the first, U.S. patent 806386, entitled "Curling-Iron", was published in 1905,[7] and the second, entitled "Hair-Waving Iron", for an electric version, under the name François Marcel, was published in 1918.[6] His obituary appeared under the name Francois Marcel Grateau in 1936.[2]

Pop culture[edit]

The song Keep Young and Beautiful, popular in 1934, references the hairstyle.[8]

The doo-wop group the Marcels were named after the hairstyle.[9][10]

British comedian Kenny Everett portrayed an over the top French stereotype by the name of Marcel Wave in his TV series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staples, Dorothy (2010). Time revisited : a memoir. S.l: Iuniverse Inc. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-4502-2902-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e "The Marcel Wave". Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  3. ^ a b Sherrow 2006, p. 257
  4. ^ Vetica, Robert (2009). Good to Great Hair: Celebrity Hairstyling Techniques Made Simple. Beverly, Mass: Fair Winds Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-59233-357-8.
  5. ^ "Marcel". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  6. ^ a b US patent 1277739 
  7. ^ US patent 806386 
  8. ^ Sherrow 2006, p. 258
  9. ^ Morrow, Cousin Brucie; Maloof, Rich (2007). Doo Wop: The Music, the Times, the Era. New York: Sterling Pub. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-4027-4276-7.
  10. ^ Goldberg, Marv (2009). "The Marcels". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
Works cited

External links[edit]