Variations on perming rods have been used to transform the texture of the hair for thousands of years – Babylonians, Assyrians and Egyptians all heated their own versions of cylindrical objects to create lasting curls. The first commercial permanent waves were based on methods used in the textile industry to straighten wool fibres before they were spun into cloth, with German inventor Karl Nessler the first to invent a professional permanent wave machine in 1906. The combination of harsh chemicals and early electrical currents made it a dangerous, time-consuming process. ‘Machineless’ perms were created in the 1930s and by the 1940s cheap home perm kits, containing roller and end papers, were widely available to create a Hollywood style curl set with volume and defined curls. Fashion magazines from the era were full of guides for creating different shape sets, inspired by celebrities of the day and their specific looks. Throughout the 1950s, sets were an inevitable part of women’s life – and were a time-consuming weekly commitment. The popularity of wash-and-go cuts and looser styles in the 1960s saw classic sets relegated to the past, but a classic roll set remains a sign of old-fashioned glamour. 

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