January 12, 2011

Vintage 365: A brief history of, and where to find, hair rats

Day 12 of Vintage 365

With a name that might at first inspire thoughts of pesky vermin (or cute little rodent critters, depending on your personal feelings), “hair rats “ actually have absolutely nothing to do with the four legged creatures they share part of their name with. Instead a hair rat (or hair rat piece, as it is sometimes known) is a a very simple volumizing device that’s tucked under a portion of one's hair to help create volume and lift (and/or a specific shape).

In decades and centuries past (and still sometimes today) hair rats were often made from hair that the wearer (or another person) had shed and collected over time (then commonly fashioned into a nest-like shape). Today however, they are frequently made out of synthetic materials (such as foam) and tend to take the form of either a round doughnut (with or without a whole in the middle), that's handy for creating tidy looking chignons and buns, or a cylinder measuring a few inches long which is very useful for a number of different vintage hairstyles (from rolled faux Bettie bangs to generous sized rolls and curls - such as those worn by the two women in the 1940s photo above - that instantly channel WW2 era beauties such as Betty Grable).

I've noticed over the years on various vintage blogs and forums, that many gals are looking for where to buy hair rats from. Despite living in a big city (Toronto), I haven't chanced upon one myself in any of drug, department, and beauty supply shops I've checked either, so I decided to go hunting for hair rats online (pun intended).

I'm happy to share with all of you that I found a site called "A Discount Beauty" that sells both 6", 8", and 10" long hair rats (including styles with snaps on the end, if you want to create a doughnut shaped rat), that are available in black, brown and beige (pick the colour closest to your current hair shade, so that the rat will be less visible if your hair slips and exposes part of it).

At a nicely budget-friendly $6.25 each (regardless of length/colour), you can easily pick up one or two of these handy-dandy tools to keep in your hairstyling arsenal. Hair rats are oodles of fun to play with and such a help when you want to create tight, generously sized vintage style hair rolls (and who amongst us, doesn’t love those?! Smile).


  1. Oooo! Snaps on the end would be fabulous! I usually get the mesh ones from Sally Beauty Supply (I'm in the US). They're great because you can unroll the mesh and cut it to get different sized rats. I'm going to have to check out that link for the snappy ones. Thank you!! xoxo

  2. I love the Wilde Twins! They, along with Betty Grable, are my hair idols. ha ha ha. You really think there is a rat in there? I never thought of that possibility when trying to re-create that style. Hum. Maybe I will try that!

    I make my own rats with a stocking and pillow fluff. Its super easy, and free!


  3. hi Jess! Love the pic here...I think I actually remember these and arnt they similar to the "bump-it"? lol

  4. thank you for the useful post. I was a little unsure of what they were and in need of education in the vintage hair department! x

  5. It was only somewhat recently that I realized that one of the small vintage dresser items I have used for years to store my costume jewelry rings in was actually used to store your old hair to make your own rats! I had no idea, though I'd always wondered why there was a hole in the middle (to put the hair into). I always just knew it was a convenient way for me to plop my ring back into the box at the end of the day. ;)

  6. ooooo! thanks so much for that link!

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