Swing Notes Vol 148: The Snood. By Simon Selmon
You might think it strange that I, a regular guy with short hair, should come to be writing about snoods. A snood is traditionally a female hair accessory made of thread, it is bag-shaped to hold the hair, either for practical or fashionable purposes.
Recently, somebody purchased a snood from the Lindy Hop Shop and asked me, as the person who sold it, how to wear it. I didn't have a clue, yet strangely enough I’ve been around girls wearing snoods since the mid-90s when Rusty Frank came over to London to work with me for 18 months. She often wore a variety of brightly coloured knitted snoods that became one or her trademarks (a bit like my sideburns) along with some even more colourful flower accessories and victory rolls to finish the look.
You might think that since I have a cousin who some might consider to be the most famous hairdresser in the world – I kid you not –, and since I have been selling snoods for over 30 years, I should have some clue about how to wear them. I am afraid not, that is not until last week. As the saying goes, if you want to know how to do something, there is a ‘YouTube clip for that’ – and having now spent several hours studying YouTube clips and reading up on the history of the snood, I feel quite the expert – at least in theory.
Did I mention my cousin (my grandfather’s sister’s son) was … drum roll please…Sydney Guilaroff (many of you at this point might be saying - who?). Sidney was Hollywood’s hair stylist to the stars – the first hairdresser to ever receive on-screen credits, an interesting character, who, if we are to believe his biography, had romances with Greta Garbo & Ava Gardner (who I had the pleasure of saying good morning to in a Bond Street jeweller’s I worked at once upon a time) and intimate friendships with, amongst others, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor. He also mentions his desperate phone call from Marilyn Monroe on the night she died and how he was chosen to style Grace Kelly’s (who I also opened the door for whilst at that same jeweller’s) hair for her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco. He was the head stylist of MGM studios from 1935 for approx. 40 years – sadly, I never met him, but his biography Crowning Glory makes for an interesting read.
So, ladies, would you trust me to style your victory curls now? No, I wouldn’t either, but what I did discover was that snoods have been around for a very long time. Snoods were first mentioned around AD 725 (!) – you can call that vintage – and were very popular during the Middle Ages, becoming the height of fashion again during the Victorian era. The Americans, of course, made-up a different name for them, calling a finer, tighter version of the snood a hairnet.
The Swing community’s interest in snoods stems from World War II when a new workforce of women started doing what was seen traditionally as men’s work in factories and wore snoods to keep their hair from being caught in machinery. As often, alongside their practical use, they (again) became a fashion item, and away from the factories, ladies displayed colourful nets adorned with bows and flowers.
Snoods, I understand, are a great way to knock off a vintage look when you’re in a hurry: style the front of your hair (Victory rolls are a great option), and bunch the rest into a brightly coloured snood (go from the bottom up, the snood should sit behind your ears and round the nape of your neck). To avoid that dinner-lady look, add a couple of flowers on the side or tie a nice ribbon into a bow. And it’s not just for ladies with longer hair: if you have short hair, wearing a snood can give the illusion of having longer hair too.
If you don’t believe me, here’s my favourite YouTube Clip from CHERRY DOLLFACE: it’s an excellent how-to, including how to add a Victory Roll (start about 2.48 mins into the clip for the Snood part): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJ5Rp9fNZSw
Want to know more from the (real) experts? Then here’s some extra reading. And I would like to thank the following articles for making me the Snood expert I am today: