Why Snoods Were Swell for 1940s Women – M. Ruth Myers

Why Snoods Were Swell for 1940s Women

In Uncivil Defense, the latest book in my mystery series featuring 1940s private eye Maggie Sullivan, a woman wears a snood. It prompted one early reader to ask, “What’s a snood?”

My first impulse was to say it’s sort of like a fancy hairnet. Half a second’s reflection, however, made me realize that many under the age of forty – or even sixty – may never have seen a hairnet or anyone wearing one. If you fall in that category, think of those net bags you can buy potatoes or certain cheeses in at the supermarket. That’s the basic idea.

Woman riveter wears a snood. Photo from Library of Congress.

The snood of the 1940s can be viewed as either hat or hair covering, or better still, as a little of both. They could be plain concoctions or they could be fancied up with tiny bows or equally miniature flowers. For American women of the era, they served several important purposes:

  • fashion
  • economy
  • safety
  • hygiene helper

It was an era when, except when clad in an evening gown, no woman went anywhere without a hat. By 1943, however, wartime shortages were hitting hard. Materials used in making hats, the containers for shipping them, and transportation all  were needed for defense purposes. Mindful of the need to keep women’s spirits up on the homefront, however, the War Production Board allowed a reduced percentage of necessary materials to remain available for making hats. As a consequence of that limit, in order to produce as many hats as possible, new hat designs became smaller. Some were so miniaturized as to be called “dolls hats”. New hats also carried a whopping 33% luxury tax.

Snoods, in contrast, were inexpensive. They could even be knitted or crocheted at home using very thin yarn. Commercial ones were widely available. They came in a variety of colors. They added that necessary finishing touch to a woman’s attire.

To help the war effort, many of those women were going out to work in factories. Hair that wasn’t securely covered could be caught in machinery, causing serious injury. Snoods tucked hair in safely just like the bandanas more commonly see in wartime photos.

Snoods also provided chic camouflage to hair that… well…  wasn’t as clean as it could have been. Or hair that was clean but dull and lacking in bounce.

Like almost everything else in those war years, toiletries were in short supply. That included shampoo. Components used in shampoo were also vital to military products, which took priority. When stores got a shipment of shampoo, it sold out quickly. Even if women used it sparingly, they often ran out before they could get their hands on more.

When a woman ran out of shampoo, she had to wash her hair with soap. Countless generations of women had used soap on their hair, of course. Unlike them, the women of the Greatest Generation had experienced the improved hair cleaning provided by shampoo. The detergents in shampoo allowed dirt and oils removed from hair to be rinsed away. With soap, some of that residue got redeposited. The result was dull, limp hair.

Even if a woman’s husband or sweetheart was far away serving his country, she wanted to look her best. If she smoothed her less-than-shiny hair and tucked it under a snood, she could look positively fashionable!


The paperback edition of Uncivil Defense is now in the pipeline. Fingers crossed, it will be out in early November. Meanwhile, get the ebook at your choice of retailers.

At the end of Dayton’s first WWII blackout drill, a murder victim is found with private investigator Maggie Sullivan’s name and address  in his pocket.

Read it now!

Oct. 19-21 I’ll be meeting readers and talking on panels at Magna cum Murder at the Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.

Nancy H. Vest says October 16, 2018

I never thought before about the lack of shampoo during the war.

    Ruth says October 17, 2018

    Isn’t that amazing? In addition, if you wanted a tube of toothpaste, you had to take your empty one in to trade. They needed the metal.

Linda Moffitt says October 19, 2018

Very neat info, Thanks for sharing this with us.
Do you have a reader/review team?

    Ruth says October 21, 2018

    I’m glad you enjoyed it, Linda. No, I do not have a review team. I usually make a dozen or so copies of new releases available through my newsletter.

Micheal Kingsley says November 2, 2018

Love your books, I actually bought all you have written and read them all. I was heartbroken when Maggi lost out on her true love. I hope you bring him back, even Maggi deserves a little love in her life. And I was really surprised when the old lady lost her vocal chords… maybe a little unnecessary violence? But you are the writer. Keep up the good work and I will keep reading it!!!

    Ruth says November 2, 2018

    Take heart! All will end well. The next book will take Maggie in a new and unexpected direction, and into a case involving a little known morsel of history.

Mary says December 13, 2018

I was born in 43 , so a lot of what you write about is in my history. My mother and her twin sisters who were rivetors had many stories. Love that Maggie is a fighter just like them. They were born in Hell’s Kitchen and were street fighters as well as ladies who knew how to dress to the nines. Thank you for these stories that bring their world back to me. Now I know why I love Maggie!

Jaci Hall says January 28, 2019

Such an interesting and surprising article. Thank you M. Ruth Myers for that snood reveal and for your marvelous Maggie Sullivan stories…LOVE THEM

    Ruth says January 28, 2019

    Thanks, Jaci! Glad you’re enjoying them. Be sure to tell your friends about the series.

pat clack says June 3, 2020

I was born in l925, and i would say the chief reason for the snoods was to protect factory workers from getting their caught in machinery. not so many people could afford going to hairdressers, so their hair WAS long – on the other hand, people like me (in the WAAF – Air Force) had their hair cut immediately they enlisted, so that it was just off their collar – to look neater! interesting comparisons anyway!

    Ruth says June 3, 2020

    You’re right, Pat. They protected women working around machinery. What’s less known is that they hid hair dulled by soap (since shampoo was hard to come by). How impressive that you were a WAAF!

Norma says September 14, 2020

I’m happy to hear there will be another Maggie story! 😁
I was born in 1940. I had several uncles in the war and several aunts that worked in ammunition factories.
I was quite small but I remember seeing tiny pink ration stamps.
I love your books! You write them so well, I hear voices of that era as I read them.
I grew up listening to all the classic radio programs of that time in history.
Thank you for the enjoyable hours of reading. xoxo

    Ruth says September 15, 2020

    Thanks, Norma! It’s wonderful to know I’m bringing the time, and some of our long departed loved ones, back to readers like you.

Maureen Gendrolius says October 31, 2020

I’m pandemic reading your wonderful Maggie Sullivan books and finished book 7 late last night. Born to an Irish Catholic family in Boston in 1949, my faith has lapsed but my love of history and a good story has not. Along with your clever writing, I enjoy the historical tidbits thrown in which cause me to pause and do a little research of my own to learn more. I’d like to visit Dayton, and I try to locate addresses mentioned on maps. When I located photos of the old Market House, I was thrilled! Keep healthy and keep writing.

    Ruth says October 31, 2020

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write, Maureen. I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. On Facebook there’s a small book club https://www.facebook.com/groups/693913837630026 where members discuss the 1940s and Dayton during the Maggie Sullivan era. You might enjoy it — lots of pictures etc. I also have a FB author page.

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