How to style sidecurls (payos)

How to style sidecurls (payos)

A reader asked: How do Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men curl their payos (side-curls) so perfectly?


I have nine brothers and one son. I often helped the boys get ready in the morning, and was very adept at styling side-curls. When my son turned 3, he had an upsherin ceremony, which is when you get the first haircut. That’s when he got side-curls himself, which he wore until a few years later when I left. Modeling for you is here my kiddo, whose hair was reluctant to grow. Hence the short curl.

My son on my father’s lap, plus my two brothers.

This is how I styled the curls:
  1. Wet the hair with something that will keep the curl firm. On an ordinary day during the morning rush, we would actually use Orange Juice. On more festive occasions like weddings or holidays, we would use a proper hair gel like Dippity-Do. A lot of people substitute the Orange Juice for tziker vasser, which is Yiddish for sugar water.
  2. Comb the wet hair to get out knots, then comb it across the forehead.
  3. Push a pencil under the hair closest to the head.
  4. Now start twirling the hair around the pencil. Twirl it towards the face. Twirl it all the way, until the whole side-curl is wrapped around the pencil.
  5. Let the kid hold the pencil in place while you do the other one.
  6. Remove the pencils, kiss the kid good day and send him off.
  7. On special occasions — put a Bobby pin into the curl.

It’s easy, and a kid looks well-kempt when his side-curls are stiff and shmekedig.

Hollywood has a special skill for getting these wrong:


And this incredible head of hair around the curls doesn’t fly either.

And this. What. What is this?

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