The seventeenth century was a time for dramatic change for men, whereas for women the changes in hair were less exciting. Overall, it was then end of beards and the widespread use of wigs. The biggest changes that we see in this time is the facial hair, there were a number of fashionable styles which is described famously in Ballad of the Beard:
Now a beard is a thing that commands a king,
Be his scepter ne’er so fair;
When the beard bears the sway, the people obey,
And are subject to a hair.
Now of beards there be such a company,
And fashions such a throng,
That it is very hard to handle a beard
Tho’ it be never so long.
The Roman T in its bravery
Doth first itself disclose,
But so high it turns that oft it burns
With the flames of torrid nose.
The stiletto beard, oh! It makes me afread,
It is so sharp beneath,
For he that doth place a dagger in’s face,
What wears he in his sheath?
But methinks I do itch to go thro’ stich,
The needle beard to amend,
Which without any wrong, I may call too long.
For a man can see no end.
The soldier’s beard doth march in, shear’d
In figure like a spade,
With which he’ll make his enemies quake,
And think their graves are made.
But, oh! Let us tarry, for the beard of King Henry
That grows about the chin,
With his bushy pride, a grove on each side,
And a champion-ground between.
There are a few types of facial hair described in the ballad, the Roman T is styled in a T shape, longer mustache groomed outward, with a lengthy pointed beard. The stiletto references to any facial hair that has a sharply pointed beard, the needle is similar to the stiletto, but slenderer, longer, and also pointed. It was decreed after King Henry VIII died that the beards should go, and the mustaches live on.
After Henry VIII men began to grow their hair out longer, this trend was also reinforced by James I in 1603 and Louis XIII in 1610. Louis being very young, having long hair, beautiful curls, and no beard was an icon for men’s fashion, and James had decided he also preferred long hair. If someone’s hair was not long enough they would buy false hair, however this did not become popular until later in the century. One of the most popular styles of the time was Lovelocks, the lovelock was a strange style, in which a single lock of hair was much longer than the rest and hung down over the left shoulder. Sometimes the lock was dressed with a bow or some sort of rosette.
The lovelock style attracted so much attention, people found it curious, either denouncing the style or supporting it. In 1628, King Louis XIII took to barbering and published a book about hair and the lovelock, entitled, The Vnlouelinesse, of Loue-locks, or A summarie Discovrse, proouing: The wearing, and nourishing of a Locke, or Love-locke, to be altogether, vnseemely, and vnlawfull vnto Christians. The sixty-three page book was addressed to Christian readers.
There is so much more that can be addressed regarding the fashion of men’s hair from this century, but to summarize the rest for the men, hair began to become longer and more flowing, falling past the shoulder and being voluminous and full of curls. Later in the seventeenth century the use of wigs came back in fashion and you can probably guess why, politicians, it was because of Louis XVI, when he took the thrown he had long thick hair, but as he aged he began to lose his hair and started wearing wigs, bringing wigs back into fashion around 1665.
Addressing the women, the beginning of the century women still wore wigs, wearing bigger styles that were full of curls and sometimes frizz. Having a soft fringe (bangs) became very popular was they were curled to frame the face, sometimes falling straight down and other times being parted down the center.
In 1694, there was a book published in London ‘A work never attempted before in English’, entitled The Ladies Dictionary; Being a General Entertainment for the Fair-Sex. A heading under this book is Hair, how to cause it nearly to curl, this text went into details on how to maintain and create a curl in the hair, it also discussed how to wash and maintain hair, how to color hair, covering gray hair to make it black, and how to create golden blonde hair. This book was unique because it was the first text book on hair, not only did it tell a woman how to maintain their own hair, but it went into graphic details about wigs and hair additions.
Even though women’s hair fashion did not change much in this century, it is great that the documentation grew on how to manage and style hair, this gave historians a vast deal of knowledge that was limited in previous centuries.
This concludes the month of hair history, there is still a wealth of knowledge to be gained in the coming centuries, for example how colonization of Indian affected hair coloring and styling techniques, how rapid hair changed in American hairstyling in the twentieth century, and how electricity changed the game in curling hair, creating colors, and styling hair. We will continue the history another time.
Corson, R. (2012). Fashions in hair: The first five thousand years. London: Peter Owen. (p 198-234)
Coming into the sixteenth century, this is the age of King Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and Francis I. All of them had a profound effect on the hair styles and fashion trends of this time. At the beginning of this century long bobs with bangs were fashionable with men and women. Men would cut their hair in this fashion and the women would style and pin their hair in a length that was like a bob. Wigs were still in fashion for those individuals who had inadequate hair to create such styles. Queen Elizabeth had a large collection of wigs, she fancied to have her wigs styled with tight curls, whereas Mary Queen of Scots is believed to have even a larger selection of wigs. Mary preferred to have her wigs in the style of winged out or the horned style with smooth hair.
For those women who were not of royalty the hair styles were slightly different, but still inspired by what the royals wore. The women would conceal their hair, especially those women who were married. When the hair was exposed it was usually worn straight and combed smoothly with a center part. Women with this long, smooth hair would form braids, twists, curls, rolls, or chignons, or perhaps a combination of all.
Women that were experimenting with their hair within the extravagant styling trends or perhaps with coloring of the hair where subject to very harsh criticism, almost excessively by the men, to which the women would pay no attention to them, but it gave the complainers something to complain about and this gives us enlightening descriptions of the hairstyle.
English ladies of the court would often color their hair with powders or dyes to match Queen Elizabeth’s natural yellow blonde hair. Side note, I always thought Elizabeth I had red hair, in my research it seems that the red tone hair appeared in the middle of her ruling, but the beginning and end of her ruling she wore more of her blonde hair or blonde wigs. This is what I have gathered from my research, however it’s hard to pinpoint exactly. Blonde hair was the most fashionable, women would lighten their hair by using saffron, alum, honey, medicated Sulphur, and by sitting in the sun daily. The only color that was not fashionable was black.
As far as the men the fashion was very broad. When Henry VIII took the throne, his hair was of a fashionable length, but he favored how the French were styling their hair, he not only wore it himself, but he wanted it worn by others. Instead of wishing his court to follow, he insisted them all to follow his lead and cut their hair short. With both Francis and Henry advocating for short hair, long hair trends had no chance. The beginning of the century was the only time we really saw longer hair on men. With the short hair styles, men would simply brush the hair back, towards the crown, and let the hair be up and away from the face.
With facial hair, Henry had no limits or restrictions on the styles, he encouraged men to do what they will, as long as they had facial hair. There was an unspoken trend, if a man had longer hair, they had a more tamed down beard or mustache, if the hair was shorter, the beard was longer and more groomed. The trends obviously varied from country to country, some countries, like Germany, encouraged very long, lengthy beards, while others preferred more tightly, groomed styles.
As we approach the end of the month, we will finish this series in the seventeenth century. We will see how the hair trends already starts circling around, how wigs are still a driving force in hair, and how history repeats itself within style, art, and fashion.
Corson, R. (2012). Fashions in hair: The first five thousand years. London: Peter Owen. (p 158-177)
The fifteenth century is seen as the bridge between the Late Middle Ages, the Early Renaissance, and the Early modern period. One of the most prominent people of this time would be Leonardo Da Vinci, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Da Vinci because of his painting we are able to gain a lot of information about hairstyles. This is also the century of Gutenberg, who is credited for being the first European to introduce Europe with the printing press, now just because the century had a way of printing text, it did not mean a great deal of people were writing about hair, however it was a step that later provided historians with a great deal of knowledge about hair as we move forward in history.
As we have come out of the middle ages the fashions in hair began to change. The first notable change was the lack of facial hair. Most people have shaved their faces creating nice, smooth clean skin, the only people to still have worn beards are older men and important officials. Wearing a beard was a sign of age, dignity, or importance.
An act was passed in England in 1447, during the reign of Henry VI, “no manner of man that will be taken for an Englishman shall have no beard above his mouth; that is to say, that he have no hairs on his upper lip so that the said lip be once at least shaven every fortnight or of equal growth with the nether lip; and if any man be found amongst the English contrary hereunto, that then it shall be unlawful to every man to take them and their goods as Irish enemies.”
As far as the men’s haircuts there was no such acts passed, men had bowl haircuts at the beginning of the century, but as the century moved forward the hair began to become longer, still in a bowel cut, but grown out to their shoulders. The texture would vary from straight, curly, and sometimes frizzed out. Wigs were still worn, in colors like brown, blonde, or black, but red was no longer a popular color.
Women’s hair was a sign of their marital status, normally women covered their hair after marriage and wore it long and flowing before. There were some very beautiful and highly decorated styles form this period that were carried forward from the fourteenth century. Braids and twists were popular to hold the hair up; however, they would have thick strands of hair pulled out to frame their face.
The use of decorations, head dresses, and false hair would be used in the more elegant and extravagant styles, a pile of twists in braids stacked on the back of the head would create a work of art, or a mythological look. Women were also wearing wigs if needed, yet again in browns, blacks, and blondes but rarely red. These styles and wigs were typically worn by women of a high social status, common folk did not have such styles.
Women were also very aware of their own facial hair, it would be common for a woman to pluck her own facial hair in public. Women would pluck (or tweeze) their eyebrows until they were a very fine, thin line above the eyes. The plucking of the eyebrows became even more excessive as we move into the next century, you will see that Queen Elizabeth I became aggressive with her hair by completely removing the eyebrows and even taking her hair line further back than necessary, but we will save that until next week.
Corson, R. (2012). Fashions in hair: The first five thousand years. London: Peter Owen. (p 134-142)
 Corson, R. (2012). Fashions in hair: The first five thousand years. London: Peter Owen. (p 136-138)
As we continue this month with the history of hair; the next segment will be the Middle Ages which would roughly be from the fall of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information regarding the hair styles from this long period, the reason being is that printing was not yet invented, and the arts were not flourishing. Most of the information obtained by scholars have been taken from paintings, sculptures, glass windows, mosaics, and carvings. Since there is limited information and a vast period I will be focusing at the beginning of the Middle Ages to roughly the tenth century.
Let’s begin with The Barbarians, this term is usually applied for any uncivilized people, these people would be the early Goths, Saxon and Gauls, the tendency with all these groups were to wear very long mustaches with no beard, however the facial hair did vary from tribes and traditions, for example the Goth priests would have a shaved face and some of the Celtic warriors would have a clean face, it would depend on the tradition, tribe, and also specific era. Although most Celtics were known to have long beards, mustaches, or both.
When we usually think of a Barbarian we may think of them having messy and unkept, long dirty, unmanaged hair, this stereotype maybe true in some cases, however each tribe had their own customs like I mentioned earlier and sometimes they would change their customs when coming in contact with other tribes. According to Diodorus Siculus (a historian, 90 BC-30BC), the ancient Gauls would wash their hair with a lixivium made from chalk, pushing their hair back from the forehead, over the crown, and let the hair cascade down their backs. The Barbarians did not use oils and comb their hair with perfumes, but they still took a great amount of pride in their appearance, it is even said (according to some barbaric tribes) that washing the hair was a taboo and offensive to the protective spirit of the head.
The Gaulish are reported to have sometimes dyed their hair bright red with goats’ grease and ashes of beech timber, they also would bleach the hair out with lime water and wear it long like the horse’s mane, but the Anglo Saxons took it one step further. The Anglo-Saxons seemed to have favored the color blue, according to various drawings the Anglo-Saxons seemed to enjoy hair that was colored green, orange, and a deep rich blue. There are contemporary reports that the Saxons did have blue hair, but the question is whether the writers of the reports saw people with blue hair or just drawings. Since we’re on the topic of hair color, during this time it is well known that the Germans colored their hair with red which they wore very long.
In France for a long time it was only the King who would wear long hair and have a long beard, others would have to shave their heads and their faces to show that they were a subservient to the king. Now if the son of the king was to cut off his hair it would be an act to exclude him from his right to take the crown, reducing him to a common subject, but giving them a wig with flowing hair would restore them to their state to take the crown. Being bald and beardless was not always the standard for the Franks, as their powers and social status became more considerable by the contrasts of wealth and poverty the beards and hair became a sign of liberty and authority. With the freemen growing a small amount of hair above their upper lip, it began to spread, until around the sixth century were the only beardless and hairless people were the slaves.
There are so many variations and examples of all the small variations of facial hair, hair color, and hair styles during this time period it is no wonder that in movies and TV shows you see so many different styles represented. If you would like to see more examples or read up more on the Middle Age hair styles check out the book, Fashion in Hair The first five thousand years by Richard Corson, this is the text I am using as my main source of information for this month.
Until next week,
Corson, R. (2012). Fashions in hair: The first five thousand years. London: Peter Owen. (p 90-95)
With school back in session I thought it would be really fun to do a month of hair history! For the entire month of September, I will be focusing on a different historical context behind hair and perhaps makeup. With any schools of practice there is a rich historical background on how and why we do things, examples in the world of hair would be the following. Why red heads where viewed as followers of the devil, how the first bob haircut was documented on Cleopatra, why and how we started coloring our hair, getting a perm in World War 2 could get you killed, and there is so much more.
This week I thought that the beginning would be a great place to start, not the beginning of time or creation, but the first documentation we have of hair from Ancient Civilization.
Picture it, the year is roughly 3200 B.C., Ancient Egypt, it is extremely hot, sand is everywhere. With these climate and environment conditions it can be extremely challenging to maintain your hair, so the best way to stay cool and remove the challenging and up keep of your hair is to shave your head! Men and woman would shave their heads, so they wouldn’t have to worry about managing their hair. The ancient Egyptians had the tools that we use today to remove body hair like tweezers and razors. They would remove all their body hair and the priests and high officials would rock a perfectly smooth body.
If you look in the tombs of Egypt you’ll notice elaborate hairstyles, they achieved these styles by creating wigs out of the hair that had been shaven off. They would design these beautiful styles that would be easier to maintain, and upkeep compared to having their own hair. The preferred color was typically black, however if the color of the hair was a dark brown that was also favorable. If the hair was lighter than they preferred, the hair would be dyed a darker color. Dark hair was in fashion up until the twelfth century and that is when red, gold, and green colors were introduced. They would color the hair using henna dyes which is a combination of minerals, spices, and muds that would stain then hair. There is not enough information or evidence to say if wigs or hair color were part of a religious ritual aspect or simply for practicality.
Wigs were made of human hair; however various substitutions were needed at times. Wool and palm leaf fibers were often used to help create a wig. Wearing a wig would be great in the outdoors to protect the head against the rays of the sun, but indoors the wigs could become hot and uncomfortable to wear. At dinner parties perfumed waxes would be offered to rub on the scalp under the wig to help create a cooling effect so the wigs were more comfortable to wear. Waxes were also used in styling the wigs. Braids were very popular at this time and waxes would be used to help keep the braids in place, however this made for a style that would be rather stiff and did not have a lot of movement.
Beards were very popular in Ancient Egypt, originally real, they eventually became false. The length of the beard signified the rank of the man. They would decorate the beards with golds and metals for those of a higher status. Beards that had a slight curl upwards to them were usually reserved for the gods. Beards were not exclusive for men, they were also sometimes worn by queens. A statue of Hat-shepsut (1480 B.C) is shown with her long beard with a slight curve upwards at the end.
With Egypt being the oldest documented civilization with the use of wigs, it is astounding seeing how many of their techniques are still being used today.
Moving forward with this month, if you have any hair history related questions please let me know in the comments below or message me privately and I will do the best of my ability to answer your questions.
Corson, R. (2012). Fashions in hair: The first five thousand years. London: Peter Owen. (p 24-27)
THE GEOGRAPHY OF HAIR
The Geography of Hair is devoted to share experiences and stories in cosmetology and how it has affected people, myself, or us as a society.