Today, in western civilization men have a variety of options where to get a haircut, they can walk into a Supercuts and pay $7.00 for a basic, quick, haircut. They can go into a salon and pay around $30.00 for a shampoo, haircut, style, or go into a barber shop, also pay around $30.00 and receive a nice barber cut. Each option has a different experience and result, for example, a barber shop is specifically catered towards men and will most likely provide products that have a more masculine scent, an environment where sports are on the tv’s, a haircut executed with clippers and straight razors, and may even provide whiskey to their clients. A salon on the other hand maybe more relaxing, with their head massages, softer music playing, scents of a variety of masculine and feminine, and of course male and female clients. Lastly a Supercuts or Great Clips will be the cheapest, quickest option for those clients who do not like to pre-book appointments and needs a quick, easy haircut at a very reasonable price.
There haven’t always been so many options to get a haircut, over the last 700 years the barber and beauty industry has evolved and grown into this amazing, multifaceted community that is continuing to grow and change with the needs of the clients, fashion, and economics.
Today I want to dive into the barbering industry and see how it became what it is today.
Within the last ten years the popularity of barbershops has exploded in the United States, coming from the 1990’s a lot of men had longer and messier hair, the shaggy, bed head look was in style for some time and the need for these high and tight, clippered, razored looks were not nearly as popular as they are today. As the trend of high and tights, undercuts, pompadours, and fades came into style the only people who could execute these styles were barbers. People coming out of cosmetology school knew how to cut these styles, but barbers had a step a head because in barbering school this was there only focus, unlike cosmetologists who needed to learn so many other skills. With men flocking to barbers to receive these most recent styles, more barber shops began opening, catering these men and giving them a classic barber shop experience to fit these classic styles that were also seen in the early 20th century. Barber shops like Schorem in the Netherlands, Throne in Portland, to City Barbers in Salt Lake City have all created this classic barber shop environment.
But what does that look like?
These shops are creating a style seen from the early 20th Century, barbering chairs, rustic woods that create the work stations, dress codes fitting the prohibition time, no shampooing the client, offering beer or whiskey, and a lobby that creates the sense of community where the clients know each other, and the barbers know all the clients. This type of environment was important in earlier centuries because this is where news traveled or where work would happen. Men would come in to the barber tell the news, gossip, or stories and the barber would share with the clients, or the clients waiting in the lobby would talk to one another and share the local political news.
Up until the 18th century a barber was also a surgeon, because the hair and body was seen as one and indistinguishable. Prior to the 18th century there were two kinds of surgeons; barber-surgeons and surgeons. A barber-surgeon would spend half of his apprenticeship shaving and cutting hair, while the other half was spent doing minor surgeries such as bleeding and lancing abscesses. While the surgeon was in university studying more extensive health concerns like bullet wounds, tumors, fractured bones, and burns. Since surgeons where more schooled they had a sense of esteem and knowledge that barbers lacked.
It was in 1745 when surgeons formed The Company of Surgeons (now known as Royal College of Surgeons) and barbers created the Company of Barbers; splitting barbers and surgeons up forever, these companies still exist today. However, there is still a symbol that exists today of the barber-surgeons, that is the barber pole. The pole represents the common practice of blood-letting, releasing ‘bad blood’, which involved lancing an arm vessel, collecting the blood in a basin, and wrapping the wound with a white bandage. During the procedure, the patient would grasp a pole and grit their teeth. When the pole was not in use, it would be outside with a clean white bandage to indicate services rendered. Later, instead of displaying the actual pole, barbers created a red and white pole to display outside, (red being blood and white the bandage), or sometimes read, white and blue poles, (the blue representing venous blood). In earlier years the pole was a sign of accreditation, today it identifies a barbershop. In 2011 the Pennsylvania State Barber License Law requires that every barbershop shall provide a poll.
Up until the 20th century, African-American owned barbershops were a uniquely American institute. For a freed slave it offered an opportunity to learn a new life and create economic freedom. During the 17th and 18th Century slave owners selected a few of their slaves to be personal servants, these ‘waiting men’ were responsible for keeping their masters well groomed; shoes polished, shaven face, and haircut. Those slaves tended to have privileges like better food, clothing, shelter, and education. If a wealthy master had more than one ‘waiting man’ he would rent them out to other wealthy men. In many cases wealthy men set up barber shops for their ‘waiting men’. These upscale barbershops provided shoe shines, cigar supplies, and baths. Slaves and slave owners profited financially from this. Many skilled and ambitious slave barbers became wealthy enough to not only buy the barbershop, but to also buy their freedom from their slave owners. Successful barbers were able to purchase homes and get their children an education.
As long as the white community associated barbering with slaves, black barbers dominated the trade, even in the North. Between 1860 and 1880, African Americans made up 96 percent of the barbers in Charleston, 30 percent in Philadelphia, 50 percent in Cleveland and Detroit, and 66 percent in Colorado. In the 19th Century African American barbers began serving the African American community. Barber shops became a meeting place for black men to gather and discuss the politics, share information and concerns, or even a place to retreat and relax. During their visit they would sing popular songs, spiritual songs, or folk music. With time the singing became a tradition; they sang a cappella with a four-part harmony, they would dress in a well-groomed barbershop fashion with stripped pants and jackets. The concept spread like wild fire in the 20th century giving the world the barbershop quartets.
Before the barber shop boom in the 18th-19th Century the big advancement in barbering was in the 17th Century in the court of Louis XIII, local swordsmiths developed a new type of folding straight razor that became popular in households and in barbershops. This created two responses, the first being innovative to allow a person to shave their own face at home without the weekly barbershop trip. The second being that barbers took a financial hit because they lost a bulk of their daily clients.
During the Middle Ages was another key moment in barber history. If a man was interested in cutting hair, he would apprentice under someone in the Barber Guild. After a seven-year apprenticeship, he would present his credentials to a committee of the guild. After a review if all the credentials were in order, the trainee would be allowed to be a barber in the community.
The next important date in barbering dates to 3200 B.C in Egypt where it all began. You can read about the being of barbering and hairstyling in my entry entitled Hair History: Let’s start at the beginning.
With such an evolution in barbering it will be exciting to see how it continues to grow. How will it change economically, sociologically, and politically? How will the next stage of barbering affect our community, or rather how will our community affect barbering? It is exciting see all these barbers acknowledging and paying respect to the barbering styles of the past, but I’m more excited for the future of barbering.
Stenn, K. (2016). Hair: A human history. S.l.: Pegasus Books.
 Stenn, K. (2017). Hair: A human history. S.l.: Pegasus Books. P. 75
Image The Schorem Barbershop in Rotterdam
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)
One of the best concerts I have ever attended was to see Cher in Las Vegas, she has always been one of my favorite performers and actresses and to finally see her in concert was such a gift! The reason why I am so drawn to her is because she is the perfect package, she is a performer to so many different platforms, she has continued to grow and evolve her style throughout her entire career, making her still an idol in her 70’s. With her recent appearance in Mama Mia Here we go again and her new album Dancing Queen to be released later this year, she is showing the world that passion, drive, and love can keep the beat going.
Cher, born as Cherilyn Sarkisian in El Centro, California, on May 20, 1946 is a power house diva, Cher has had a No.1 hit in the last six decades and has won a Golden Globe, Academy Award, and a Grammy, among a long list of other awards. Besides her amazing career in film and music, Cher has been a fashion icon since the start of her career, dripping in beautiful Bob Mackie gowns, to having beautiful make designs by Kevin Aucoin, and of course a room full of wigs in all sorts of colors, textures, and different fabrics.
Before the Jenner’s and Kardashians brought to life the power of wigs and contour, Cher created the trends we see today, whether it was showing up to the premier of Burlesque in a beautiful orange wig or having a contoured jaw line in the 1970’s she pushed forward the trends that are currently in style. The fact that this woman can create trends and evolve with them is what makes her, in my opinion, one of the greatest trend setters and fashion icons of the last sixty years. She has never been afraid to try new bold styles and experiment with her fashion. She is an inspiration for us all to not fear exploring our self-identity throughout our entire life time, to be fearless, and try new things; to purchase a wig, or to try that shade of lipstick we love but are fearful of, or get a new trendy outfit because we deserve it.
To this day Cher is still inspiring others by showing you can stay fashionable and trendy at any point in life. I feel she has inspired an entire generation to keep coming back to your passions in life, because that is what keeps us young, and also to never say never. This woman has had more farewell tours than I can count but she keeps coming back and delivering to her fans and the range of her fans is so vast, from young twenty years old to eighty years old.
Enjoy, as we turn back time this week and look back on the outstanding and awesome fashion of an icon who is continually inspiring the world in fashion and hair trends. Below are some of my favorite styles of Cher and a few of her music videos that show the range of her style, talent, and uniqueness.
To end with one of my favorite quotes by Cher, "If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at every time in your life..'
I do not own the rights to these photographs. Found via Google search. Thank you! :)
When you think of dreadlocks or ‘dreads’ you may think of Bob Marley or as a symbol of the Rastafarian and reggae culture. Which makes sense, Bob Marley was a huge influence in our American culture in the 1960’s to late 1970’s and is still a huge influence today. In the Rastafarian culture dreadlocks are a religious status symbol, however dreadlocks do not exclusively belong to these cultures. Dreads have a rich history throughout our world dating back to 2,500 BCE. This week I wanted to explore the history of dreadlocks, what they represent to different cultures, and why they are seen as being culturally appropriated.
The exact date and group of people that first started wearing dreadlocks is hard to pinpoint, however from my research it seems that the first notable date would be 2,500 BCE. The first written evidence seems to derive from India’s Vedic scriptures which show the deity Shiva wearing the style. There are four Vedas, these are the primary texts to Hinduism. They also have had an influence on Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The Vedic word ja Taa means ‘twisted locks of hair.’ The Sadhus, the holy men of Hinduism are known for wearing dreadlocks.
In ancient Egypt pharaohs also wore dreads. You can see the style shown in cravings, drawings, and artifacts in Egypt. Thousands of years later, mummified bodies have been recovered with the dreadlocks intact. One of the oldest documented dreadlocks come from the Pharaoh Tutankhamun who wore dreads. Illustrations show how the dreadlocks of this Pharaoh were prepared for his death at the age of 18.
Moving to the Old Testament, some interpretations say that Samson is mentioned to having dreadlocks, when Delilah cuts them he loses his unsurpassed strength. John the Baptist is also associated with dreadlocks (Judges, 16:13). I have never read the Bible, this is based on some opinions I have found on the internet.
Jamaican political leader, Marcus Garvey is often credited as the founder for the Rastafari movement, an Africa-centered religion and lifestyle that started in the 1930’s. Garvey promoted black empowerment and advocated for the return to Africa. The movement is based on Garvey’s teachings and philosophies, as well as the Abrahamic covenant in the Bible. Stephanie Freeman, professor and director of the Arts and Humanities program at North Carolina Central University says, “Garvey said, ‘Look to Africa where a Black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer.’”
“Although Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I did not seem to consider himself a God, many Rastafarians believed he was a biblically sanctioned God and was even the second coming of Jesus Christ,” Freeman continues. “In the Bible, Jesus will return as the Lion of Judah, so Rastafarians wore dreadlocks to symbolize a lion’s mane and the return of a powerful leader.”
Dreadlocks have also been documented in Mau Mau tribe where the locs (dreadlocks) intimidated the colonizers of Kenya in east Africa. Julius Ceaser claimed that the Celts had dreadlocks and described them as “hair like snakes.” Germanic and Greek tribes have also been documented to have worn dreadlocks, however I could not find any concrete evidence on these claims nor specific time periods.
“Dreadlocks can be traced to just about every civilization in history,” says Chimere Faulk, an Atlanta-based natural hair stylist and owner of Dr. Locs. “No matter the race, you will find a connection to having dreadlocks for spiritual reasons.”
Princess Gabbara wrote in Ebony Magazine, “Every person with dreads is not a smoker who listens to Reggae music, contrary to popular (and foolish) belief. Similarly, you don’t have to be Rasta to wear locs and not wearing locs certainly doesn’t make someone less Rasta. Locs are not dirty, and they’re not something that should be feared. They’re beautiful, bold and regal. The epitome of freedom. Locs are divine.”
Dreadlocks have been seen throughout the world in various times in history. Dreadlocks are not going anywhere, you can see celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Brandy, and Ciara who still wear long locs. What makes dreadlocks so beautiful to me is that they represent a spiritual identity or a political statement. I feel if a person decides to wear dreadlocks they need to do some research to understand what this hairstyle represents to different cultures. We need to erase the stigmas behind dreadlocks by understanding the vast history behind this hairstyle and what it represents to diverse cultures throughout the world.
With all this said, dreadlocks can belong to anyone and everyone. I feel that they may have been related to as being culturally appropriated because of the lack of understanding and knowledge on both sides of the cultural appropriation argument. Dreadlocks do not belong to one group of people, they are seen everywhere throughout the world. Like everything in life, do your research on what you are interested before making any commitments.
Until next week.
Gabbara, P. (2016, October 18). The History of Dreadlocks. Retrieved April 14, 2018, from http://www.ebony.com/style/history-dreadlocks
Bryant, T., & History Of Dreadlocks Black Hair Culture. (December 20, 2017.). A Look At The History Of Locs. Retrieved April 14, 2018, from https://www.refinery29.com/2015/04/86174/history-of-dreadlocks#slide-1
The History of Dreadlocks. (2014). Retrieved April 14, 2018, from http://dreadfactory.de/en/tips-infos/the-history-of-dreadlocks/
Hinduism. (2010). Retrieved April 14, 2018, from http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/
In October of 2017 I had the amazing pleasure to work with stage director, Kristin McIntyre on her beautiful production Don Giovanni. For those of you unfamiliar with this opera it was written in 1787 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, it is based on the legends of Don Juan, a fictional libertine and seducer. What made this production interesting was that it was set in 1940’s-1950’s with a film noir style, the reason why this was a brilliant direction to take is because you have characters seen in this opera that are also seen in film noir. You have your villain, femme fatale, alienated characters, and the obsessed characters.
I’m not going to talk much more about this opera, my focus is on hair and makeup trends during this time, granted I could write an entire book about this but I will try and just hit key areas on how and why the style was what it was during this period.
First let me back track, before the film noir style came to be the United States was involved with World War 2. Picture it, women are in the workforce while the men are out at war, swimsuits and bras are changing styles to provide more fabrics and material in effort of the war. Women had shorter, cropped hair to keep them safe while working in the factories. If a woman had long hair and was working in a factory they were prone to accidents, i.e. hair getting caught in machinery and hurting/killing them.
Fast forward to 1945, the war is over. Men are returning home and back to their jobs, women are now forced out of the workforce and back into their homes. Some women are growing their hair out, while others are leaving it short. Women are beginning to conform back into wives and mothers, while others trying to work outside the home. Meanwhile, the world is recovering from the war, dealing with the fear of communism, exploring new concepts like Freudianism, Marxism, and of course Feminism.
With all these events and ideological views flourishing it was the perfect soil to grow the concept of film noir. Also, during this time makeup artist, Max Factor was redefining women’s cosmetics and beginning the transition from cosmetics into makeup. A topic I will dive into further detail at another time.
With the world in this interesting transition period women were taking ownership of their appearance in new ways. Women who have shorter hair may no longer need to go to the salons to get their hair styled weekly (obviously depending on the style). Women with longer hair are getting their hair set weekly but are maintaining the styles their self. When I say getting your hair set I’m talking about when women go to the salon to get rollers placed in their hair and sit under a hair dryer to set the curls, see photo below.
I want to start by discussing styles for women in a mid to lower class setting. Women with longer hair in this class would get their hair set. Setting the hair would have a structured curl, as they wore the style it would loosen up, hence where the loose ‘Hollywood wave’ came from. This style was popular because of how easy it was to maintain, and the longevity and versatility of the style. Women with bob length, wedge, and page boy styles were incredibly popular because of the women re-growing their hair out after chopping it off from working in the factories. These styles were also relatively easy to maintain, especially if they were receiving permanent waves or getting a weekly roller set.
Women in a higher-class system could afford to get their hair styled multiple times a week if necessary. Typically, these women had bob length or longer hair. The hair would be dressed with clips, pins, and sometimes flowers. These styles were more structured curls and plastered with hair spray to maintain the style, typically pulled up and away from the face.
In film noir your femme fatale would have more of the Hollywood wave style or short hair to show and express their feminism or struggle in the story line. While the more ‘well to do’ or successful characters would have more structured styles to show the structure in their life.
These styles were popular on Joan Crawford, Betty Davis, and Jane Greer, they are still relevant and seen today and are a sign of feminism and independence for women. Hollywood waves are seen almost every season on the red carpet for their iconic and timeless style.
The hair styles are founded on the struggles that women endured up to that point in history. From working in the work place, the women’s fight for equality, and the fears of ideological views in the world. The 1940-1950’S birthed a style that has forever shifted how we view and express women’s hair and fashion. Next time you’re waving your hair or finding inspiration from the film noir era remember, these styles represent so much more struggle and history, it is more than just a glamorous look it is a fashion and political statement.
Film Noir Compendium. (2016) Alan Silver & James Ursini, Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, Milwaukee, WI
Imagine New York City forty years ago. The fashion trends at the time were very unique, bellbottom pants, bold color choices, pant suits, strong pattern choices. The hair was all over the place, this being a liberated time the hair was from a natural picked out style to create afros, to long straight hair as seen on Joni Mitchell and Cher, and of course the iconic feathered layered looks seen on Marie Osmond and Farrah Fawcett. The hair color was a range from bombshell blondes to dark brunette hair, it was a fun exciting era for hair and fashion.
As I’m sure you know the fashion industry has a huge influence on hair, they have a symbiotic relationship where one influences the other. Hair and fashion artists work very close on photo shoots and runway shows to create the latest trends in hair and fashion.
Although sometimes there are unexpected influences that shift the trends in hair.
The Bronx, July 29, 1976. David Berkowitz, son of Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz shot two teenage women, Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti while they were sitting in Valenti’s car in front of Laura’s home. David Berkowitz shot these women with a .44 caliber gun killing Laura and only injuring Valenti. Three months later Berokwitz struck again, shooting two teenage girls, leaving one as a paraplegic. January 1977, Berkowitz shot Christine Freund and her fiancé John Diel, Diel suffered minor injuries, but Freund died hours later in a nearby hospital. Berkowitz became known as ‘The .44 Caliber Killer’, he continued his killing spree by taking the lives of Virginia Voskerichian while she was walking home from class. A month later he kills Valentina Suriani and Alexander Esau, Berkowitz leaves a note at the crime scene where he calls himself, ‘Son of Sam’. He becomes known as the Son of Sam Killer. His final victims were Stacy Mokowitz and Bobby Violante, which occurred in Brooklyn in the early hours of July 31, 1977, one year after his first attacks. Moskowitz died but Violante survived but becoming blind in one eye and losing most of his vision. In August 10, 1977 the police arrested Berkowitz and he confessed to the killings, David Berkowitz is still alive serving his multiple life sentences in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, New York.
You’re probably wondering, “What does a serial killer have to do with hair?”
All of David Berkowitz’s victims were women with brunette hair, most of which was long in length, expect for Stacey Mokowitz, she was a blonde.
During his year of killings women became terrified to stay out at night but they also feared being a brunette. Women in the New York area raced to salons to get their hair cut off, colored red, or bleached to become a blonde. The sells in wigs increased during this time, for the woman who wanted a disguise but not a permeate change. The terror of not feeling safe at night is a frightful feeling, but to be afraid because of your hair color or length would create a victimized feeling all the time. The trend to have long brunette hair was shifting out in the New York area for the fact that it could potentially make you the next victim to the Son of Sam.
Serial killers typically have a profile on the type of people they victimize, David Berkowitz thought he was following orders from the demonized dog of his neighbor, Sam. After more psychiatric evaluation it shows that he had a difficult time being romantically involved with women, he was victimizing women that he would find attractive.
Working in the salon I sometimes deal with fear from clients; fear of trying something new, fear of what spouses/friends/family will think of their hair, the fear of getting a haircut because of a previous unpleasant experience, a child’s fear for their first haircut. However, being afraid that your hair color or length will get you killed is a level of fear I cannot even begin to fathom.
Below is a video from 1977, where Channel 11 News interviewed women in New York regarding the Son of Sam, (aka. The .44 Caliber Killer, David Berkowitz). It’s fascinating to see how these women where affected emotionally, how they responded to the killings, decided to change their hair, or change nothing at all.
I suppose in times of fear we cannot be consumed by fear, we must continue to live our lives to the best of our ability, but also take steps and precautions to protect ourselves.
If you are interested in learning more about the Son of Sam please look at the references below.
Until next time.
Biography.com Editors (2017, October 4) A&E Television Networks; Biography.com David Berkowitz. Retrieved November 9, 2017 https://www.biography.com/people/david-berkowitz-9209372
Harris, Chris. (2017, August 10). People Crime; 40th Anniversary of Son of Sam Arrest: The Deadly Crime Spree That Gripped New York. Retrieved November 9, 2017. http://people.com/crime/who-were-the-victims-of-notorious-n-y-c-serial-killer-son-of-sam/1977-the-summer-of-sam
Killgariff, Karen & Hardstark, Georgia (2017, September 21) My Favorite Murder Podcast; Hither And Yon. Listened November 9, 2017 https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/my-favorite-murder-karen-kilgariff-georgia-hardstark/id1074507850?mt=2
Pescoitz, David (2017, September 8) BoingBoing; NYC women in 1977 talk about staying safe from the Son of Sam serial killer. Retrieved November 9, 2017 https://boingboing.net/2017/09/08/nyc-women-in-1977-talk-about-s.html
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.