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)
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.