Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – A History of Hair Fashion

Hairstyles change so frequently that it is hard to keep up with what’s ‘in’ and what’s ‘out.’  And what’s more, with all of those celebrities cutting and dying their hair every few weeks, it’s hard to know how often an everyday person actually needs to change their style. 

Perhaps you think that it has only been recently that society began to focus so much on hair and different hair styles.  But in fact, hair fashion has been an area or focus for the past 3000 years!  Styles have changed so much over the years, for the better, and for the worst.  It also depended on what part of the world people lived in as well.  Let’s take a look at the history of hair fashion.

Ancient Civilizations

In ancient Egypt, it was common for both men and women to wear their hair cut shortly cropped and close to their head.  However, for special ceremonies, the Egyptians would usually wear ornate wigs.  In Greece, women wore their hair long and pulled back, and they often dyed it using red henna.  The women of Rome followed Greek hair fashion very closely; one notable difference is that Roman women were more likely to dye their hair blonde.  Roman women also used curling irons and hair dressing became a popular trade. 

In the East, it was required that all Muslims hid their hair in public, and in China, hair was a symbol of your marital status.  If a girl was unmarried, she wore her hair long and braided.  If she was married, then she wore it pulled back into a knot.  African styles varied and usually symbolized social status.  Some common African hairstyles were braids, long hair, and shaved heads.  The American Indians’ hair fashion varied depending on the region; it was common in many areas for hair to be shaved, and in the Mayan tribe people often wore ornate headdresses over a bald head.

The Renaissance and Forward

During the Renaissance, women desperately wanted higher foreheads—this was a painful hair fashion as it meant that many women took tweezers and plucked the hairs from the front of their hairline until they had a higher forehead!  Women during this time also tried to sun-bleach their hair.  By the 1600s, hair fashion was heavily influenced by Queen Elizabeth.  Many women during this time sought powder to make their complexions appear fairer and red wigs to imitate the Queen’s fiery head of hair. 

During the 1700s, big hair fashion was ‘in’—this consisted of elaborate wigs for both men and women.  Often times, men would tie back their hair.  By the Victorian Era, this elaborateness was toned down somewhat in favor of practicality.  Neatness was the trend and women often wore their hair oiled down or pinned back in curls.  Sometimes, they would even wear hairnets to keep their hair out of the way. 

With the introduction of the movies in the early twentieth century, hair fashion has become more influenced by celebrities than anything else, and this continues to be true to this very day.

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