History of Hair the Ancient Civilizations
hairstyles very much depended on the wealth, age and social
group the individual circulated in. Both men and women would
have shoulder-length hair or hair cut short to the nape or
even clean shaven heads! However a shaven head was worn by
young adults before they become of age, they would leave a
small curl in the side of their head, named ’Lock of Youth’,
to symbolise their age. Then they would have a choice of short
or long hair. Young girls wore plaits, braids or sometimes
ponytails. The older men and women would wear wigs to hide
their lack of hair or the greyness of it. Due to being exposed
to the sun the wig would help protect the Egyptian’s hair
from sun damage.
Women from the Old Kingdom would have shorter hairstyles whereas
women from the New Kingdom had longer ones. Women would wear
their hair with a natural-looking curl (when their hair was
long) or plaited. Both kinds of women would decorate their
hair with flowers such as the lotus blossom and linen ribbons.
Egyptians would also use Diadems (similar to tiaras) made
from gold or garnet but the poor people would decorate their
hair with berries and petals. They would also wear headbands
that circled the whole head and would serve to hold the hair
in place as well as ivory and metal hairpins and beads to
keep extensions in place. On each ringlet of hair (tress)
they threaded gold tubes to show their wealth and dyed their
natural hair with henna. Like women today their hairstyles
were very unique.
The Veil was rejected by the privileged women but poor women
adopted the veil because it was seen as a sign of social mobility.
Men kept their hair short or shaved, the wealthier men would
wear elaborate wigs.
To contrast from the Egyptians, classical Greece hairstyles
where pulled back into a chignon style and was grown much
Many styles involved braiding the hair and fixing it to the
head and decorating with flowers, headbands, ribbons and pieces
of metal. Blondes were very rare and therefore many women
tried dying their hair blonde and also red.
Ancient Greece hairstyles also involved sprinkling Gold powder
into the hair. Men would have short or shaved hair and they
would wear beards unless they were a soldier.
hairstyles would consist for women wearing their hair down
and confining it from the face by using a band circling the
head. Young girls wore a simple bun at the base of the neck.
However, in the reign of the Emperor Augustus simple hairstyles
changed and detailed hairstyles came into fashion. In Ancient
Rome hairstyles became an expression of a person’s identity
as much as it is today and again the style determined the
persons wealth, status, gender and age. For women, their hair
indicated how attractive and wealthy she was.
Today elaborate hairstyles like Lady Gaga’s are deemed controversial
and radical but in the Roman times the more complex and outrageous
her hairstyle the more attractive she was because she has
spent hours perfecting her style which indicated her wealth.
They would use false hair pieces like we do today to make
their hair look thicker and longer. Women would either wear
their hair down in ringlets or up in highly, sophisticated
braids and knots. They decorated their hair mainly with pearls
and jewelled hair pins. For men hair and bread styles varied.
In early Roman times, men would have long hair and full beards
but this changed to them having short hair and clean-shaven
faces. This changed again about 1CE as they kept the short
hairstyle but grew their beards. Caesar’s hair began to go
thin in his later days in which he would wear a laurel crown
to hide this as it was a sign of degeneracy. To contrast the
Emperor Nero wore curling hairs that framed his face and later
started the trend for sideburns.
In the Vedic period (1700-1100BCE) they arranged that Indians
should shave the whole head, leaving a lock of hair at the
back or at the side, similar to young Egyptians, allowing
"God to pull people into heaven" .This kind of hair cut was
limited to people with high social positions over time, whilst
women were to use head pieces with gems and jewels in the
forehead. The Greek culture
changed all this as Buddha was shown with curly hair in the
style of a bun, atop his head. In the period between 320 -
550 women’s hair was generally cut short and they would use
longer hair to create a style, if their hair was tied it was
in a bun to the side of their head or near the nape of her
Men would also have long shoulder-length hair that was often
braided. Since the 6th Century, in India amongst the Muslim
community the hair was concealed in public for both men and
women. Men would wear a turban or fez. Women would wear a
traditional veil. In the 7th century, several sultans from
Damascus, Persia and Afghanistan started to invade India,
which caused a blend of Muslim and Indian costumes. Their
hairstyle did not change much as most of the women’s hair
was black, long, with braids or tied in chignons at the nape.
hairstyles vary depending on the age of the woman and her
marital status and the reason for their hair being extremely
long was because it was considered disrespectful
to cut hair because it was inherited from their parents. Girls
(and unmarried women) would usually wear their hair long and
braided as for unmarried women. For married women this is
reversed as their hair is tied up, with the odd loose curl
to show that she is already married. Many Chinese women used
a hair piece called a Buyao ("Shake as you Go").
The Manchu regime of the time dictated that men must shave
the front of the head and style the rest of their hair in
braids, tied with black silk. This has been a tradition only
recently broken by the last emperor as he trimmed his queue(ponytail)
symbolising the of changing habits, in 1922.
Japan women’s hairstyles where quite different from Chinese
styles. In the 7th Century noble women wore their hair tight
to their head with a sickle-shaped ponytail at the back (kepatsu).
However, after this period and up until 1345 fashion dictated
that women should wear their hair long and unbound as a sign
of beauty. In the Edo Period (1603-1868), women took on much
more elaborate styles, in particular they would wear a variety
of different buns, decorated with hairsticks, ribbons, flowers
The next 100 years indicate the same style but with a much
larger comb onto of the head, which would have had ribbons
ad sticks located near the back of the head (being very heavy).
But there were also women who would adopt a much simplistic
style such as the "box shimada" which consisted of hair being
looped on top of the head and a projecting box at the nape
of her neck. The bun was also worn on top of the head and
secured with a pin. Men in Japan wore similar hairstyles to
Chinese men, pulled tight into a ponytail with the front part
shaved. Or the wrester style in which the hair would be pinned
to the back of the head and the front part shaved.
Africa there where many tribes and with that plenty of different
customs. Masai warriors would spend
hours braiding each other’s hair. They die their hair red
with a natural hair pigment found in volcanic regions which
is mixed with animal fat to create a paint texture. This tribe
also wears a headdress. Women will have their heads shaved
when they are married to symbolises a new beginning. Boy’s
hair is also shaved before they are circumcised allowing their
hair to grow until they become a warrior, then it will be
Mangbetu women have a different kind of hairstyle as they
braid their hair into a cone-shaped basket ( creating a crown)which
is held in place by bones shaped like needles. The Miango
tribe had simple ponytails that were covered by headscarves.
But these styles represented different meanings to each tribe.
Dyed and stiffed hair which was achieved by applying dung
were common hairstyles in ancient Africa.
Indians to America were divided in hairstyles like many African
tribes. Tribes close to the East Coasts would shave most of
their hair apart from a ridge of hair along the crown. Many
warriors shaved their heads except for a fringe of hair around
the head(known as tonsure), a single lock of hair on the crown
of their head(scalplock), or a stiff crest of hair running
down the middle of the head known as a roach or in today’s
world a Mohawk. A roach was both made with real and artificial
hair and it was brightly coloured. In other Indian tribes
men believed their hair to symbolise power and the longer
their hair the more wisdom and power he possessed. His hair
would be separated into two braids and into one braid down
the centre of his back if he was an older and more experienced
Women would also wear such styles and would decorate their
hair with jewellery, beads ad feathers. Braiding today uses
three strands of hair but Indians used more strands to demonstrate
in intricacy of their hairstyle. Many men and women would
have a simple flowing hairstyle and would sometimes paint
horizontal stripes in the centre with bright colours. Southeast
tribes such as Navajo and Pueblo, would tie their hair behind
their heads and twist into what is known as a chongo (also
worn by men).
Hopi maidens wore big hairstyles that are known as squash
blossom or butterfly whorls. This kind of hairstyle was only
worn by unmarried women and was created by the mother circling
the hair around (temporary) wooden blocks to create a butterfly
The Western World
5th century right up to the 15th century, known at the ’middle
ages’ or the ’medieval’ period, had
a strong Catholic alliance. Germanic tribes (from Germany)
settled in England after it was invaded and abandoned by Roman
troops in the 5th Century AD. The Germanics made new customs,
that separated them from the Roman Empire as their hair held
great significance like the Indian and African tribes. Military
leaders would tie their hair in a knot atop their head to
appear more intimidating to enemies as it symbolised authority,
to lose ones hair would to bring shame on the individual.
Most men in this period wore their hair down with a part in
the middle and great, bushy beards! Men who were of a lower
status than the King would wear shorter hair. By the 8th century
men shaved off their beards and groomed their hair vigorously
as there was an alliance made the Pope of Rome. This style
was kept for some time and even Pope Gregory VII banned beards
and moustaches among the clergy and
clergymen, in 1073. In the 11th century many men chose the
’pageboy’ hair style like Charles VIII, the hair curved over
the ears and round the back of the neck.
A woman’s hairstyle in this period was very simple as she
would wear her hair long, usually to her knees or longer,
with two plaits running
down both sides. She would also wear her hair in a chignon,
for those hotter days! The Catholic church wanted all women
to wear veils as female hair was considered erotic and owned
by their husbands. In the 13th - 14th century it was popular
to create three braids that were tied at the back of the head
and decorated with nets and ornaments as was the forehead.
Married women would have covered their hair with Barbettes,
veils, hairnets and hats to avoid showing her hair. In the
Renaissance period women plucked out the front hairline to
give the appearance of a higher forehead, the hair was pulled
back tight so an elaborate headpiece could be used to show
off their wealth. The style also involved many braids that
entwined within and around each other, much of which we see
at weddings today.