Early History of Hairstyles

Throughout history, men and women have always been concerned about their hairstyles. It’s just not another body part but it’s a symbol of being aesthetically attractive. Proof to this contention is that ancient Egyptians often manage to get wigs in order to look elaborately ‘different’ than those with ordinary coiffure. Thus, as Robin Bryer noted in his book entitled The History of Hair: Fashion and Fantasy Down the Ages (2000):  ”Humans are unique in two aspects of their behavior: wearing clothes and having their hair cut voluntarily” .

History of Hairstyles

History of Hairstyles

With archeological support, experts have found out that most Egyptians wore braids that are tight and when wigs were invented – their fashion sense changed drastically. They didn’t stopped at just wearing wigs – but they also enjoyed wearing elaborate headdresses that sparkled with gems and other accessories. During the Greek and Roman era, women even wore golden hairpins which they combined with lots of makeup. As civilization advanced, different codes of hairstyles distinguished elites—kings, nobles, priests—from commoners.

It is also during the time of the Greeks that beauty and hair salons were beginning to sprout out of nowhere.  Thus, hairstyles will always be one determining factor of human society and history. Its evolution in time give us clues why it became popular or controversial. As Valerie Steele concludes her article in the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion:

Numerous speculations have linked coiffures, not coincidentally but organically, to their historical moment. The many observers who attributed the popularity of the bob to women’s emancipation provide the most pointed example of this. Others have gone further and tried to find the deeper meaning of forms. The French critic Roland Barthes offered an entire science, semiotics, dedicated to deconstructing those forms.

Hairstyles can unquestionably supply important clues about the societies that produce them. Once again, the bob is the perfect illustration. Permed, tinted, created in commercial establishments with electricity and hot running water, and consumed by millions of women spending considerable sums of money, it has a lot to say about Western civilization in the 1920s. Sometimes the meaning of coiffures is not hidden at all, but openly proclaimed, as it might be in a punk band, a neo-Nazi rally, a hippies’ commune, or a lesbian rights parade.

Yet, in many ways, those who assert the free-flowing nature of fashionable “signifiers” have the stronger argument. After all, “liberated” women of the 1960s often sported long, straight hair, while the sainted defender of a medieval French king, Joan of Arc, wore a bob. It seems fair to say that in a historical world where Charles II and Cher look alike from behind, the forms of fashion obey an elusive logic of their own.

Speak Your Mind

*