Historical Hairstyles
Timeless Beauty Secrets

Ancient Hairstyles

From the beginning of time, women have cared for their hair. The famous Ice Age statuettes known as the Venus of Willendorf and of Brassempouy show clear evidence of stylised hair. Perhaps 30,000 years old, these statuettes reveal that at least some women in the society took care about how their hair looked and had a concept of beauty and attractiveness. Considerable labor was required to have created the hairstyles of these statuettes. There are also small clay figurines from Butmir in Bosnia illustrating short, neatly combed hair, which are up to 7,000 years old.

The Ancient Egyptians, known for their attention to beauty and cleanliness, used combs and hairpins in their tresses since about the 4th century B.C. Egyptian women believed thick hair was best and used hair extensions and wigs made of real hair or sheep's wool. They even dyed their hair and wigs a variety of colors, with blues, greens, blondes and golds being their favored choices. Wealthy Egyptians had personal barbers came to their homes. The Greeks also had their own unique styles of wearing their hair. Between 1500 and 650 B.C., Greek women wore their hair long and in corkscrew curls. Later, around 500-300 B.C., women began to wear their hair in what was termed "the Greek knot," which was basically a bun at the bottom of the neck. Soon, knots and buns were all the rage in Greece. It seemed that Greek women also had a penchant for highlighting their hair, which they did with saffron. The Greeks also developed a "calamistrum," which was a hollow bronze stick used to reshape their hair.

In Israel and other parts of the Middle East, women often kept their hair covered by fabric draped about the face like a hood. Hairstyles in the Middle East and elsewhere, in fact held deeper significance. Some cultures considered women's long hair to be provocative that it had to be covered up or controlled in tight braids, rolls or curls. The prophet Samson's power was recorded in Scripture as being innately connected to his long, thick hair. Among the Temne of Africa, it took hours or days to fashion a hairstyle. The fine rows of the hairstyle were a symbolic representation of the cultivation of the land and thus indicated civilization. These hairstyles are termed 'cornrows.' Among the Polynesians of the Pacific, the first time a boy's hair was cut marked his coming of age. It was also a way in which he was now differentiated from women. Hair was thought to contain the mana or power, and so the cutting of hair was a risky business. To mark this special occasion, the women of the Cook Islands draped "tivaevae," specially decorated quilts, about the room. These tivaevae were given as gifts to mark special occasions such as this haircutting ceremony.

For a unique Ancient hairstyle, consider adding shimmering highlights in your hair. Highlights consist of selecting small or thick strands of hair that are then lightened at least two shades lighter than the rest of your hair. Highlights should complement your natural (or artificial) color. Experts recommend that one never highlight her hair more than three shades lighter than one's base hair color. The object of highlighting is to give you a sun-kissed look and to bring depth and light to your overall color. If you want to achieve salon perfect results at home when you highlight your hair, first use a clarifying shampoo on your hair at least two days before coloring; never shampoo the day you color. Check the expiration date on the highlighting kit. Once you mix the color, use it immediately. Toss out the brush that comes in the box and buy flat 1/2 and 1/4 inch acrylic brushes. These brushes, used by artists, are available at art supply stores (the brushes will give you better control and more natural-looking results). Make sure you have on hand a pair of good, tight-fitting latex gloves (the ones that come in the package don't always fit well). Start from the back of your head and work forward. By working from back to front, you won't smear the pieces in front by having to reach over them to do the back. Apply the highlights only to the top layers of your hair. By leaving the hair underneath alone, you'll create depth and a sun-kissed look that looks natural.

After highlighting your hair, loosely twist your hair in a Greek knot. First, using paddle brush, smooth your hair straight back. Gather your hair into a ponytail, low at the nape of your neck using a covered hair band. Split your ponytail in half, and then, taking the comb, tease the two sections of hair. Take one of the sections and smooth it out with the paddle brush. Twist under and secure with a large bobby pin. Repeat the preceding step with the other section of hair. Smooth down stray hairs with a toothbrush. Finish with a hair spray, pomade, or smoothing serum, or keep the hair loose and natural, as the Greeks did!

Medieval Hairstyles

During the Medieval era, both men and women of the upper social classes wore their hair in loose curls. Women sometimes fastened gold balls at the end of their hair. The lower classes wore their hair undecorated and generally shorter, at the chin or shoulders. Noble women wore flat bonnets that covered their hair, or ribbons and gold threads in their hair. Later, bonnets, hats and veils became even more popular when church tradition decreed that married women were to keep their hair covered. Cone-shaped hats with a veil were also popular during this era. Women sometimes had their hair styled into what looked like two identical mounds (either braided or unbraided) on the both sides of the head. During this time, a woman's high forehead was considered a beautiful feature, and women often shaved off their forehead to heighten their hairlines. Their foreheads were decorated with headbands which were sometimes adorned with pearls and stones. Women also wore nets in their hair during this era.

For your own Medieval hairstyle, upsweep your hair into two braids looped and pinned to the sides of your face. First, divide your hair on one side of your head into two sections (not three), and use a string of beads or ribbon fastened tightly by a hairpin as the third strand. Braid your hair, and then finish it off with an elastic band. Roll the braid into a bun, and tuck the end of the braid under the roll, using pins to secure the braid. Repeat the process with the other side of your head. Then adorn each side with gold cords, ribbons and/or strings of beads, wrapped around each bun.

Renaissance Hairstyles

During the Renaissance, women again began to show their hair. Renaissance hairstyles essentially revived Roman and Greek hairstyles, and added more imagination. Women decorated their hair with precious stones, pearls, ribbons and even shimmering veils. They also braided their hair, sometimes to form crowns around the tops of the heads. Again, hair was often dyed light colors such as blonde and gold. Some women used elements like alum, sulfur, soda, and rhubarb mixed together into a substance to dye their hair. In France, ladies pulverized flowers into a powder and then used a gluey mixture to apply the powder into their hair. Toward the end of the Renaissance, the general trend in fashion toward elaborate and whimsical styles extended to hairstyles. Women began wearing headdresses, at first a simple hood which then became peaked. Men wore broad hats that were sometimes trimmed with gemstones.

For your own Renaissance hairstyle, pull your hair back into a braid at the back of your head, adorned with a string of pearls or fancy cord. Experts recommend that you first comb dry hair smooth before starting. Braiding wet hair damages the hair, and makes it harder to get it to lay smooth. Pull the hair gently snug as you braid. Fold over the strands as high on the braid as possible (while still staying at the crossing point). Hold the hair close to the most recent cross-over to keep the folds in place. Comb the hair with your hand as you braid. If you feel or see hair bunching up, simply hold the whole braid in one hand while you comb the loose hair with the other. Use hair gel if desired. Then pin the middle of a gold cord or a strand of small pearls (available at a craft store) at the center of your forehead with a fancy clip or barrette (a circular one works best). Thread the strand through your hair, tucking the ends into the braid.

Elizabethan Hairstyles

During the Elizabethan era, men and women wore very high collars, fashioned after Spanish couture. Men wore their hair short, while women combed their long hair upwards where it was fixed with a wire frame that formed a heart shape. Queen Elizabeth was a guiding inspiration in fashion during this era. Women strove to imitate her curly red hair, using different recipes for bleaching their hair. Some of these recipes used strange elements, including urine! False hair and wigs were commonly used during this era, as they were easier to manage. Red wigs were especially popular during this era. Finally, elaborate headdresses entered the fashion scene during the Elizabethan period. A headdress known as a "snood" was a type of hairnet that became highly popular. Similar headdresses appeared, such as a bag-coif which featured a gathered bag at the back covering the wearer's head. The fabric of the bag could match the dress, or could be made of a plain black silk, covered with gold netting. In Italy, a fashionable early 16th century headdress known as the "balzo" was similar to a snood. It was a large gathered bag, often made of woven strips of fabric, fancy gold material and lace, or other materials, worn over the hair. From the front, it looked more like a roll worn over the hair, as the greater portion of its bulk was above the head.

To try your own Elizabethan hairstyle, try wearing your hear in a snood reminiscent of a balzo. Modern snoods can be knitted, crocheted or made out of netting. Snoods made with thin thread look more delicate and are especially stunning when created out of silk, or silk combined with lace. Hair can be worn a variety of ways with a snood, either soft and loose or in fat soft braids that nest loosely into the netting of the snood. Smaller snoods can be worn over a loose chignon or soft fishtail braid. It doesn't matter whether hair is curly, wavy or straight. It can be gathered softly into a snood. The only thing that limits a snood is the imagination of the person wearing it!

Baroque Hairstyles

Baroque women parted their hair down the middle, often using a cross or a round parting in their hair. They also had curls that trimmed their foreheads and fell like ringlets down the sides of the face. Sometimes these ringlets were quite thick. During the same time, another fashion trend emerged called an "hurluberlu coiffure." This style required that the hair be worn short, in a mop of downward-pointing curls which were arranged thickly at the back of the head and neck. Men during this era began to grow out their hair. Curly hair, mustaches and goatees were all the rage during this era. Louis XIII (who reportedly became bald quite early on) had a curly wig made. During this era, wigs were made of either human or horse hair. In the 17th and 18th centuries, wigs became something of a status symbol and the more wigs one had, the more prestigious or wealthy one was considered. Later in this era, the soft natural styles were replaced by more formal, stiff styles. By the end of the Baroque era, women began sweeping their hair into such tall fashions that some reached sixty centimeters in height!

For a fancy Baroque hairstyle, create your own high, upswept look. Women with fine hair sometimes have a difficult time with updos because the pins holding the hair in place have a tendency to slip. Therefore, it is generally best to treat the hair ahead of time with plenty of gel and holding spray and to use many bobby pins. Even if your hair is not thin, experts recommend that you refrain from washing your hair for at least twenty-four hours before creating an updo style. This is because the natural oils in the hair help the parts and knots used in these hair updos stay tight and long lasting. If your hair has been recently washed, it needs to be treated with hair spray or gel to prep it for styling.

After the hair is ready for hair updos, brush it thoroughly so that it is free of tangles and knots. Then, create sections of about 1- to 2-inch thickness, straightening each section with a flat iron. After the hair cools, use the tail of a rattail comb to create a side part. This part should extend from the front of the hairline to about two inches from the crown of the head. Then, brush your hair from the part to the hairline’s opposite side. The new section that has been created should be pulled behind the ear. Use your hands and a paddle brush to smooth the hair in order to contain all of the random hairs within the new section. Next, clip your hair temporarily behind the ears. One small strand of hair can also be pulled from the new section in order to create an accent piece. This strand should be taken from near the eyebrow and it can be left either straight or slightly curled. Next, brush the other side of the hair until it is smooth. It should be brushed behind the other ear and also clipped temporarily. Each section can then be unclipped from behind the ears one at a time. Separate each section separated equally into bottom and top sections, making each section into two new sections. The bottom portion should be pulled into a loose ponytail in order to keep it out of the way for the next step. Then, one of the top sections should be brushed toward the middle of the back portion of the head and rolled into a fairly flat and horizontal hair roll. It should be pinned securely and flatly against the scalp. It is generally necessary to add a light gel or a setting lotion to each section of the hair at this point. Otherwise, the hair may be too slippery and will not hold well.

The other top section should then also be rolled to the middle and back section of the head. It is important to be sure to slightly overlap the first section that was rolled. The second roll needs to be pinned in a fashion that hides the first roll. The entire area then needs to be sprayed with hairspray in order to keep it in place. A large decorative clip, flower, or other hair accessory can then be added. The sections that were being temporarily held in loose ponytails can then be let out. A curling iron can be used to create a soft bend in the ends of the hair. These will also need to be sprayed in order to hold them in place.

Georgian Hairstyles

During the Georgian era, wigs made from human or horse hair were very fashionable. Even though the wigs came in various colors, they were dusted with flour to give them a powdery white look. Powdering hair consisted of applying a sticky substance and flour dyed in brown, gray, white, blue or pink! Both men and women and men most preferred their hair in an artificial white color. Women also wore their hair high in a "roll," patterned after French styles. French hairstylists, called "friseurs," aided women in fashioning these dramatic high rolls. They also used artificial pads called "pomatum" to nearly double the size of a woman's head. When Louis XVI ascended the French throne in 1774, his wife Marie Antoinette continued this trend towards extravagance. The queen added feathers to her head, and soon womens' "towers" reached over two feet in height. England and the colonies imitated this style. However, social critics were not enthused about these styles. They often decried these hairstyles as disorderly and even vulgar. Trends in elaborate hairstyles became fashionable for men as well. Stylish men of the period often wore highly decorated and frivolous caps. Men's hair of the period was worn shoulder-length and tied at the neck, or powdered with tight curls. Men also wore wigs for formal occasions.

For a Georgian look, try a dramatic high style (see above for instructions on creating an updo) in a blond or light-colored dye. Add feathers or glitter gel for an outrageous, Baroque-inspired effect!

Regency Hairstyles

By the early 1800s, the powdered wigs of the Georgian era were forever relegated from fashion, as men of the period began wearing their hair short and natural. During the Regency era, women's clothing as well as hairstyles were modeled after Greek and Roman styles. Women wore their hair up and fastened their buns with ornamental combs, diadems, bonnets and silk ribbons. They parted their hair in the shape of T, V, Y and U's. Regency girls often curled their hair at the front to crown their faces with soft ringlets. Ladies also wore bonnets, hats or turbans.

To achieve a Regency hairstyle, fasten your hair in a bun or braided bun, leaving enough hair around your forehead and sides of your face. Using a thin curling iron, curl the hair around your face in soft tendrils. This is an easy, upswept style that is perfect for formal occasions!

Victorian Hairstyles

During the Victorian era, having one's hair styled by a hairdresser became popular. French hairstyles that were parted in the middle became trendy, while adorning one's head with flowers also gained stead. Austrian empress Elizabeth was the first to place flowers in her hair, and she soon started a widespread trend. "Barley curls" or "sugar curls" were long drop curls worn by children throughout the century. In the early 1840's, women took to wearing these curls alongside a coiled chignon, which was situated at the back of the head. Women continued to wear hats during this era. Fine milliners created fanciful styles decorated with plumes and ribbons. During the 1870s, the hair at the back of the head was occasionally allowed to hang loose, long and full, a lovely natural look that was featured in many pre-Raphaelite portraits. Sometimes the hair was seen in ringlets, and sometimes in large loops. In 1872, an important invention in hairstyling was invented: crimping. Crimping allowed for a "turned up hairstyle" in which the hair was pulled over a hot iron, resulting in an attractive wave. The "Marcel wave" was a new style created by the hot iron, and consisted of loose waves arranged around the head. By the end of the 1880s, pompadours were worn. This was a style in which the hair was swept up high from the forehead. Often, fake hair pieces were used to add height and depth. In addition, the "titus" hairstyle became popular from the 1880s. This hairstyle involved cutting the hair very close around the head. The hair was then curled, and styled with various ornaments including flowers. By the "Gay Nineties", high hairstyles had almost disappeared from the landscape of fashion trends. The look of the "Gibson Girl" was much more natural. A bun swept loosely on the head became the crowning feature of young Victorian girls. The "psyche knot" was especially prominent. This was basically hair pulled back from the forehead and knotted on the top of the head. Small coiffures, pompadours, and French twists were also worn, along with hair ornaments.

To create a Victorian hairstyle, try a natural, long style. Begin by curling your hair in natural waves, either with a curling iron or by setting your hair in curlers the evening before. Pull your front strands to the lower back of your head and fasten with a pin.

Edwardian Hairstyles

During the Edwardian era, hairstyles were often full and somewhat "poufy." Ladies who had the luxury of a maid or attendant could achieve this look. The maid would wind her hair around balls of padding, which were called "rats." This sort of hairstyle was often accompanied by large Edwardian hats which were kept in place by jewelled hatpins and decorated with elaborate trimmings like ostrich feathers. Another important invention in hairstyling was made: permanent curling. Women could now have curly hair that would hold for months. The "Roaring Twenties" saw the emergence of a drastic new style: the Flapper style. Women wore their hair shockingly short in a bob haircut. As fashions tended away from the corsets and formality of the earlier era, so hairstyles followed this trend towards a more natural look. As the Edwardian era ended, new technology in movies made trends in hairstyles much more accessible to the general public. As such, actresses such as Clara Bow, who sported an early flapper cut, and singer Josephine Baker, whose exotic looks were closely watched and mimicked, brought their signature hairstyles into mainstream culture.

To create an authentic late Edwardian look, try a Flapper bob. Keep your hair bouncy and natural by avoiding heavy gels, mousses or styling aids. Or slick back your hair with hair gel for a more formal, bold look. If your hair is long, apply gel, pull the hair back and twist it into a bun. Pin the bun at the base of your neck. Place a glittery headband on your head, adjusting for comfort. Insert a feather into the left side of the headband, securing the feather with hairpins.