Throughout times, people have worn their hair in a wide variety of styles, largely determined by the fashions of the culture they live in. Hairstyles are markers and signifiers of social class, age, marital status, racial identification, political beliefs, and attitudes about gender.
Some people may cover their hair totally or partially for cultural or religious reasons. Notable examples of head covering include women in Islam who wear the hijab, married women in Haredi Judaism who wear the sheitel or tichel, married Himba men who cover their hair except when in mourning, Tuareg men who wear a veil, and baptized men and women in Sikhism who wear the dastar.
The oldest known reproduction of hair braiding lies back about 30,000 years: the Venus of Willendorf, now known in academia as the Woman of Willendorf, of a female figurine from the Paleolithic, estimated to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE. The Venus of Brassempouy counts about 25,000 years old and indisputably shows hairstyling.
In the Bronze Age, razors were known and in use by some men, but not on a daily basis since the procedure was rather unpleasant and required resharpening of the tool which reduced its endurance.
In ancient civilizations, women's hair was often elaborately and carefully dressed in special ways. Women coloured their hair, curled it, and pinned it up (ponytail) in a variety of ways. They set their hair in waves and curls using wet clay, which they dried in the sun and then combed out, or else by using a jelly made of quince seeds soaked in water, or curling tongs and curling irons of various kinds.
Roman Empire and Middle Ages
Between 27 BC and 102 AD, in Imperial Rome, women wore their hair in complicated styles: a mass of curls on top, or in rows of waves, drawn back into ringlets or braids. Eventually noblewomen's hairstyles grew so complex that they required daily attention from several slaves and a stylist in order to be maintained. The hair was often lightened using wood ash, unslaked lime and sodium bicarbonate, or darkened with copper filings, oak-apples or leeches marinated in wine and vinegar. It was augmented by wigs, hairpieces and pads, and held in place by nets, pins, combs and pomade. Under the Byzantine Empire, noblewomen covered most of their hair with silk caps and pearl nets.
From the time of the Roman Empire until the Middle Ages, most women grew their hair as long as it would naturally grow. It was normally just styled through cutting, as women's hair was tied up on the head and covered on most occasions when outside the home by using a snood, kerchief or veil; for an adult woman to wear uncovered and loose hair in the street was often restricted to prostitutes. Braiding and tying the hair was common. In the 16th century, women began to wear their hair in extremely ornate styles, often decorated with pearls, precious stones, ribbons, and veils. Women used a technique called "lacing" or "taping," in which cords or ribbons were used to bind the hair around their heads. During this period, most of the hair was braided and hidden under wimples, veils or couvrechefs. In the later half of the 15th century and on into the 16th century, a very high hairline on the forehead was considered attractive, and wealthy women frequently plucked out hair at their temples and the napes of their necks, or used depilatory cream to remove it, if it would otherwise be visible at the edges of their hair coverings. Working-class women in this period wore their hair in simple styles.
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