Men's hair, ladies' hair, children's hair - up, down, short or long, real or fake - the way people have worn their hair through the ages is an interesting study in social history. Along with clothing styles, hair fashions tell a fascinating chronicle of a people in any historical epoch.
Ancient Egyptians wore their hair in a wide variety of styles that connoted the sex, age and social status of the wearer. Young people in Egypt often shaved their heads except for one long, curly lock, known as the "Lock of Youth." Middle class women adopted the veil as a sign of their upward mobility while the upper classes wore longer hair.
The Greeks and Romans discovered how to dye their hair, many attempting to attain the most desired blonde color by sprinkling gold into their hair. Lovely ringlets, curls and chignons were worn by the wealthy, some so elaborate that they required numerous slaves to achieve. Elaborate hair designs advertised the wearer's wealth and social status. The Starz epic series “Spartacus” showed an accurate portrayal of hairstyles of every class in Roman society at about 70 BCE.
In China, it was considered disrespectful for a young woman to cut her hair because it had been inherited from her parents. The Manchu Dynasty required men to shave the front of their hair and tie the rest in braids, which were drawn with black silk. The tradition was broken in 1922 by the last emperor who cut his queue.
The Masai warriors of Africa spend enormous amounts of time drying and styling each other’s hair. They use a volcanic claylike soil mixed with animal fat to achieve a red dye that can be painted on the hair. The women of the Manbetu people braid hair into a basket shape that resembles a cone. The resulting style looks like a crown, held by needlelike bones.
In early Europe, wealthier men of high status wore longer hair and those with lesser status wore short hair. Later, men wore a pageboy style. Women’s hairstyles changed through the centuries with married women often covering their hair. Single and younger women usually stuck to simple, graceful longer hair.
In later Europe and for Europeans who lived in early America, wigs were often worn for a very good purpose. Lice were common in all classes and the itching their bites caused was severe. Men and women both shaved their heads and kept their natural hair very short. They then wrapped their head with linen cloth strips. Then, a powdered wig was worn on top, sometimes simply styled and other times quite elaborate.
In America, most of the people wore simple styles that served them well building homes in the wilderness. Many men, if they were not wigged, wore longish hair tied with leather strips. Women for most of our history wore simple buns.
Notably, it is a fact that as much as we would like to think that we have invented some new style, there is probably no real new style under the sun.