As a child, my mother never cut my hair. It was always very long. When I became a young mother, my son began to grab my hair in his chubby little baby hands. I soon tired of this little game and began wearing it pulled back. I finally decided if I was going to wear it pulled back all the time I might as well just cut it off. Soon I was sporting a very short and sassy hairstyle. Most people loved it and gave me very sweet compliments. However, there were a few of my close loved ones who had very strong opinions and thought I had done a dastardly deed. Thus, began my personal probe into a history of hairstyles.
In ancient Egypt, there were typically three hairstyles for men and women alike: shoulder length, cut short to the neck, or clean shaven. Many young adult men wore shaven heads with a little curl left at the back. The curl was called the “Lock of Youth” and was indicative of their youth. Many young girls wore their hair long and either plaited or braided. Older folks more commonly shaved their heads and wore wigs.
There is also a difference of style between the Old and New Kingdoms. Old Kingdom women usually had shorter hair. Decoration was a favorite thing for women of both kingdoms to do. It was common to wear flowers and ribbons in their hair. Wealthy women would adorn their coifs with tiaras of gold that would be accented with gemstones like garnets. The poorer classes would simply wear garlands of berries and flowers. Headbands were frequently worn to help hold hair in place. They would be affixed with hairpins made of any number of materials such as ivory, wood, bone or different metals.
Certain adornments and hairstyles were a reflection of status and wealth. A wealthy woman would thread a gold tube onto a ringlet as a show of wealth. It was also the wealthy who could afford to color their hair with henna.
Wealthy women of ancient Egypt rejected the use of a veil because they wanted to make a show of their status and wealth with their hairstyles. The poorer women however, frequently wore veils.
Moving forward in time to ancient Greece, these women commonly wore their hair long, past shoulder length, and often pulled into a loose chignon for daily practical purposes. When dressing up they would incorporate braids, ribbons, headbands and flowers. And, although not very common, there were those who would also dye their hair red with henna or attempt to lighten it to a shade of blonde.
One ostentatious sign of wealth was to sprinkle gold dust in the hair. Men usually wore their hair short or shaven and wore beards except during times of military service.
When the Greek empire gave way to the Roman empire, women of this era were known for wearing their hair in very simple fashion. It was usually long and straight down, sometimes held in place with a metal circlet or headband. Young women often wore their hair up and twisted into a bun. However, all of this changed under the influence of Emperor Augustus. Hairstyles became elaborate fashion statements of wealth and status.
It is perhaps this era that has continued in strength until today as far as its influence upon the western world. But, I fear, if I were alive way back then with my short and sassy hairdo, I might have been mistaken for a man! I suppose I could feminize my do a bit with some hairbands and ribbons and cute, bedazzled clips!