Whether its hair extensions, up-do wedding styles, or haircolor, the history of hairdressing goes back to the beginning of time as a necessary way to keep hair confined while mirroring ones cultural status.
A look back in time – the origins of “hair gel” & “hair extensions”
As early as the 14th Century B.C, divas such as Queen Nefertiti, and Cleopatra among many other Egyptian royals were known for wearing grand headdresses without even so much as one strand of hair showing. However, for the rest of society during those times, men & women alike were known for using perfumed hair “gel” made from the fat of animals to style curls or slick down fly-a-ways.
While the Egyptians were also very fond of wigs, it’s no surprise this was the period when hair extensions were invented as a way of filling out thinning hair or making regular tresses more luxuriant by means of clever weaves and knots that were secured to real hair with beeswax and resin (much like today).
Braids on the other hand were very popular with Greek and Roman women. They kept their hair long, and invented highlights by using powdered gold. The wealthier you were, the more complicated the hair style. Numerous slaves were known to braid, and curl a single master’s hair to depict their status in society.
In addition, when it came to the ancient world, who could forget Lady Godiva? Having let her hair down to ride naked through the streets of Coventry, England she forever associated flowing locks with sexy self-confidence.
A new profession is born
In the 1700’s, Marie Antoinette took hair to a completely new level (literally). Not only did she wear extravagantly high, powdered wigs but decorated them with trinkets such as model ships, feathers, and even birdcages. The time, and effort that went into these wigs gave birth to a new profession that actually paid: hairdressing! Up until that point servants or slaves were used to tame their ladies hair.
By the 1800’s women finally began shedding the powdered wigs, and letting their real hair down. Styles of this era included tight buns, and long drop curls decorated with fresh flowers or ornamental combs. This was also the era in which crimping was invented and hot irons were introduced as hair styling devices.
During the 1920’s flappers made the liberating statement of chopping off their locks into a bold new style called the “bob”, while the first successful permanent was introduced in the 1930’s to feminize their bobs in a sassy, sultry style.
Long hair started making its comeback by the 1940’s and women styled it themselves into elegant up-do’s like that of the Victory Roll that fashion icon’s like Bettie Page, and Rita Hayworth rocked. In the 1950’s however, women returned to their domesticated lifestyles after the war by bulking their hair into bouffant styles like that of Marilyn Monroe.
(Stay tuned next week for “part two” of the history behind hairdressing!)