A brief history of hairstyles

18th century ringlets

18th Century

During the 16th and 17th centuries, women spent hours upon hours on their beauty regimens. Plucking the hair on one’s forehead and neck was the hottest trend any woman of money could imagine. The intention was to create the “regal appeal” of a high brow and lengthy posture but they all pretty much looked like pale, bald-headed, women with hats on.

Fortunately for the 18th century, the bald-headed look was out and big hair was in. A powdered wig was the choice of hair accessory for both women and men of the era and they (or should I say their servants) spent hours powdering and starching their wigs to get just the right look. And what look did they want? Curls! Yes, that is right; a first major form of hair merchandise was to emulate those with long, luscious, ringlets.

19th century hair

19th Century

By the end of the 18th century, things got a little out of hand when women started putting bird cages with live birds in their hair in order to outdo the woman next to her who only had a replica of a maritime scene, complete with model ship. The distaste for wigs by the end of the century could have also come from the fact that mice and other vermin found the soft-smelling hair of the wigs a great home, but who knows?

As the 19th century rolled around our views of what was stylish began to change. The Victorians preferred a more subtle look and women even abandoned the use of makeup all together. Natural beauty was in and bathing was the new rage. A healthy, hygienic look was the desired outcome and hair was to look sleek and shiny. Styles were elegant, demure and smoothed down with tons of oil. Loose and wispy hair was considered vulgar and a complete lack of taste; so all of you with frizz and fly-aways, shame on you!

20s short wave

20th Century

As the roaring '20s rolled around, short bobs and waves replaced the conservative hairstyles of the early 1900s. These styles represented independence and a free spirit. Hems grew shorter (woo-hoo—look at those ankles!) and red lipstick was every woman’s must-have accessory.

The movies brought us closer to our celebrity idols and most women of the 1940s and 1950s emulated their on-screen idols by rolling their hair with those newfangled plastic rollers. My aunt use to collect concentrated orange juice cans and sleep with those in her hair until someone who was finally thinking of women’s needs created actual plastic ones in a variety of sizes so every woman could have wonderfully curly hair.

Farrah's feathered 70s do

The 1960’s brought on one of the worst eras of hair abuse. Hair was teased, sculpted, pressed and permed into wonderful bouffant helmets. The 1970’s brought back natural hair, long manes of free-falling curls, soft parts and tans. Farrah Fawcett and the other Charlie’s Angels became our hair goddesses and influenced a generation of feminine romanticism. And then “Big Hair” was back! Yes, the 80s came in full and strong and man were those curls everywhere.

Thank goodness we don’t crimp and tease our hair the way we use to back then but let me tell you ladies (and men) that curls are back and bigger than ever! Having just had the opportunity to attend Fashion Week Spring 2010 I was thrilled to see soft curls back in the spotlight. No more straightening your hair, textured and wavy are going to be all the rage this season.