Hairdressing is arranging or otherwise altering the hair for enhanced beauty, for practicality, or to indicate status. The process may involve cutting, plucking, curling, braiding, bleaching, dyeing, powdering, oiling, or adding false hair (such as a wig or fall) or ornaments. Hairdressing has been an important part of the costume of men and women since prehistoric times.
II ANCIENT STYLES
Members of the ancient Mesopotamian and Persian nobility curled, dyed, and plaited their long hair and beards, sometimes adding gold dust or gold and silver ornaments. Both Egyptian men (who were beardless) and women shaved
their heads for coolness. On occasion they wore heavy black wigs and often a cone of perfumed oil on top of the head.
The Hebrews were prohibited by biblical law from cutting their hair or beards. Thus, following ancient tradition, Orthodox Jewish men through the centuries have worn long hair and beards. After the exile, in the 1st century ad, Orthodox women, upon marriage, cropped their hair and wore wigs, a custom which is still practiced to some extent.
Among the ancient Greeks, boys under the age of 18 generally wore the hair long; except for the Spartans, men were clean-shaven and wore short hair, curled in small ringlets. Greek women wore their long hair parted in the middle and drawn back into a knot or chignon. Sometimes it was dyed or dusted with color or twined with ribbons. The curling of hair was so popular in Athens that it gave rise to the first professional hairdressers.
In Rome, men were also, generally, beardless and short-haired. Roman women of the Republic wore their hair in simple styles; those of the Empire adopted elaborately curled and braided coiffures, often filled out with blonde hair taken from German prisoners of war. The Germanic and Celtic tribes of northern Europe wore long hair and beards; short hair was a mark of slavery or of punishment.
III NON-WESTERN HAIRDRESS
In Islamic countries, both men and women continue to follow tradition, concealing their hair in public under head cloths, turbans, fezzes, or veils.
Members of the Sikh religion of India do not cut their hair, wearing it bound up with turbans. Indian women traditionally wear their hair in long braids. In China and Japan men formerly shaved the front of the head and tied the back hair in a queue or pigtail. Chinese women combed their hair back into a low knot, and Japanese women-before the 17th century-wore their long hair unbound. Subsequently, they wore the hair drawn up off the neck and elaborately arranged, pomaded, and ornamented with ribbons, hairpins, or other objects. Warriors of some Native North American tribes traditionally shaved their heads except for a center tuft of hair. Intricate patterns of braiding and beading decorate the hair of sub-Saharan African women, and an adaptation of this style became fashionable with African American women in the early 1980′s.
IV WESTERN FASHION
In Europe, about the 8th century, the tonsure, a form of hairdressing in which the crown of the head is shaved, was adopted by Christian monastic orders to indicate dedication to the service of God. Roman Catholic priests continued to wear the tonsure until 1972. By the 9th century, European noblemen wore their hair cropped at the neck, and women’s hair was long and generally plaited; married noblewomen, following the church’s stipulations about modesty, covered these plaits with a veil. In the later Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, men’s hair was generally worn short and rolled under at the neck or above the ears. Fashionable women of the 13th and 14th centuries coiled their plaits over their ears or bundled them up in back, in both cases covered with gold net cauls or with linen drapery, surmounted by a veil. In the courts of 15th-century France and the Netherlands, women plucked their foreheads to give an effect of added height and combed the rest of their hair under huge wimples draped with veiling. Italian women of the time set off their plaited, curled, and coiled hair with neat jeweled bands or caps. In Elizabethan England noblewomen frizzed and powdered their front hair over hoops or pads and netted up the back hair.
In the early 17th century European men of fashion wore long flowing Cavalier locks, often curled, piled, and perfumed. Trim mustaches and short, pointed Vandyke beards (so called from the style shown in portraits by the English painter Sir Anthony van Dyck) were in vogue. Women of fashion wore a fringe across the forehead and puffs of hair or long curls at the sides, often incorporating false hair and threaded with ribbons and pearls. The back hair was coiled up on the head. In the late 17th century, men began to wear large curled wigs over close-cropped heads-a fashion introduced by Louis XIII of France to hide his baldness, and continued by Louis XIV, who wore a towering wig to make him appear taller. Toward the
end of the century these lofty men’s wigs were matched by women’s headdresses, consisting of great superstructures of wire, frills, lace, and ribbons.
V THE ERA OF COIFFURES
In the 18th century, men’s wigs, now smaller, were customarily whitened with powder and tied behind with a black ribbon. Women at first wore very short powdered hair, curled or waved, but by the 1770′s they had adopted a style of combing their hair up into lofty constructions of wire, pads, and false hair, powdered and variously decorated. The ornaments ranged from flowers, ribbons, plumes, and jewels, to hats or even miniature replicas of objects such as coaches, windmills, or a warship.
With the French Revolution, hairstyles became simpler. Thereafter, men have generally worn their hair short, with recurrent periods when beards become fashionable. Women’s styles moved from the simplicity of the Empire style-heads encircled by a fillet in the ancient Greek mode-to Victorian complexities of curls, ringlets, fringes, and chignons.
VI MODERN STYLES
It became fashionable for women after World War I to wear bobbed hair, often permanently waved. Since then, increasing numbers of women regularly patronize professional hairdressers for cutting, styling, curling, and dyeing according to the latest styles. For men, the closely cropped crew cuts adopted for practical reasons during World War II gave way to longer hair and untrimmed beards. Shorter, shaped hairstyles and neatly trimmed beards reappeared in the 1970s; by the ’80′s permanent waving was not uncommon among men, and mustaches were more in evidence than beards.
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