Hair Through The Ages

It only takes a quick Saturday afternoon stroll down Mercer Street to remind ourselves that we live in a hair-fashion era where anything goes – whether you want to go ultra sleek and modern with a flat-ironed look or as bouffant as a 1950s starlet, in this day and age your craziest hair-wish can be your stylist’s command; she’s done it all before, likely even in the last week.  In honor of today’s all-hairstyles-a-go hair attitude, we’d like to take a quick look back at the prominent hair fashions of the past that have shaped how we style our tresses today.


Antiquity – Although we bear no photographic evidence of the above-the-shoulder fashions popular in Ancient Rome, all artistic renderings of Ancient Goddesses and mythological nymphs of the time indicate that a natural, beachy look was very much du jour on Mount Olympus.  Botticelli probably said it best with his legendary Birth of Venus painting– these women were all about their curves and their waves remaining natural.  Styling tools and products hadn’t even been invented yet, so these brave women had no choice but to let their hair go naturally and hope for the best.  If it’s good enough for the Goddess of Love, it’s good enough for us.   

Colonial America – While spirits of independence, courage, and adventure were at record-highs in the early days of our country’s colonization, the era was a bit of a dark age for hair expressionism.  Indeed, the very ideals of our Puritan founding fathers (and mothers) rested on modesty and humility, while shunning such trivial pursuits as beauty and glamour.  When you’re trying to just make it through the winter, I suppose the frizz factor on your ends isn’t a top concern.  Even so, our colonial ancestor-ettes didn’t let their hair game go completely – they were not afraid to rock a bold statement piece (you’ve seen the pointed hats) and a low-placed bun to accentuate the jaw line.  Next time you’re feeling tired of your length or more main-stream blow-out style, consider going for a bun and hat look and see what happens.  Ideally experimented with on Thanksgiving. 

Marie Antoinette – This stylish maven indisputably deserves her very own hair category - she was rocking the hair world over a hundred years before the modern-day hair dryer was even invented.  There may have been rampant revolts and starvation outside of her palace walls, but Mademoiselle Antoinette knew the importance of putting her best and most dramatic coiffe forward.  And on top of it all, she even managed to look thin while indulging in cake – a true trail-blazer. If only this beauty-visionary were alive today to share her secrets; I’d love to ask her how she adapted her styling for the physical constraints of the guillotine.


1950s – The war was over, our men were back home, and we finally entered the historical era that I believe should be known as the “Hey Day of the American Blow-out.”  With the economy booming, women were flocking to the traditionally-male work place for the first time, but feminism hadn’t gone so far that looks didn’t matter.  (Will it ever, really?)  Grace, Marilyn and Liz dominated pop culture and collectively reminded the average woman about the power of a polished and voluminous curl.  Have your stylist poof every lock with those rollers and hair spray, rock a sexy-yet-conservative frock, and determine if your next stop in life is Hollywood. 


1980s – In this decade of fashion absurdity and excess, everyone walked around looking as if their hairdresser had done a little too much cocaine before hitting the salon.  The popular hair fashions may have been flammable, crinkly, and time-consuming – but they were also fun; it was hip to be huge, after all.  Don’t be afraid to blast a little “Walk Like an Egyptian” en route to your next blow-out and ask your stylist to dust off the old crimper – Trya Banks and Alanis Morisette still use theirs’!


1990s – This was a time when actually drying your hair at all was considered ambitious, and it was socially acceptable to celebrate hemp necklaces, white-washed denim, and bad dye jobs.  Women were keeping their cuts simple, their tresses flat, and even turning to lemon juice to amplify their highlights (a trick that I can say from personal experience is deeply regrettable).  A little hair spray wouldn’t have killed Kate Moss or Claire Danes in My So Called Life, but, on the plus-side, their gloomy “I’m too deep and interesting to even bother with my hair” look is definitely achievable with minimal time and effort.  This might be a good Monday style to try out and see if it attracts any of the popular boys at school.