Hair: A Not So Modern Love Affair
When you're having a bad hair day, the last thing you need is someone telling you 'it's only hair'. Yes, it might only be hair but it is a defining point in our identity. Our love affair with our hair has reached an all time high. A plethora of extensions, products and tools have saturated the market. They not only enable you to recreate any hairstyle but also change your natural hair to anything that you desire. You Tube tutorials take it a step further and now we can all have Kim Kardashian curls or learn how to cut our own layers. However, this fascination with hair has always been the case. This timeline shows the hair tricks and trends of the past, and what women used before our beloved hair straighteners came onto the scene.
In this time of extravagance and opulence, wigs were favoured to create the magnificent hairstyles, if natural hair wouldn't suffice. Wigs were at first worn by men, then spread to women around 1770 who were them very high and in a range of pastel colours. Hairstyles became a sign of social status, as the wealthy could afford to hire expensive wigmakers. The wigs were often powdered with starch and the wearer used a thick cone to protect their face from the clouds of powder. The wigs were primarily made from human hair, but horse and goat hair was also used. Hairstyles were so tall and heavy that doors would have to be lengthened, and women suffered great pain due to inflammation of their temples.
Women favoured curls on their forehead and above their ears, for the first part of the century. The hair was held in place with a chignon at the nape of the neck. Women tended to wear bonnets or hats at this time, especially when they were in public. Macassar oil was very popular and was a mix of ylang-ylang, coconut oil and palm oil, and was cited as a hair growth aid and strengthener. The pompadour was also a popular hairstyle towards the end of the century. Hair was placed high on the head, with curls at the side to frame the face. The Gibson Girl look was also worn, women collected their hair from their hairbrushes and kept it in a container. They used this hair to create hairpieces to add to the front of their hair.
Permanent marcel waving became popular around 1906- 1907. Marcel Grateau invented a curling iron but it was only suitable for long hair. As shorter styles became more popular, Karl Nessler created a waving system. It involved treating the hair with sodium hydroxide then rolling the hair in heated rollers that were attached to a heavy duty electronic device. The process took around 6 hours. Towards the second decade hairstyles became flatter and more simple and coiled or braided towards back of the head. By 1918, hair became more tightly waved and bobs became fashionable with younger women. The first handheld blow-dryer came into use at this time, but came with a high risk of electrocution. During the twenties hair was styled into a bob with a side-parting, and those with long hair put their hair into a bun to imitate a bob. The eton crop also became fashionable and women started going to male barbers. By 1927, false hair pieces were used to add length as the short hair trend died out. For those growing out their hair towards the 30's women used small slides to keep the ends in place. In the late thirties hair was pulled back to show the neck and curls, waves and chignons were favoured. Due to the onset of World War Two, women began to do war work. Some of this included manual labour in factories or on the land. Women began to tie their hair up in scarves, or turbans and in victory rolls. Victory rolls involved curling the hair with pins and securing them in large rolls. Alice bands were the accessory of choice in the 1950s, and women started to brush out their hair to wear it wavy as opposed to curly. In the late part of the decade backcombing and hairpieces were used and built up over wire frames.