The History of Hair, with all the glamorous bits…

Me on the left, Kat on the right, trading at a vintage market.

I  asked the lovely Kat from Rose-tintedVintage to write me a guest blog and I think you’ll agree she has done me proud! So I’ll handover now to Kat…

Ever thrown together the perfect vintage outfit and wondered why it doesn’t look quite right? Well let me tell you why; The Hair!

Within a hairstyle, like the beehive, there is a whole history lesson to be had ; social politics, economics, class wars and even the odd bit of practicality thrown in, a quick study of our hair fashion can tell us loads about how we lived…

French fashion

Paintings of Ladies throughout the 18th and early 19th century show a rather extravagant penchant for huge curled wigs, often adorned with feathers, jewels and even stuffed mammals. And the gents were almost as extreme in their hair pieces, so in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, why doesn’t Mr Darcy emerge from his lake with a sopping wet wig looking like a poodle taking a bath? The reason was in fact a tax on hair powder, levied to help fund the war against Napoleon.  So while the aristocracy (and some of the older generation) “kept their wigs on” well into the Regency Era, the less well off gentry and the next generation of young men slowly began to leave off the hair pieces. This change allowed modern screen writers a license to keep their leading men more au natural whilst maintaining some historical accuracy.

Mr Darcy *swoon*

Whilst no-one could accuse these gentlemen of being practical, some of history’s hairstyles have been born of a practical necessity. During World War II, when women began working in munitions factories and on the land, a film was released urging women to take on a more practical hair style. The film starred actress Veronica Lake, famous for wearing her swooping fringe over one eye, it advised ladies to do their bit for the war effort and wear their curls pinned up at the front and tucked in a net or scarf at the back, to reduce the danger of hair getting caught in machinery, as well as getting in their eyes while carrying out important war work. These curls at the front went on to be named the Victory Roll (after the exhaust fumes left after a warplane had executed a celebratory roll in the air) and, along with vivid red lipstick (worn allegedly because Hitler disapproved of women wearing make-up)  the look went on to define the era.

This era of practical women’s hairstyles came in the middle of two rather more political times for women. In the 1920’s, the Suffrage Movement was still busy campaigning for the right to vote for all women above the age of 18, and as a stand for the emancipation of women, hairstyles, as well as hemlines, got shorter and more boyish.

1920s hair.

The “shingled” cut became synonymous with the flapper look, a style all about excess and fun, but it was also about defiance and practicality, and it’s no coincidence that the same happened again forty years later when women burned their bras in protest as part of the Feminist Movement in the 1960’s. Here again hemlines were raised with the introduction of the mini-skirt and many women wore their hair cropped in an androgynous fashion like Twiggy and Cilla.

Meanwhile, the boys were busy cropping their hair too. The Mod Scene was all about looking smart, with designer suits and crisp clean lines the name of the game. However, for young working class lads, this look was hard to aspire to, and as the decade went on, with their closely cropped haircut, work boots and jeans (all practical for working on the factory floor or with heavy machinery), the Working Class Skinhead became the antithesis of the Middle Class Mod.

skinheads - crowd

However, over in the U.S Beatniks and Hippies, both male and female, were wearing their hair long. Protesting against the Vietnam War, and for peace in general, their style was all about individuality and freedom. This was in distinct contrast to the short sharp buzz-cuts of the soldiers and the short back and sides of the politicians they were fighting against.  The look made its way to Britain and by the seventies hair was being worn long and flowing by CND activists and rock-stars alike.

That’s just a few examples of how hairstyles defined eras. It’s something to think about next time you style your hair, whether it’s modern or vintage. And what is inside that beehive I hear you ask? Well I’m afraid that’s between a lady and her stylist….!



Rose-tinted Vintage, 4 Clair Court, Bedford, MK40 1NH

Open Mon – Sat, 10am -5.30pm

Rose-tinted Vintage is a new Bedford store, stocking some of the finest taders in vintage clothes, shoes, accessories, homewares, colleactables and retro games. Also available in store is Sarah’s Doo-Wop Dos vintage hair salon & deborahallendresses alterations service.

Rose-tinted Vintage, vintage emporium Bedford.

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