Hairstyling History – Everything You Need To Know

You can usually tell a lot about someone by how they wear their hair. One factor that also determines a society is how men and women wear their hair. Although many people’s hairstyles depend on fashion trends, they can sometimes convey political messages and express what’s happening in society. A clear example is the spiked mohawks of the 1970s punks. Your hairstyle is a great way to make a statement about your identity. This article covers hairstyling history from the ancient people to modern-day; let’s take a look.

Hairstyling History – Hairstyle of Ancient People

To fully understand hairstyling history, it is essential to look at the hairstyle favored by the ancient people and what it represented in those times. Below is a look at Ancient Egypt, Greece, and America.


Ancient works of art are a great way to learn about the hairstyling history of ancient Egypt. Women and men in this region usually wore their hair short due to the extreme heat experienced in the area. However, whenever there was a ceremonial occasion, the nobles wore heavy black wigs over their clipped hairstyle. This included men and women. One of the most popular hairstyles in Ancient Egypt’s hairstyling history is that of Cleopatra. This legendary queen was famous for using her hair to convey different messages. While in Egypt, she usually wore the traditional Egyptian’ melon’ style to de-emphasize her Greek roots. 

However, Cleopatra usually wore the hairstyle of a Greek queen whenever she was traveling outside Egypt. She would section her hair into curls and then arrange it in a bun at the back of the next. However, most people remember Cleopatra by her ceremonial black wig, which featured long brands decorated with gold ornaments and her signature cobra headdress.


Greece was quite different from Ancient Egypt regarding its hairstyling history. This set of people favored long hair and would pull it back into a chignon. In addition, they were famous for using embellishments to make their hairdo look special. These embellishments included fresh flowers, jeweled tiaras, and gold powder. Typically, women usually added these embellishments during special occasions. Additionally, ancient Greeks tend to use henna, a reddish dye for their hair.

With the rise of the Roman empire, blonde hair also grew in popularity, and people abandoned the reddish dye for a blonde one. They also used wigs made from the hair of enslaved people, while the Romans emulated the Greek fashion of powdering the hair with gold dust. Over the years, more elaborate hairstyles came into style. A typical style that stood the test of time was the upper-class Roman women wearing their hair in curls piled at the top of their heads over a wire framework.


In America, the native tribe had hairstyles their favored. For example, the Plains tribe wore long traditional braids, which most people instantly recognized as a Native American style. Even men commonly wore long braids, which they decorated with feathers. Another everyday hairstyle in Ancient America was the shaved hair in the middle; this hairstyle was popular amongst the Mohawk tribe. However, all didn’t wear this hairstyle; only warriors headed into battle did. 

Most Hopi maidens tend to wear their hair in whorls on both sides of their hair. Squash blossoms inspired this. Overall, the traditional native American hairstyle varied from one tribe to another. Therefore, there was no real way to define the consistent style of each cost. 

Hairstyling History – Renaissance and Elizabethan Beauty

The European Renaissance constitutes a period where people appreciated beauty in all forms. Most people considered a high forehead a beautiful feature. Therefore, most ladies in this era plucked their hair or shaved their hairline to create the illusion of a high forehead. Hair was quite long and always pulled back. It wasn’t always about the hair but rather the hairstyle. Women wore elaborate hair coverings while the upper-class ladies decorated their hair with ribbons, veils, pearls, and jewels. However, when the Elizabethan era dawned, red wigs became very fashionable to women looking to emulate the reddish hair of the queen.

Hairstyling History and the French Revolution

One of the most remarkable hairstyles of the 18th century is that of Marie Antoinette. Nobles and royals were popular for wearing elaborate wigs with highly decorative curls and piling them sky-high. These wigs were usually coated with powder hair added over a sticky mucilage to help it adhere. The men wore as much of the white-powdered wigs with long curls as the women did. 

Gentlemen would sometimes pull their curls back with a black bow while ladies decorated their ringlets as much as possible. Over time, it became a competition whose hairdresser could create the most lavish style. The hair was crafted over horsehair pads to increase the height while creating a unique shape. The finished products were always powdered and starched.

However, this hairstyle consumed much time, and women would go weeks before styling and washing their hair. This was the perfect environment for lice to take up residence, and it became so prevalent that people created long-handled silver claws so the Versailles women could scratch their itchy heads under their hairstyle. 

This court hairdo was something of pride for the hairdressers and women who wore them. The most impressive hairdos usually feature scenes like windmills, gardens, or birdcages. Marie Antoinette was famous for using her hair to portray her mood or mark an upcoming event. An example was wearing a ship on her hair to celebrate a maritime event. 

However, these costly ornaments turned public sentiments against royalty and nobility in France. Peasants could hardly afford food on their table and found it shocking that the queen used large amounts of flour to powder their hair. Most people believe that the elaborate hairdos of Marie Antoinette led to the French Revolution. 

Movie Stars and their Influence on Hairstyling History Over the Years

Over the years, there’s been no doubt about the influence of movie stars on hairstyling history. At a time, bobbing one’s hair was a show of defiance against the older generation. Most people would argue that the flappers were the first generation influenced by movie stars. This was because of celebrities like Clara Bow and Louis Brooks. These stars popularized flapper fashion and hairstyles. Below is a breakdown of how movie stars influenced hairstyling history.

The 1940s

1940 was an exciting time in hairstyling history. Women were influenced and imitated by the hairstyles of stars like Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, and Veronica Lake. Although people were dealing with the hardship caused by World War II, women still aspired to be as glamorous as their stars. Women usually wore long hair flowing over their shoulders in cascading waves. To achieve this, women used plastic hair rollers and setting lotion. This elegant hairstyle was usually accompanied by red lipstick and red fingernails. Beauty companies didn’t ignore this as they portrayed that looking glamorous was part of a woman’s duty.

Women worked in factories and other outdoor jobs while the men were at work, so practical hairstyles were also in vogue. People rolled their hair neatly around their neck and sometimes covered it with a scarf or a snood. This allowed women to remain feminine while still getting their hair out of the way. 

The 1950s

The 1950s was a time of the domestic goddess; these were ladies who liked to keep a beautiful home while looking groomed and ladylike. A movie star who influenced this era was Donna Reed, a star in a television show. She was famous for carrying out her household chores while being dressed in high heels, dresses, and pearls. 

The hairstyle of this era was medium-length waves sculpted into a helmet. It became pretty standard for women to have weekly appointments at the beauty shop. On the other hand, there were the men who emulated James Dean’s hairstyle. This was the process of combing the hair straight back, splitting it in the center back, and greasing it to resemble the rearview of a duck. The name ‘greasers’ came into existence for the men who chose this hairstyle.

Hairstyling History in the 1960s and 1970s

The 1960s was a period of social upheaval, reflected in the way people wore their hair. In the beginning, coiffed hairdos were still popular. However, the bouffants grew in popularity after appearing in the film Hairspray.’ Therefore, the domestic goddess hairstyle began to diminish, and people practiced more suitable hairstyles. Shorter styles with soft bangs and just a bit of backcombing were common. 

There were radical changes on the youth side because of a new hairstyle Vidal Sasson, which changed the way women wore their hair. He changed the idea of sleeping with rollers or spending hours under a dryer. He also eliminated the idea of the fake fair for making elaborate hairstyles. Instead, his 5-point bob became popular because it saved women hours arranging their hair. 

Hair continued to play a role in the 1970s when afro became famous as a political statement. The African Americans refused to tame their hair’s natural texture into popular hairstyles, so the afro represented black pride. In addition, it was a unisex style that soon grew in popularity as more people from different races emulated the style. Mohawk was also another confrontational hairstyle of the 1970s. Youngsters wore them to show their disgust for social norms and mainstream media. The punk band designed the hairstyle to shock people like the song’s lyrics, and it did. 

From the 1990s to Date

The 1990s was when hairstyling returned to reasonable proportions. Hair during this period was inspired by Jennifer Aniston, who played ‘Rachel’ in the television show ‘Friends.’ Most people went to their hairstylist requesting her hairstyle in the show. Rachel’s hairstyle remains one of the most popular television hairstyles ever. For men, a trend that began in the 90s and continues to date is an increase in the production of hair and beauty products

Hairstyling History – Final Thoughts

From a look into hairstyling history, it’s clear that no one knows what the future of hairstyles holds. The 21st century came with more varied and transient hairstyles that portrayed individualism. When it comes to hairstyling, the only thing we can be sure of is that trends will continue to come and go as the world changes. 

Was This Article Helpful?

Hairstyling History – Everything You Need To Know Hairstyling has been a part of the fashion industry and our lives. Find out everything you should know about hairstyling history here.
5 1 5 1

You're Never to Cool To Learn New Things

Please note: 440 Industries is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to