Hair are your aerials’ according to the character Danny in the classic film Withnail & I and in a way that is true – a hairstyle provides a connection of some sort and a sense of identity, from the court hairstyles of Elizabethan times to the mod crops of the ‘60s. Hairstyles over the years have taken on some pretty weird and wonderful forms, plugging into fashion, to protest and to down right madness, with everyone from queens to punks using them as a form of expression and peacock-like showing off. Looking at hairstyles through the ages provides a great overview of how people and fashion have evolved and changed – here are some of history’s more wacky hairstyles.
Hairstyles were being created and copied all the way back to the 4th century BC, with the Egyptians inventing their own forms of hair extensions by sewing sheep’s wool into their hair to make it look thicker. Many created wigs for themselves from the wool and these wigs were often dyed a rainbow of colours using natural dyes. Some 1200 years later, the Elizabethans used their hair to express social status, with the more elaborate the design, the more important the woman’s husband. When it comes to queens, Queen Elizabeth I was probably one of the most formidable and she blazed a trail in more ways than one. Lucky then that she had the hairdo to go with it – bright red locks, piled up high on top of her head, frizzed to the max and decorated with as many plaits, pearls and hats as possible.
By the 1700s it was all about the wigs and everyone who was anyone was walking around with a huge, high heap of horsehair covered in flour on their heads. The wigs were often dusted in coloured flour – pink, brown, gray or blue – and were monstrously high. Women used ‘pomatom’ to almost double the size of their heads by adding bulk to hair and when the wigs got too heavy they accessorized with huge feathers – at one point Marie Antoinette was walking around with a 2ft high hairdo. That’s one way to make an entrance…
Jumping forward a few years, ‘wild’ is probably the best word to describe fashion during the ‘80s and hairstyles pushed the boundaries even further. Whether it was Madonna style messed up corkscrew ringlets, dip dyed locks (where the ends of the hair were literally dip dyed in a whole range of different rainbow colours), the Mohawk, the legendary ‘mullet’ hairdo, or the impressive range of asymmetrical cuts, the 80s had a lot to answer for, hairdo-wise.
After the wild colour of the 80s, the 90s was a bit less loud when it came to haircuts. Of course ‘The Rachel’ was the cut of the season but no one could describe that as a wacky style. Instead, men led the way in the 90s with undercuts – where a layer of long hair remains on the top of the cut but the underneath is shaved – close cropped hair with words or symbols shaved into it and lots and lots of facial hair.
Since the 80s we have been severely lacking in wacky hair role models, at least until the arrival of Lady Gaga. If ever there was someone deserving of an award for hair sculpture it’s her. Creations like the hair bow, red streaks, a short purple bob, long, flowing sea green tresses, a quiff, and blonde hair fashioned into a huge, shiny halo have made her a pioneer of crazy styles and a hair hero for all aspiring wacky stylists out there.
Hairstyles through the ages have varied wildly, from the super conservative to the slightly barking. Whether it was powdered wigs, sheep’s wool extensions, hair bows or dip dyes, history’s more wacky hairstyles have definitely given us something to think about!