Have you ever wondered how your ancestors wore their hair back in the day? The human race has been around for thousands of years, and style has evolved a lot of the course of history. Thankfully, no one is walking around in a toga anymore, unless they’re going to a party! It’s no surprised then that men’s hairstyles have changed a lot throughout history. You’ve probably witnessed a lot of changes in just the last few decades, mullets are out and top knots are in! There was certainly no one in Ancient Egypt wearing a trendy fade or gelled spikes. So how did our ancestors wear their hair throughout history? We have answers for you! We’ll look all the way back to Ancient Egypt to figure out what was trendy then. Read our article below to find out about men’s hairstyle trends throughout history.
Ancient Egypt was once the cradle of civilization. The place where modern life as we know it sprung forward and also surprisingly sophisticated when it came to hairstyles. Your choice of haircut in Ancient Egypt was highly dependent on your social standing, age and wealth. Young men would often wear their hair shaved, sometimes with a small curl on their head known as the ‘Lock of youth’ to symbolize their age. Once they came of age they would have a choice of short or long hair. Older men would wear wigs to hide signs of aging like grey hair and balding. The wig was helpful in protecting the scalp of the wearer from sun damage, since most Egyptians spent quite a lot of time under the harsh sun.
Similar to Egyptians, Ancient Greek men would wear short or shaved hair – although they often also wore beard, with the exception of soldiers who would be clean shaven. Blonde hair was very popular so some men would sprinkle gold powder in the hair.
In early Roman history, men would wear their hair longer and have full beard. This later changed and short hair and clean shaven faces came into style. The beards later made a return, although the short hair stayed in style. Caesar experience thinning in the later years of his life, so he would wear a laurel crown to hide his hair loss. Emperor Nero wore curling hairs to frame his face; this was the start of the sideburns trend.
For a time, Indians followed the style of Egyptians and would shave their head, leaving only one small lock of hair although this haircut was reserved for people with high social standing. Later on shoulder-length, braided hair came into style for men. Later on the Fez became popular amongst member of the Indian Muslim community. It became the style to conceal the hair when out in public.
The Manchu regime in China made it a law that men must shave the front of their head and then style the back in braids which were tied up with black silk. This hairstyle remained a tradition in China until 1922 when the Emperor at the time trimmed his ponytail, which signaled a change in attitudes and habits.
Men in Japan wore their hair similar to their Chinese counterparts for a significant portion of their history, from the time of the Edo period. Hair would be shaved at the front and worn in a ponytail, or secured in the wrestler style at the nape of the neck.
Africa was separated into many different tribes with their own practices and hair trends. Masai warriors in Africa would braid their hair of fellow warriors and dye it different shades of red with natural pigments found in volcanic areas of the country. Before the circumcision of boys, their head would be shaved to signal youth. Once they had been circumcised their hair would grow out to signal that they were a warrior.
Similar to Africa, American Indians were separated into tribes that favoured different hairstyles. Tribes in certain regions would have different hairstyles. Tribes on the East coast would usually shave most of their hair, leaving only a ridge of hair along the crown. A lot of warriors would shave their heads and leave only a fringe of hair around their head or a single lock of hair on the crown of their head. Some warriors would keep a crest of hair that ran down the middle of the head – known today as a Mohawk. Their Mohawk’s were made with real and faux hair and were often brightly coloured. In some tribes, men believed that hair signalled power and so they would grow it long to show the wisdom and power that they possessed. Warriors would separate hair into long braids, with one growing down the centre of the back to show that the warrior was older and more experienced.
In the 5th century in Europe, Germanic tribes made their way to the land and similar to African or Indian tribes brought a variety of customs and hair trends with them. The military leaders of these tribes would tie their hair in a knot on their heads to make them seem more intimidating and commanding. Later on in the Middle Ages, Catholicism had a strong influence on the style at the time. Most men during this time wore their hair down and kept long, bushy beards. Their hair was often parted down the middle. Men with lower social standing would wear their hair shorter. BY the middle point of the medieval period, the clean shaven look had become popular. In fact beards and moustaches became banned for a period of time amongst the clergy and clergymen. Later still, the pageboy hairstyle became popular. This was the hairstyle favoured by Charles VIII, and was a style that consisted of hair curved over the ear and the back of the neck.
During the Elizabethan period (between 1558-1603) short hair and short beards came into style, following an unfortunate accidental hair burning with a torch by Francis I of France.
The 18th Century
In the 18th century it became quite stylish for men to wear white-powdered wigs, which were tied back into a long braid at the base of the neck. These were sometimes encased in a black bag, or tied with a black silk bow. Some men would wear their own hair in this style, if they didn’t have a wig. Women’s hairstyles became increasingly extravagant of the course of the 18th century, taking hours to die and involving complicated constructions until an eventual reaction against extravagance saw people wearing the ‘hedgehog’ style, a loose mass of curls for both men and women.
The Victorian era was puritanical and involved modest hairstyles. Men kept their hair short and dressed with oil. A lot of men would have a moustache and beard, and sometimes sideburns.
The 1920’s saw a societal backlash against the puritanical Victorian era and many men began to wear their hair in stylish slick-backs. Sometimes the hair was parted in the centre. It was often worn with perfumed hair oils that would keep hair in place and looking shiny. Some African American men would wear their hair in the style known as the ‘conk’. The conk was a process that used lye to try and straighten out the natural texture of men’s hair.
Slicked-back, oiled hair was still the in thing for men in the 1940’s but film stars like Errol Flynn made thin moustaches cool as well.
Following World War II, old tradition and the family home came back into style and conservative fashion was back in a big way. Men would style their hair into a wet-looking curl, designed to look similar to the Afro look. This was a look that was popular with stars like James Dean and Elvis Presley. This look was usually combined with thick sideburns and a pompadour, a high, teased poof off hair combed off the forehead.
The Beatles were by far the greatest influencer on men’s hairstyles in the 1960’s. Their ‘mop tops’ revolutionised men’s hair styles and were a major break from the shorter, more conservative styles of previous decades. Long hair was back in style for men for the first time in a century. Social movements around black rights also saw African American men rejecting hairstyles like the conk and adopting more natural looks, like the afro, as a symbol of pride. The hippy culture made wild hair and long unruly beards popular for men. Styling products like oils and pomades were no longer in style.
The long hair styles continued into the 70’s. The decade saw most men wearing their hair ling and natural. Men wore a masculine, feathered style similar to the look populated by Farrah Fawcett at the time. The afro look remained popular and was even adopted by white men. A shorter, cropped style of it became popular over the course of the decade. Close to the end of the 70’s, the punk movement began to arise. Hair styles like Mohawks, spike hair-do’s, brightly dyed hair, shaved and tattooed scalp and facial piercings became the in thing.
The 1980’s saw the wet-look curl come back into style, sported by Michael Jackson whilst teenage boys sported spiked hairstyles and rats tails. Shaved heads and long, dyed hair also came into style. The preppy look became popular with some men, and so short hair came back into style in the middle-class.
The 1990’s was a diverse time in terms of beauty standards and hairstyles for men. The grunge movement and rock music made unruly hair popular, whilst some men favoured shaved heads or shorter styles.
Hair in the noughties was constantly changing. Influenced by boy bands and celebrities, middle part, longer styles were popular for a period of time. As were spiked styles and frosted tips. Men experimented with dying and bleaching their hair, these looks were popular on celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Brad Pitt. The long, unkempt of the 90’s gave way to shorter, preppier styles more in keeping with the rise of pop music.
Hair trends have shifted a great deal over the centuries. Modern day styles have seen men with a myriad of options for styling and cutting their hair. Recently, the man bun and longer styles have become stylish and accepted whilst on the shorter end of the spectrum, the shorter sides and top comb-over look has been persistently popular for a few years. Men are now more open to highlighting their hair and styling products like pomades, waxes and gels are used by many men. There has been a resurgence of the popularity of longer facial hair in recent years, with many men rocking longer beards. It will be interesting to see what the future holds in store for men’s hair.