We’ve been blessed with 4 gorgeous, brilliant granddaughters, and after raising only boys, I had no idea what was coming. Honestly, I had absolutely no knowledge that so much introspective and boundless chatting could be devoted to the subject of hair and nails. And these girls actually read books and maintain very good grades. ’Tis a puzzlement.
However, as you know by now, I love to learn the history of all things, however trivial, and so today I’m learning the history of hair styling. The nails will be another column.
Some of the earliest recorded hair issues began around 1500 BC. No mention of how it started, who or what made it begin, but begin it did. Did maybe someone idly carve a comb and then, not knowing what to do with it, absently drag it through his/her hair and had a Eureka!! moment? It could’ve happenedd
Anyway, it was somewhere in the Middle East back in the day when people began to be skilled at cutting, curling and dyeing hair. Even men. Especially men! The Assyrians cut hair in the shapes of pyramids and longer hair was made to curl by slaves using the first curling iron, a heated iron bar –ouch—and hair styling became an industry and avocation.
Hair began to be oiled, tinted and perfumed and even beards styled into shapes and ruffles by men of high rank. Women of a certain high position would strap on fancy fake beards so they could also look a cut above. Pretty weird.
Then came the Greeks who loved long curly hair and thought short, style-less hair was barbaric. They preferred to be described as “fragrant with divine hair,” those words apparently mentioned in Greek poetry and prose.
And then, those rascally Greeks decided that light colored hair was a sign of superiority and high station, so they learned how to lighten their hair by covering it with yellow pollen, yellow flour and even fine gold dust, after first washing it with harsh soaps and alkaline bleaches or special ointments. They then sat in the hot sun for hours to let nature take her course. Those Grecian dudes were some serious about their tresses and it’s been written their hair glowed with golden beauty. Those guys obviously had lots of free time on their hands I’d say, and while it’s not recorded, one does wonder if after all that rather harsh blonding routine there was a lot of baldness amongst the populace.
Speeding up to around 303 BC the clever Romans invented barbers and had lots of shops scattered about. They insisted on a well-groomed look and those with ill-kempt do’s were ostracized and even publicly insulted. It simply wasn’t done! Further, high ranking Romans sniffed at the Greeks blondness and favored dark and black hair. They also dyed their hair so those telling gray strands wouldn’t show. Oh, and to keep those grays away, they slept with their hair coated with a paste made of ground herbs and earthworms. Personally, I’d go with being gray.
It’s been written that Saxon men favored beards and head hair dyed either blue, orange, bright red or green.
The Brits were a bit more conservative when it came to hair color and mostly favored Queen Elizabeth’s red color, whispered in court it was a color “never made by nature.”
The French loved a large palette of colors but as Marie Antoinette took over High Society, hair began to be powdered, piled into huge, heavy mounds and powdered again.
I know if I tried to tell my beauteous granddaughters about all this I’d get the polite, glassy-eyed, “You do know I’m not actually listening, Grandma, right?” look, but they really should know that even with all their endless chatting about their hair and all the “work” they put into making themselves look as spectacular as possible, they have no idea how hard it was to do just a few thousand years back. But they don’t care, as long as it all ends up with our girls looking as gorgeous as they do today, and they definitely do. They can chat in perpetuum about the whole fascinating process, and life for them is delish!