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A Cultural History of Hair

6 Volumes

      Hair, or lack of it, is one the most significant identifiers of individuals in any society. In Antiquity, the power of hair to send a series of social messages was no different. This volume covers nearly a thousand years of history, from Archaic Greece to the end of the Roman Empire, concentrating on what is now Europe, North Africa, and the Near East. Among the key issues identified by its authors is the recognition that in any given society male and female hair tend to be opposites (when male hair is generally short, women’s is long); that hair is a marker of age and stage of life (children and young people have longer, less confined hairstyles; adult hair is far more controlled); hair can be used to identify the “other” in terms of race and ethnicity, but also those who stand outside social norms such as witches and mad women.

      The chapters in A Cultural History of Hair in Antiquity cover the following topics: religion and ritualized belief, self and society, fashion and adornment, production and practice, health and hygiene, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, class and social status, and cultural representations.

      The Middle Ages were a time of great innovation, artistic vigor, and cultural richness. Appearances mattered a great deal during this vibrant era and hair was a key marker of the dynamism and sophistication of the period. Hair became ever more central to religious iconography, from Mary Magdalen to the Virgin Mary, while vernacular poets embellished their verses with descriptions of hairstyles both humble and elaborate, and merchants imported the finest hair products from great distances.

      Drawing on a wealth of visual, textual, and object sources, the volume examines how hairstyles and their representations developed—often to a degree of dazzling complexity—between the years AD 800 and AD 1450. From wimpled matrons and tonsured monks to adorned noblewomen, hair is revealed as a potent cultural symbol of gender, age, sexuality, health, class, and race.

      Illustrated with approximately 80 images, A Cultural History of Hair in the Middle Ages brings together leading scholars to present an overview of the period with essays on politics, science, religion, fashion, beauty, the visual arts, and popular culture.

      In the period 1450 to 1650 in Europe, hair was braided, curled, shaped, cut, colored, covered, decorated, supplemented, removed, and reused in magic, courtship, and art, amongst other things. On the body, Renaissance men and women often considered hair a signifier of order and civility. Hair style and the head coverings worn by many throughout the period marked not only the wearer’s engagement with fashion, but also moral, religious, social, and political beliefs. Hair established individuals’ positions in the period’s social hierarchy and signified class, gender, and racial identities, as well as distinctions of age and marital and professional status. Such a meaningful part of the body, however, could also be disorderly, when it grew where it wasn’t supposed to or transgressed the body’s boundaries by being wild, uncovered, unpinned, or uncut. A natural material with cultural import, hair weaves together the Renaissance histories of fashion, politics, religion, gender, science, medicine, art, literature, and material culture.

      A necessarily interdisciplinary study, A Cultural History of Hair in the Renaissance explores the multiple meanings of hair, as well as the ideas and practices it inspired. Separate chapters contemplate religion and ritualized belief, self and society, fashion and adornment, production and practice, health and hygiene, sexuality and gender, race and ethnicity, class and social status, and cultural representations.

      A Cultural History of Hair in the Age of Enlightenment

      Volume 4

      Editor(s):

      Margaret K. Powell, Joseph Roach

      The Enlightenment was the Golden Age of hair. Hair dominated fashion as never before or since, with more men and women than ever donning elaborate wigs and hairdos. Such unprecedentedly extravagant styling naturally increased the demand for professional hairdressers, who in turn created a new range of hair-care products and a new literature of hair-care advice.

      This volume offers a record of their marketing success, mindful that the ultimate product of this culture of consumption was the consumer. Literary and visual arts celebrated the ambitious coifs of the period, but they also lampooned the most fashionable in society. By exploring paintings, prints, plays, poems, novels, treatises, and advice manuals, the contributors to this volume show how hair in this period expanded beyond the fashionable and the superstitious, and became newly understood as material, inspiring empirical research and powering applications such as in the woollen goods industry.

      The essays in this volume—covering religion and ritualized Belief, self and society, fashion and adornment, production and practice, health and hygiene, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, class and social status, and cultural representations—explore hair’s many meanings and its importance during the Enlightenment period.

      19th and early 20th-century hair appears to be everywhere when you start to look, from the abundant locks of the pre-Raphaelites to the myriad objects on show at the Great Exhibitions. The latter, hosted at venues such as the Crystal Palace, hinted at the level of global trade in hair economies, from hair harvest, hairpieces, and hairwork to commodities for styling and adornment. It was a period when hair became fetishized in all sorts of ways, from fashioning hair to moralizing constriction, from suggestions of sexuality in abundant free-flowing locks to intricate hair-incorporating jewellery which offered spiritual connections to the dead. In a period of increasing globalization and associated anxieties, hair came to express identity not just for the individual but for different cultures. Perhaps inevitably, hair itself became a contested site of signification whether as the strands of the diaspora, the cut locks of the underclass, or the coiffures of the court.

      A Cultural History of Hair in the Age of Empire presents an overview of the tangled tresses of hair in this period, with essays covering: religion and ritualized belief; self and society; fashion and adornment; production and practice; health and hygiene; gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; class and social status and cultural representations.

      A Cultural History of Hair in the Modern Age

      Volume 6

      Editor(s):

      Geraldine Biddle-Perry

      Over the last century, there has been a revolution in self-presentation and social attitudes towards hair. Developments in mass manufacturing, advances in chemical science, and new understandings of bodies and minds have been embraced by new kinds of hairdressers and their clientele and embodied in styles that reflect shifting ideals of what it is to be and to look modern.

      The emergence of the ladies’ hairdressing salon, the rise of the celebrity stylist, the impact of Hollywood, an expanding mass media, and a new synergy between fashions in clothing and hairstyles have rippled out globally. Fashions in hair styles and their representation have taken on new meanings as a way of resisting dominant social structures, experimenting with social taboos, and expressing a modern sense of self. From the 1920s bob to the punk cut, hair has continued to be deeply involved in society’s larger issues.

      Drawing on a wealth of visual, textual, and object sources, and illustrated with 75 images, A Cultural History of Hair in the Modern Age presents essays that explore how politics, science, religion, fashion, beauty, the visual arts, and popular culture have reshaped modern hair and its significance as an agent of social change.