Hairstyles Of The Past And Their Meanings

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Hairstyles Of The Past And Their Meanings

Throughout the ages, hairstyles have played a significant role in social status, special occasions, historical time periods and showing your membership in a tribe. Look at the paintings from a certain time period and you are able to see just how they wore their hair back in those days. Women have used their hair as an accessory almost since time began.

As a matter of fact, there is a scripture in the bible that states that a woman’s hair is her crown and glory. Therefore hair is very important in almost every culture, especially on special occasions like a wedding.

Africa And Egypt

There are many different tribes in Africa all with various types of hairstyles that represent their social status. The Mangbetu women had a very complex hairstyle where they would take small segments of hair at a time and weave them into a cone shaped basket, with it flared at the top and have it decorated with long bone needles. The Maasai people would all shave their heads unless you were a warrior, then you would have the front part of your hair in braids and while the back part would grow as long as their waist. Other tribes may wear a headscarf that was decorated with leafs, while others would dye their hair with grease and red earth.

The Egyptians paid great attention to beauty and their hair was very important to them. Most the Egyptians would keep their heads shaved because of the heat and lice, so if you were a wealthy Egyptian you would have a variety of wigs and hair extensions. Women’s wigs were usually long and braided with gold ornaments and ivory hairpins. For the children, their hair was shaved but usually a small section of hair was left long on one side of the head.

Medieval and Mesoamerica Periods

In the Medieval time period, upper class women and men would wear their hair in loose curls. In addition, women would occasionally attach gold balls at the end of their hair for decoration, while the lower class would go with hair shorter and undecorated.

Veil bonnets and hats became popular once the church declared that women who were married should cover their hair, therefore the noble women would wear flat bonnets or gold threads and ribbons in their hair. During this time women would wear cone shaped hats with a veil. Large foreheads on women were considered a beautiful aspect of women; therefore many women would shave their hairline to make their forehead appear bigger. Then they would decorate it with headbands that had pearls and stones.

The married Aztec women would usually wear their hair up in two sections that appeared to look like horns, while the younger, unmarried girls would wear their hair long and straight. The Inca women would have short hair with black headbands and the Mayan royalty would have their heads shaved, but would wear very elaborate head pieces that were very high.


Many women of Greece would dye their hair with red henna followed by the sprinkling of gold powder in their hair, along with decorating it with fresh flowers. Later the hairstyles would become a lot more ornate as they began to curl their hair and have it high on the top of their head, sometimes using wired frames. Women would decorate their hair this way to show off their marital status.

The classical period hairstyles were represented by the women wearing their hair long, but if they were in mourning they would cut it short. In the event you were a slave, your hair was also kept short. After the fifth century you could wear your hair in a number of ways with the use of scarves, headbands and buns. The Hellenistic Era had their hair often made to be curly or wavy, while the man’s hair was either kept short or shaved.

There have been many different hairstyles throughout history and with the different cultures around the world. As of present day, hairstyles may not represent the same meaning they had back then, but our hair still plays a big part in how we are seen by others. While we do not have some of the elaborate hairstyles that they wore back then on an everyday basis, we do however on our wedding day have more of an elaborate hairstyle. Throughout time hairstyles have changed extensively and in most places in the world women can do their hair anyway they want. No doubt hairstyles will continue to change and evolve.

Maui Wedding Photographer- Nicole Sanchez
Behind The Lens Maui
808 205-2366