STYLING VOL. VII – A BRIEF COMMENTARY ON THE HISTORY OF ROME…AN (AND EGYPTIAN) HAIRSTYLES

Sorry for the long-winded title…I’ve been feeling intellectually inferior lately on account of cardiology.

So as some of you may know, I was recruited to be the hair stylist for our school play, ‘Antony & Cleopatra.’ For this production, I had to do a little digging into the annals of history to replicate ancient hairstyles.

But before I get to Egyptian and Roman hair, let’s throw it back all the way to the beginning shall we? Unfortunately, my searches weren’t terribly fruitful, but it was still loads of fun.

For example, when I searched for Ice Age hair, I got this gem:

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Luckily, all was not lost. If you take a look at ancient sculptures, you can see what people did with their hair back in the day.

WARNING: the following image contains a statue of a fairly voluptuous woman in a state of undress

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Some of you may recognize this as Venus of Willendorf, one of very few surviving humanoid sculptures from the paleolithic era. As you can see, the figure has what appear to be braids or just really curly hair wrapped about her head. Could this be the earliest evidence of hair styling? Who knows.

Most pictures I found after this just showed cavemen with shaggy, unkempt hair…typical.

Anyways, let’s get back to the main topic. Fast forward a couple thousand years to ancient Egypt. Many of us probably have this image of ancient Egyptians with hair similar to these images:

If these paintings are to be believed, the Egyptians (at least the royals anyway) were pretty stylish. Turns out, some Egyptians wore wigs and EVEN STYLED THEIR HAIR WITH PRODUCT. Yeah, you read that right. They used oils and fats from plants and animals to achieve different styles. Apparently the ancients adjusted their mummification processes to preserve hairstyles! Archaeologists have even found mummies with gelled back hair.

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An Egyptian wig

Using the science of deduction, we can surmise that hair was an important aspect of one’s appearance, much as it is today.

For ‘Antony & Cleopatra,’ I had to do my best to replicate women’s hairstyles from the period, and here are some samples of what I was able to create:

Cleopatra’s hair was a bit of a challenge. Many depictions of her both in popular media and Egyptian engravings show her with shorter hair. Our star had hair that was quite long, so we had to braid her hair and fold the braids back on themselves to achieve the shoulder-length style seen here.

Now let’s move on to the Romans!

Judging from all the busts from the Roman era, curly/wavy hair was really in.

According to historians, hair was a very erotic feature….so many women (especially married ones) covered their hair with veil-like contraptions.

Well for the play, I didn’t want my work covered up. What would be the point? So I decided to go all out for Octavia’s (the wife of Octavius Caesar) hair, and sadly she was the only Roman head of hair I got to work with. The rest of the Romans were servants or other roles which didn’t need styling. Here are a couple pictures of Octavia’s do:

As you can see, I kind of combined all three hairstyles from the above pictures.

All in all, this was a great experience. I’ve always loved history, and now I’ve had the chance to look at the past through a completely different lens. It’s amazing how much one can learn about a culture just from looking at how they styled their hair.

That’ll be it for today! I’ll see you all tomorrow with a blowdrying tutorial.

Stay Shuai,
Cam

 

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