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Nineteenth-Century Headwear

Nineteenth-Century Headwear

Over the course of the nineteenth century hairstyles and headwear changed quite dramatically from the styles of the previous century. At the beginning of the century, both men and women fashioned their hair in styles like those worn in ancient Greece and Rome. Women wore the Titus cut popularized at the end of the eighteenth century and in a variety of braided styles. Men clipped their hair short and brushed it forward from the crown over the forehead in a style similar to those worn by ancient Greeks and Romans. Over the years, however, men and women created the unique styles for which the nineteenth century is now remembered: men's sideburns and women's ornate topknots, or piles of hair on top of the head.

At the beginning of the century, men, especially young men, clipped off their love-locks and pigtails to create very short hairstyles that they combed forward over their foreheads. Throughout the century men continued to wear short hair. The variety of styles they chose were distinguished by the middle, side, or lack of a part and the type of face whiskers they wore.

Women's styles concentrated on variations of a topknot with hair framing the face at the temples. At the beginning of the century, women abandoned their huge powdered wigs to twist their hair into Apollo knots and adorn their heads with Greek inspired wreaths, sphendone, jeweled ornaments, flowers, and strands of pearls. As the century progressed, women's hair continued to be worn swept on top of the head, but the styles became more ornate. Their hair was greased, braided, and twisted into elaborate knots with curled or frizzed hair at the sides. To appear properly groomed and to keep proper care of the hair, women commonly styled their hair twice a day, even if only to put it back into the same shape. Women's hairstyles had become so elaborate by the end of the century that hair was supported with pads and wire, and wigs were back in demand. These elaborate styles provided many poor women with needed money, as they cut their hair and sold it to wigmakers.

The distinct styles of men and women were not worn by children. Small children wore their hair in loose curls with a side part. It was often difficult to tell boys from girls. However, by the teen years girls wore their hair longer and braided it, while boys generally wore their hair loose and shorter.

Both men and women dressed their hair with Macassar oil or perfumed grease. The oil made the hair smell good and kept it in place. One recipe for homemade hair pomade, or perfumed ointment, combined one part lard to five parts strongly scented flowers.

Atop their carefully styled hair both men and women wore a variety of hats. The top hat became an essential accessory for men, and women donned a number of different styles, from tiny bonnets to huge floppy Gainsborough chapeaus, or no hat at all when their hair was decorated with a variety of ornaments from simple flowers to expensive jeweled combs.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

Apollo Knot
Deerstalker Cap
Gainsborough Chapeau
Spoon Bonnets
Top Hat

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