Ringlet Curls: Hair Parts

Figure 1.--One of the problems in assessing boys' ringlet curls is that in many images it is difficult to identify a child's gender. Notice that this child's bangs between the side parted hair is itself parted at the center.

Most boys whose mothers styled their hair in ringlet curls generally were given distinct parts. This was the most common way of dealing with a boys hair when it was curled. The parts were usually center parts, but side parts also existed.

I'm not sure if the side or center pats had any significance as to gender, or at least if they were more common for boys or girls. One might have been used more for girls than for boys, but I am not sure about this. Available family images show the whole family in late 19th Center America with center parts, so it does not appear to have been a major factor.

The part was a major stylistic feathure of a boys hair with ringlet curls. This probably is related to forming the curls. The easiest way is to sinply comb the hair down from a central part. A side part would complicate this as more hair would be available on one side and it would vary the lengths of strands to be curled. The poor boy might look a bit lopsided.

Type of Parts

Children with curls had been varied types of parts. Some were simple center or side pants. Some center parts at front bang like fringes. Many hair styling with curls had front bangs. Some side parts had special little florishes with curled bangs or even ringlets worked into the bangs.

Center part

The center part is clearly a dominate feature in hair styles with ringlet curls. Some images are not clear enough to tell. But many images show a center part beginning at the forehead with out any fringe pr bangs. Both girls and boys wearing ringlet curls commonly had this center part.

Figure 2.--The six children in this family all have center parts, including the younger child in ringlet curls, who I believe is a boy, on his father's lap. Notice they all wear the center part beginning at their fireheads.

The center part in the nid-19th Century was a style primarily for girls as boys did not commonly wear long hair. While it was mostly worn by girls. Little boys still in dresses and curls might have center parts like their sisters. This began to change in the latter half of the 19th Century. The style was gradually being adopted by boys and young men. I do not recall seeing boys in the first half of the 19th Century wearing center hair parts, although girls and women often did. This changed in the 1880s when boys with ringlet curls were given center parts. The center part was convenient for mothers of boys whose hair was done in ringlet curls.

Center parts were not generally worn by men. After the turn of the century men did wear center parts. This was, however, rather unusual in the 19th Century.

Figure 3.--Note the long ringlet curls on this older American boy which his mother has lovingly laid on his lace collar so they would be clearly visible. Note the boy's ceter part beginning at his forehead.

Comparing boys' and girls' center parts, those of the girls appear ti have been more severe. This may have been due to the need to pull the hair down to the sides in order to curl it or otherwise style it. The boys hair, on the other hand just needed to be curled. The center part of boys in ringlets is mich like that of girls, rather than the center parts of boys wearing short hair.

Figure 4.--This American boy in an elegant Little Fauntleroy suit sports a full head of ringlet curls. Notice the center part with front fringe.

Center part with fringe

Some ringlet curl hair styles had a front fringe so that the center part does not begin at the forehead. Apparently some mothers did not like the simple center part which is the easiest way of doing ringlet curls. This front fringe could take on different forms. Imaginative mothers had a host of different ways to deal with the hair at the front. In some instances it was allowed to fall on the forehead without ant additional styling. Some mothers, as explained below, elaborated on front bangs by curling or waving the front fringe.

Figure 5.--Scandadanavian boys also wore long ringlet curls at the turn of the century. This Swedish boy is Dag Hammarskjold, the future United Nations Secretary General. He wears a hair bow, a feature rarely seen on American boys. Note the destinctive side part.

Front bangs

Other boys had full front bangs with ringlet curls. I assume there is center part behind the front bangs. It is often difficult to see the part from the way the photograph is taken. The front bangs and center part were one of the most common ways of forming ringlet curls. These were much more common than the side part. The advantage was that it made it easier to form ringlets of the same length on both sides.

Basic side part

Although less common, some boys wearing ringlet curls had side parts. While less common, some boys did wear this style. It required more creativity on the mothers part as the curls would this fall differently and would not be the same length on each side.

Side parts were often associated with the fancier hair styles for boys. many of these probably occurred after the turn of the century. While ringlet curls for boys declined in the 1910s, some fanciful styles appeared for boys who still wore ringlet curls. Boys wearing ringle curls in the 19th Century appear to have worn more straight forward styles withe the ringlets being the primary feature.

I am not sure wether there was any significance to which side was parted. Presumably left parts were the most common. Left parts are generally preferred for right-handed people. At the time left-handed children were incoraged, sometimes with great severity, to become right handed.

Circular part

One popular part for ringlet curls was front bangs with a circular part moving forward with a left and right side part. The hair was combed down from both sides and the back and formed into ringlets. This style could be worn with and without bangs. Other than forming bangs, I'm not sure what the advantage of a circular part was over the center part. As not all boys wore bangs with style, I'm not sure why irt was chosen over a center part. By using a circular part there was somewhat less hair available for forming ringlets.

Figure 6--This mother has formed a small front ringlet instead of bangs with a side part. The ringlet had to be short as only the front bang hair was available to form it.

Curled or waved bangs

Some mothers instead of having plain bangs at the front, in keeping with the ringlet curls added a wave to the bangs. Like some of the other styles this was not the most common, in part because of the work in caring for it.

Side part with front ringlet

Other mothers instead of having plain front bangs, added a side part and then formed a small front ringlet instead of bangs. This was one of the rarer style, because considerable work was necessary to keep this style looking nice on an active boy. The front ringlet itself had to be short as only the front bang hair was available to use for forming it.

Fashion Cycles

Hair styles go through distincr cycles. Thay can thus be used to date photographs if a full understanding of hair style trends are available. Thus this is one of the projects I hope to pursue. It is not just a simple time line that is needed here because the time line for boys and girls may have been different.

Country Differences

Another interesting factor which needs to be considered is differences between countries. Many of the images currently available to HBC are American images. I do not know if fashion trends varied in Europe or followed a different time line. Such fluctuations, however, need to be considered in assessing these images.

Figure 7.--Although unusual for the 1910s, noted American author Thomas Wolfe's mother insisted on long ringlet curls. Mercifully an Uncle took him at 9 years of age to the barber for a hair cut. It is hard to tell, but there appears ton be a center part.

Christopher Wagner


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Created: April 24, 1999
Last edited: August 20, 1999