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Boys' Hair Styles

medieval Italian boy's hair style
Figure 1.--This painting shows a hair style in Renisance Italy sometime before 1500. I'm not sure just how to categorize this tyle.
Special Note: Welcome to hair style section of our Historical Boys' Clothing (HBC) website. We hope you will find the information that we have collected on boys' hairstyles to be of interest. We note that the hair style section of HBC is one of the most heavily visited section of our website. This surprised us somewhat. Actually this hair style section was an after thought which we began only because hair styles are so strongly associated with some fashions. We have been disappointed in that few of the visitors to this section have stopped to provide us information or personal experiences that we can use to build and expand the section. Reader supplied information has made a major contribution in building the clothing sections of HBC and we had hoped that the same would be true of the hair style section. For some reason, howber, we rarely received such contributions for the hair style section, in sharp contrast to the clothing section. We urge you to contribute to the sight, even if only short comments and personal experiences such as the childhood hair cuts that you remember. We hope to keep the hair style section an open access part of HBC, but may reluctantly have to password protect it and only allow contributors to visit it.

Hair styles are not precisely clothing styles, of course, but because they are such an integral part of how boys looked and were dressed during the past 500 years, that we would be remiss in not briefly addressing the topic. Boys hair fashions have ranged even more significantly than their clothes and have varied from the long sausage curls of the 1880-90s to shaved heads in Germany in the early 20th century and the short crew cuts in the America of the 1950s. Long hair became popular again in the 1970s and early 1980s. Boys in the 1990s have been more free to select a style and length that suited them with no one style predominating. The long hair worn in the 1970s, however, is now rarely seen. One style popular in the 1990s has been shearing the head off at the neck giving a bowl-cut look.

HBC addresses the hair styles of boys and youth. Of course the subject of hair is much larger. Much of the scholarly work on hair and fashion has focused on adult's hair, especially women's hair styling. HBC will focus ob boys' hair, collecting available research as well as commentary from contemporary fashion magazines and other period sources. Please let HBC know if you come across any useful information or historical or literary references providing information on boys' hair styles.

Hair Styling

Hair can and has been for a variety of purposes styled and dressed in many different ways. Hair was styled for a variety of paractical reasons as well as personal adornment and to convey status. Hair sdstyling vcould be quite varried. The most common is arranging the hair, but other processes include cutting, curling, perfuming, bleaching, dyeing, powdering, waxing, plaiting, weaving, and anointing with oil. Various implements from a shaving balde to scissors have been used over time. To the list the modern blow dryer has to be added. False hair or a wig or headdress is another possibility, although more common for adults than boys. A number of adornments such as hairbows have also been employed.

Historical Background

Hair has absorbed humankind since the beginning of history. Cultures have often defined themselves by it. The Egyptians hated it. The Greeks loved it. The Persians curled it. Warring parties, the Whigs and Roundheads of the English Civil War have focus on their hair styles. Within cultures succeeding generations adopted new styles and conventions concerning hair length. One generation reviling in long hair might be followed by a generation committed to long hair. Americans came to associate long hair with protest and civil disobedience. In previous generations it was short hair that was seen as modern and progressive. Especially notable is the intensity of feeling concerning hair length. Text exceeding 2,000 years reveal Greek civic leaders railing against the "atrocious" hair of young people. In our modern day, war veterans question the patriotism and manliness of long -haired protestors. Long haired youth saw the attitude of parents and school officials as repressive and unreasonable.


Some key dates in the history of modern hair styling include the following. Some trends developed over long time periods. Other major developments can be traced to a specific event or person. It is interesting how hair so consistently in different eras inspired such passion, but how often how differently it was viewed at different times. I've just begun to compose this chronology. Please let me know if you can think of other important dates which ought to be considered here.

Gender Hair Styles

There are often substantial differences between hair styles of men and women and women. It is fair to say that adults, especially women, have more attention to hair styling than children. Nothing in history quite matched the elaborate hair styles pf 18th century aristocratic French women. Less attention is generally given to children's hair. Short and long styles is generally the major difference, probably because women are more concerned with their appearance. This is understandable -- because throughout history beauty was a primary determine of their future., much more so than men. And the long / short dichotomy generally began in childhood. Even when this dichotomy existed, here were often overlap between the longer styles of boys and shorter styles of girls. And at times short bobs were stylish for girls and long hair for boys. There were also age differences that blurred the standard dichotomy. Boys have worn quite diverse hair styles even in recent years, varying from shaved or clipped heads to elaborate ringlet curls. I have listed here the specific boys' hair styles with which I am familiar and a synopsis of the available information on those styles. Considerable information is available on some styles, but only limited information on other styles. Please let us know if you are aware of any others or have any childhood memories about your hair styles. HBC does not planned on going into great detail on girls' hair cuts. We at first were hopeful that some one would launch a sister site on girls historical clothing and styles. Assessing gender in old photographs, however, is such a difficult problem that we have concluded that some basic information about girls' hair styles, especially 19th century girls' styles would be useful. Just as you can not assume that children with long hair are girls, it is also true that you can not assume that children with short hair are girls. And knowing more about girls' hair styles helps in assessing old images for which the gender is not specified.

Family Trends

One interesting question is how family hair styles varied. Hair styles have varied considerably over time. What might be considered as a boys' style in one era might be a popular girls' style in another era. Girls for example commonly had center parts during much of the 19th century while today many boys like center parts. The gender conventions concerning hair length have also varied considerably over time. Ringlet curls were once worn by boys, but in other times was seen as a girlish style. As a result, using hair styles to differential gender in old photographs is not always easy. An analysis of family portraits can provide some useful information on these trends that are not possible through individual portraits. These family portraits offer very important information on both gender conventions and stlistic trends, especially in the 19th century when gender conventions were more amorphhous than is the case today. Here national differences are a complicating factor.

The Hair Cut

A boys first hair cut was once a major step in growing up. Baby hair was cut at home and varied substantially among boys. There was some difference of opinion among 19th century mothers as to when a boy's hair shold be cut, before or after he was breeched. This might occur anywhere from 3 to 5 years of age, although some boys wore long hair much longer. The first hair cut is no longer such a major event, but it still very important. A modern boy generally gets his first hair cut at about 2 years of age. The trip to the barber shop later became a monthly ritual. At first with his dad, armed with detailed instructions from mom, and then by himself as he begins to develop his own ideas about how his hair should be styled.

National Styling

Some boys hair styles are particularly associated with specifically associated with individual countries. Some styles are generic and worn in many countries. Long uncurled hair was worn by French boys while ringle curls were most common in America. Flats tops and crew cuts were once standard American styles. German boys once commonly had closed cropped hair. I'm not sure if Dutch boys bangs was once a common Dutch style, but presumably it was.

School Hair Styles

Just like uniform and other school hair styles, hair styles have also changed over time. We have seen school hair styles from close cropped hair to long shoulder-length styles. And school photographs are a good way of following these changes. This is complicated somewhat by the fact that msny schools have had very strict hair style regulations or attempted to regulate hair styles. In part this was a public health issue, but with improving sanitaion standards it by the mid-20th century was essentially a fashion matter. With teenagers attempting to make a statement and schools tending to insist on conservative hair styles. At schools with uniform, hair styles were the only fashion stateement pupils can make, other than wearing the uniform slovenly. But uniform schools tended to be stricter about hair styling. Other schools have had only general dress code regulations. Many schools leave it entirely up to the children and parents. We note wide variations in styles and school rules over time. Often educational philopsophy is more important here than fashion. There are also significant differences among countries. Currently we only have a page on Russian girls, but this is a section that we hope to expand. Hopefully readers will provide some insights on this topic with descriptions of their experiences.

Religious Connotations

The religious significance of hair is seen in tonsure of Christian monks and the shaved heads of Buddhist monks, indicating renunciation of the world, and in the single long lock on the shaved heads of Nluslim men, by which, they believed, Allah would pull them up to heaven. In 17th century England, both politics and religion were pro fessed by the long curling locks of the Royalist Anglican Cavaliers and the cropped hair of the Parliamentarian Puritan Roundheads.

Social Class

Fashionable hair styles were once generally limited to the upper classes, and the dictates of fashion were relatively rigid. The clothes and grooming of children reflected on the family's status. The new found rich in America and Europe in the late 19th century souught tonconvet their new status with elaborate clothing and hair styles. In the 20th century with the general increase in wealth, the improvement in mass communication, and the trend toward informality and individualism, women (and men) in all classes can choose the style and color of their own hair, or of a wig, that best suit their needs and tastes.

Hair Styling Implements

We do not have a great deal of information on hair styling implements yet. The basic item is scissors. They were invented in the 14th century. We are not entirely sure how common they were, but you might think that most families no matter how poor would have scissors. Otherwise a boy would have to go to the barber which would have been more expensive. Many mothers cut their children's hair. By the 20th century many mothers had clippers. Some other equipment was needed, especially for fancy styles like ringlet curls. Here hair rollers and heating irons might be used. These items were more for girl's hair except for the late 19th and early 20th century when quite a number of boys had fancy hair styles. Bobby pins or flat spting-like metal pins appeared in the 20h century. The term appeared in the early 1930s, although I am not precisely sure this is when the pins themselves appeared. The term derived from their use with bobbed (short cut) hair styles.

Adult Styling

While HBC focuses on boys' styles, some historical information on hair styles provides some interesting background information for the boy's styles discussed in more detail.


The lack of beards on soldiers has a very ancient tradition. It was reportedly first introduced by Alexander the Great. It was to prevent an enemy soldier from grabbing the hair, lifting the head and slicing ones throat. The US military still forbids any facial hari except for the US Navy submerine service. Little chance for hand to beard combat there.


Tonsure was not a hair style but a lack of hair. It was taken by a monk as a sign of his devotion and that the Holy Spirit had direct access to him. The Eastern and Western church developed different styles. So whatever hair grew on his head, wasn't the tonsure but just the opposite. It is no longer practiced by monastic groups.

Important Hair Sites

HBC has noted several valuable sites dealing with hair abd hair styles. We will, however, only list sites which have information about children's hair styling. Please let us know if you find an interesting site that should be listed.

Hair Boutique

Hair Botique is an interestng site with a gallery of hair styles, including many children's styles. There are also forums on hair styles.


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Created: March 5, 1998
Last updated: 1:39 AM 5/17/2006