Boys' Hair Styles: France

Figure 1.--Here we see two little French boys: Jean and Andre Saggi. The boys are wearing tunic suits with long curly hair. The older boy hair is parted in the middle and held off his face with twin white hair bows. The younger boy has blond hair, which is parted on the side and held in place with a white hair bow. Both boys have toy horses, which were probably supplied by the photographer as props. The photographer was Photographie A. Werner, La Chaux-Fonds. The portrait is undated, but we would guess was taken in the 1890s. Image courtesy of the RG collection.

French boys have worn a wide variety of hair syles over time. Many are the same styles commonly worn in other Eropean countries. Others were destinctive to France or more pronounced in France. Our information on France is still limited. We notice boys with cropped hair in the late-19th century. We see quite a fewe school-age children with very short hair. A few younger boys from fashionable families had long hair. Ringlet curls were not as common in France as America, but we see quite a few boys with uncurled or less tightly curled hair. HBC has collected the following information about boys' hair styling in France.


Bangs have been worn in France, but do not appear as popular as in America or England. Bangs in France were wirn by both boys and girls. Some French mothers did not do their younger sons hair in bangs because it would have been difficult to do a "choupette" once the hair was cut in bangs. The bangs cut has always existed in France, but usually for a realitively small minority of boys. Bangs reportedly became very popular in France during the 1920s when the boys' hair becam shorter. It was also became popular in the 1970s after the 1968 Paris student riots. In the 2000s bangs are a style mostly worn by very young boys. A similar, but some what different style is the "coupe anglaise" (English cut) which can seen on the boys 4-14 years old. We note a post vcard from the 1920s showing a French boy wearing bangs.

Bowl Cut

As in America and other countries, some mothers used a kitchen bowl to cut theor son's hair, thus the name of the cut. In French it is "coupe au bol". This was especially common in rural areas or for families that could not afford barber fees. Interesting this look has become rather fashionalble as is in France more commonly called "coupe anglaise" (the English cut). Thios term is not used in America, England, or other country with which UBC is familiar.


French boys have not worn curls as commonly as boys in seberal other countries, including America. HBC has noted, however, one curled hair style. A French reader describes a "coiffure de garçonnet avec une choupette". He reports that it was was common from the 1930s and early 50s with mothers who wanted to make a younger boy look nice and he himself wore such hair styles. He indicates that choupette was a familiar name. It consist as a big curl of hair placed in the the middle of the head. The vogue was quite common for boys in affluent families and to make boys look alike "enfants modèles" (model children). Boys might keep a "bigoudi" or a "barette" in their hair. The word choupette today is only understood by the older people. Young people in France today don't today know exactly what it means, but recognize it as something associated with hair styling.

Cropped Hair

We notice many late-19th and early-20th century images of French boys with cropped hair. It does not seem to have been as common as in Germany, but we see quite a few such images. We have, however, little information on this style in France. We note cropped hair in many Europen countries. )Interestingly, these cropped styles were much less common in America and Britain.) We are not sure why these style were so common. Fathers my have liked them, but we doubt that they appealed to mothers. We suspect that some schools may have promoted them for health reasons. They had a military look. We note that the French after the loss to the Germans in the Franco-Prissuan war introducd military stles in schools. This was part of a larger policy to build paritism and military vigor in French schools. But of course cropped hair was not just a French style. So cropped hair was mot just an outcome of the war, although it could have been a contrinuting influence. The whole issue of cropped hair is one tht we have not yet pursued in detail. We are not entirely sure what the causes for cropped hair was and the chronological trends. We are not yet sure to what extent French boys had cropped hsir in the early-20th century. Hopefully our French readers will be able to provide some insights/

English Cut

The English cut, or "coupe anglaise", according to a French reader, gives a boy the look of good family. ("Un air de bonne famille.") This style by the early 1990s was very popular throughout France. At first in was mostly found on boys from affluent, fashion concious mothers, those mothers that were especially concerned with how a boy looked. Today this cut is even more opular and has lees social connotayions. A HBC reader reports, "The "coupe anglaise" is popular over a wide range of social classes." She adds, "Boys up to about 16 years wear the cut "anglaise." This style consists of rather long hair on the top of the head and very short below around the head. Very similar to the "coupe au bol" (bowl cut). Americans call this style an "undercut". I am not sure what it is called in Britain. A French reader writes, "A hair style fashionable in 2003 among the boys of the attentive familly is " la coupe anglaise " ( English hair cut ). In my time during the 1950s we described a similar cut as " la coupe au bol ". It is not far of the bang , but with two levels. The top is long and the bottom is short."

Hair Bows

Perhaps the long hair worn by French boys during the late 19th century was often not curled into ringlets. Hair bows appear to have been more common in France than in other countries. We are not sure when French mothers began using hair bows for their sons. We have observed this as a relatively common style through the early 20th century, but much less common after World war I (1914-18). In France, hair bows were generally associated with long uncurled hair, unlike America where it was most commonly used with ringlets. The hair bows were reportedly used to keep the uncurled hair in place. The hair bows we have noted, however, look more like they were decorative than fulfilling this practical purpose. Hair bows were often part of a fancy attire such as a dress or Fauntleroy suit, or tunic outfit. This suggests that the style was most common with affluent families. This is probably true, just from the practical aspect that it these outfits wre expensive. HBC notes, however, that long uncurled hair was much less expensive to maintain than ringlets. Thus it was manageable for mothers with more circumstances. HBC has noted French boys with long hair and hair bowes wearing rather plain outfits.

Long Hair

Long hair was worn by French boys. we see boys both with curled and uncurled long hair. Ringlet curls seem much less common in France than in Britain and America. The ringlets that were commonly worn by American boys with long hair were much less common in France. As a result, the long hair worn by French boys often looks unkept. Long hair became popular, even for older boys, during the late 1860s. As in other countries declined in popularity after the turn of the 20th century, especially after World War I (1914-18). Even so, we do see some French boys with long hair after the War. This was mostly boys before they began school. This seems more common in France than many other countries. Styles were quite varried. We note boys with long uncurled hair at the sides, but elabortely done hair on the top of the head. Here the top might be done in choupette.


While long ringlets for boys were not as popular in France as in other countries, some boys dod wear them. They were know as "Anglaises" (coiffure des cheveuxthe) or "English-style curled hair. This was a very commonly used word before 1980, but a French reader tells us that it is a bit forgoten to day. HBC has only limited information on the extent to which French boys wore ringlet curls. Unlike late 19th and early 20th century American photographs, similarly dated French photographs tend to show few boys wearing ringlets. A more common French styled appears to have been uncurled hair held in place with hair bows. HBC has, however, very limited written documentation on this subject. We do know that by the 1940s that a kind of shortened curled style, the choupette, was popular for younger boys. Girls at this time wore long ringlets, but boys did wear ringlets, but instead the choupette.

Short Hair

French boys in the mid-19th century wore hair that usually showed their ears, but was not cut short at the side. Some boys worelonger styles. French boys of school age have generally worn short hair since the late 19th century. Around the turn of the 20th century we have even noted school children with short cropped hair. This seems especially associated with schoolwear. Post cards at the time showed many boys with longer hair. Probably some well dressed boys from affluent families wofre longer hair styles, but we believe that short hair was much more common for most school-age boys in France. Short hair was the dominate style after World War I and continued so until the late 1960s. The cut was not the extrenmely short cropped style sometimes worn in the early 20th century. Shorter styles returned in the 1980s. By the late 1990s extremely short hair cuts had become very stylish for school age boys.


French mothers liked to style the hair of their younger school-age boys (6-10 years old) with a wavy hair style (" cran "). Some boys had naturally wavy hair. Most did not, so for the wavy affect, mothers woulf put a boy's hair in rollers (" bigoudis ") over night. One of the several meanings of the word "crimp" in English is "to make wavy" and is used in connection with hair and the naturaly waviness of wool fibers. A French reader reports that teenagers were also found of the wavy look, "especialy for going ro a party or a ceremony. This wavy hairstyle necessitated relatively long hair. Ir could not be achieved with a short cut. It also was not an easy style to accomplish. A French reader tells us in fact, "It was quite difficult to do. We are not sure when this style became popular for boys. One report suggests it was especially popular in the 1930s.


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Created: 12:15 AM 9/23/2004
Last edited: 10:57 PM 11/26/2014