LWPR’s Rachael Gibson launched popular Instagram account, the Hair Historian, two years ago to celebrate the diversity of hair in art over the centuries. She talks us through five looks she loves throughout time!
Art can provide hairstylists with a more interesting source of inspiration for their work, and it’s also always fascinating to see how timeless trends are. Most ideas that we think of as new or unique to our generation have been done before, often hundreds of years ago! It goes to show that trends have always been important for hairdressers, and often it’s just the techniques and products that have had a modern upgrade.
1. Portrait of Two Young Girls in White Dresses and Flowers in their Hair, 1831, Johann Nepomuk Ender
These two elegant women are wearing a hairstyle called the Apollo Knot; a look that was very popular in the 1820s and 30s. It reflects the trend for Grecian style, which was very much the fashion of the day. Composed of a bun surrounded by tight rolls of curls, the style was often decorated with combs and jewels for a more elaborate finish.
2. The Artist’s Wife, 1439, Jan Van Eyck
This unusual horned style – often referred to as Cornettes – was a short-lived trend, believed to have started in Venetian society. Women were reported to wear their hair braided and twisted in horns, sometimes up to 6” in height. As well as providing an unusual look, wearing hair like this also provided a base for the veils and head coverings which were worn at the time.
3. Saint Justina of Padua, 1490, Bartolomeo Montagna
While hair accessories are currently a huge trend, they are by no means a new concept. People have been decorating their hair with combs, jewels, fabric and pins since time began. This image from the 15th century features a ponytail, decorated with bows in jewels in a style that feels fresh, modern and entirely desirable today.
4. Unknown, 1784, John Smart
Pastel hair is another current trend that has its roots in a previous century. Hair powder was a precursor to our modern dry shampoo, and was important in a time when running water and shampoo were non-existent. Hair powder was available in all sorts of colours, including pink, lilac and blue and was used to create a temporary colour change for exactly the same reasons that people colour their hair today – for fashion, fun and a desire for something different.
5. Woman Combing Her Hair, 1889, Louis Anquetin
Up until well into the 20th century, it was extremely rare to see women with their hair down. In polite society, women grew their hair long and then wore it up after puberty. The only person that was allowed to see them with their hair down would be their husband or close female family and friends. The popularity of paintings showing women combing or dressing their loose hair provides a glimpse into the private world of a woman’s boudoir, and were considered fairly racy.