Figure 1.--Occasional images show bangs being worn in the 1870s and 80s. The relatively limited number of such images, however, suggest that it was not a popular style for boys.

Bangs

A popular hair style for children has been bangs. Bangs are a hair cut with a fringe, usually cut straight, over the forehead. Th British termis 'fringe'. The popularity of bangs has varies from time to time. Styles have varied as well as the view of bangs as either a style for boys or girls. Bangs were popular at the turn of the centurt, but then began to be viewed as more of a girls hair cut. Since the Beattles in the 1960s they have been seen more as a boys' cut and are sometimes worn by even high schoolage boys. We notice varuioys different bangs styles.

Chronology

I am not sure just when this hair style first appeared. I have noted boys earing bangs as early as the 1870s. Based on the relatively limited number of images, however, it would seem that bangs were not very popular for boys from affluent families until the turn of the century. This may, however, be somewhat misleading. I think farm boys throughout the country had their hair cut by their mothers. One common method was to use a bowl to cut a straight line. This led in effect to bangs at the front. These boys in the 19th Century, however, were probably less likely to have their hair cut. Doting Victorian and Edwardian mothers kept their treasured sons in dresses and long curls. As the 19th century passed boys were less frequently kept in dresses and their hair was cut earlier. It was about this time that front bangs began to appear on boys. The bangs I have noted which appeared at about the turn of the century also had longer hair left over the ear at the side. I am not sure why bangs began to appear at this time or who promoted the fashion. Perhaps the so called bowl-cut of low-income families had some impact in popularizing bangs. Using a bowl a boys hair could be evenly cut at home, leaving a front fringe, but the hair cut away from the ears.

Terminology

A HBC reader asks, "Can you tell me why a fringe haircut is called 'bangs' in America". Actually we are not sure and would be interested in any insights as to how this term developed from other readers. We do know that "bang" or "bangs" is not a new word, it appears in the English language in the 16th century. It was not initially used in connection with a front fringe of hair, however, until the 1870s. The term "bangs," but not the style appears to have originated in Ameica. HBC is not sure yet, however, just why it was adopted. One source said it was adopted from the adverviable usage of "bang", but HBC is not sure about this. A related origin is the usage of bang for clipping or docking a horse's tail. Such horse's were called "bangtails". One HBC reader remembers her dad asking if she had swallowed a firecracker. When she answered, "No, why?" Her dad replied, "Because your hair came out in bangs." The term is also used in Britain. We are not sure, however, just what term is used in many other countries. The Dutch refer to it as a "pagekopje" (page boy cut). The Germans use "pony" or "ponies" terms of course derived from English.



Figure 2.--Dutch boy bangs became very popular in America after the turn of the century. Long ringlet curls declined in popularity after the first decade, but bangs in various forms have continued to be a popular hair style for boys.

Popularity

Presumably bangs became a popular style in the late 19th and early 20th century because thay were a low-maintenacee style in comparison to ringlet cirls pr other fancy styles. Many could not spend the time it takes to maintain a complicated regimen on a daily basis. Ringlets and other long hair styles needed constant maintenance to look right. Bobbed hair and bangs were a much easier style to maintain. And it still had a childish look to it for mothers who did not want their sons wearing adult hair styles.

Country Trends

A HBC reader informs us that she has cannot find any mention of the word "bangs" being used anywhere else in the world (except Britain) in relation to hairstyles. We do know that bangs have been a common haor style in various historical periods. Our HBC reader reports that she was "recently recently reading an Updike book about medieval Denmark when I was suddenly transported from old Denmark to not so old America, which was unsettling". Bangs were really popular during the 1960s in America. Before the Beatles hit, long bangs in the front were the "Surfer" look that boys, especially in Junior and High school really liked. If you were blond, or could bleach your hair, you were really cool. The rest of the haircut was short, except for the bangs, which could hang down to your eyebrows. When the Beatles got popular, the rest of the hair on the head caught up with the bangs. Bangs in our modern age are not an exclusively American hair. Even here we say "Dutch boy bangs" although the Dutch call it a page boy cut. We have seen 20th century images of European boys wearing bangs. Bangs have been worn in France, but do not appear as popular as in America. We know less about other European countries. The question of whether bangs has been more common in America than other countries, that may well be the case, but it is a question we have not yet persued in details--so I can not give a definitive answer yet.

Styles

We have noted many styles of bangs. This best known style is generally referred to as Dutch-boy bangs, presumably this style originated in Holland. Sometimes bangs are the principal style. Here the cut of the bangs is the major variable. There are more than just straight cut bangs. Sometimes bangs are only an element of a style. In both cases, there are different styles of cutting the bangs. Sometimes the front bangs are even done in curls. This includes both the actual front bangs as well as well as the hair to the side. Some times the hai ha been allowed to cover the ears, even ringlet curls. Other times the hait at the side is cut rather short. Sometimes the boys' bangs are even done in side rolls.

Girls' Bangs

As long hair and curls for boys went out of style in the 1910s, bang became increasingly popular--at least for mothers. Boys, at least when they reached the age that they began to notice such things, preferred hair cuts more like the ones their dads had. Dutch boy bangs, however, did not disappear in the 1920s. They were a very poular hair style for girls of all ages during the 1920s-40s. A good example is Molly and Betty Blewitt in England during the 1920s. As so often happens, girls' adopt a boyish fashion and then the boys no longer want to wear it. Younger boys were also done up in bangs. This was especially poular during the 1920s and 30s, but disappeared for boys in the 1940s, especially for older boys. One recurring them in boys' fashions is that as soom as little boys and girls adopt a fashion, than older boys no longer want to wear it. The cut for girls involved covering the ears. Except for very little boys a boys ears might be allowed to show when his hair was cut with Dutch boy bangs.



Figure 3.--David Lee, a child star in the 1930s, in a studio publicity photo. Note the Dutch boy bangs and short pants. Studio directors at the time felt the "cute" look increased the appeal as child actors.

John-John and the Beattles

Bangs never quite went out of style. Small boys throughout the 20th century have worn them. John John Kennedys bangs in the early 1960 gave them a renewed standing for small boys. Soon bangs were fashionable again. She was critcised in many quarters for her son's hair cut and she eventually had it trimmed. The style, however, caught on and little boys in bangs wearing shortalls became a common sight. It was was not just little boys wearing bangs in the 1960s. Soon after John-John popularized bangs, the Beattles made bangs acceptable for older boys. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, boys up to their mid-teens would wear bangs.

Ages

We note boys of many different ages wearing bangs. Bangs were most common for younger boys, but older boys have also worn them. The age conventions for bangs have varied over time. The Beattles in particular made them popular for older boys in the late 60s and 70s. There are many examples archived on HBC. A good example is Lloyd Flint, an American boy in the 1910s.

Clothing

Many clothing styles were worn with bangs. Perhaps the most common style associated with bangs were Buster Brown tunic suits, but bangs were worn with many other garments as well. Because sailor suits were so pervasive, probably mote boys in bangs wore sailor suits than any other garments. One style that was not commonly worn with Dutch Boyb bangs was Little Fauntleroy suits. Many boys wore Fauntleroy suits with ringlet curls, although often the ringlet styling did involve front bangs.

Cutting Bangs

One problem with bangs are they are not easy to cut. They take a bit of effort to cut and then have to be maintained. This is one factor to consider when assessing the popularity of these hair fashions. It affected who could wear some of these styles. Mothers with largev families could not afford to chose hard to cut and maintain hair styles unless they were an affluenbt family. One father provided the following guidelines as to an eeasy way of cutting a boys' bangs.



Figure 4.--The classic bangs continue to be one of the most popular style for younger boys. One modern look is the kind of informal, uncombed bangs worn by this boy.

Modern Bangs

Bangs have not gone completely out of style in the 1990s. Bangs continued to be worn by boys. Small boys often wear bangs. The stle has also contiued for older boys, but not quite as popular as in the 1960s and 70s. In addition, the bowl cut which reappeared in the early 1990s, often involved bangs. The cut had long hair on top and cut at more or less a circular bowl lenhth at the sides with the hair around the ears and neck cut very short. A current popular style is bangs in front across the forehead worn with a general bowl cut. This is often worn by blond boys. It is most common with smaller boys, but is often worn by younger teenagers. While formal straight cut bangs are still commonly seen on younger boys, a more common style is the sort of stragely bangs popularized by John-John in thr 1960s. It continues to be a very popular look in the 1990s. Note the turtleneck this boy wears.





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Created: May 5, 1998
Last edited: 9:52 PM 2/24/2017