Boys' Hair Styles: Chronology--19th Century Trends


Figure 1.--Most boys wore their hair short in the 19th century. At mid-century, however, some men and boys wore their hair longer. This was not, however, a specifically boyish style. This Ambrotype of an American youth was probably taken in the 1850s, but the late 40s is also possible. Notice how his hair is parted at the side.

Wigs rapidly went out of style in the 1790s as a result of the fashion tends emenating from the French Revolution resulting in a radical new look at the turn of the 19th century. Boys in the 19th century generlly wore short hair. There were substantial differences as to age. Younger boys might wear their hairs long sometimes like their sisters, especially before they were breached. Mothers here differed somewhat as to when a boy's hair should be cut. Some mothers breached a boy first and other cut his hair first. Ages varied from about 3-6 years. Most boys had their hair cut before beginning school. Boys schooled at home might might wear long hair longer. We note that by the mid-19th century that men and boys were wearing their hair longer, sometimes covering their ears. Yhis can be seen in many American Civil War images. Ringlet curls for younger boys became fashionable in the 1880s-90s, but only a minority of boys wore them. They were most common for boys from affluent families. Frances Hogdson Burnett's book "Little Lord Fauntleroy" published in 1886 played an important role in popularizing the style. While this style continued into the 20th century, most boys wore short hair and the longer styles popular at mid-century were little in evidence by the 1890s. Hair styles in the 19th centuey is more difficult to assess than in the 20th century because as photograph was only developed in the 1830s and did not become common place until the 1860s, we have relatively few images from the early part of the century. There are quite a number of images from the late 19th century, but unfortunately many are not dates.

The 1800s

Wigs rapidly went out of style in the 1790s as a result of the fashion tends emenating from the French Revolution resulting in a radical new look at the turn of the 19th century. Boys in the 19th century generlly wore short hair. There were substantial differences as to age. Younger boys might wear their hairs long sometimes like their sisters, especially before they were breached. Mothers here differed somewhat as to when a boy's hair should be cut. Some mothers breached a boy first and other cut his hair first. Ages varied from about 3-6 years. Most boys had their hair cut before beginning school. Boys schooled at home might might wear long hair longer.

The 1810s


The 1820s


The 1830s


The 1840s

We know that some younger boys wore curls. We are not sure how common this was becuse photography was still relatively new and there are relatively few available images. We note quite a number of boys boys wearing hair styles in the 1840s looking much like 20th century styles. We see boys in very dated outfits, but rather modern hair styles. Many boys had short hair, but not the close croped hair styles that became popular in the late 19th century and at the turn of the 21st century. We see many boys wearing short hair like the boys here. We also seen boys wearing their hair longer, styled over their ears. A good example is an unidentified American boy about 1847. This was not a boyish style as many men of the era also wore their hair over the ears.

The 1850s

Most boys wore their hair short in the 19th century. At mid-century, however, many boys wore their hair longer. This was not, however, a specifically boyish style. We also see men with these linger styles. The image here is an Ambrotype of an American youth was probably taken in the 1850s (figure 1). Notice that it is parted at the side. Many Daguerreotypes show these longer styles. Unfortunately most dags are not dated. Most dags would have been taken in the late 40s and earlys 50s. Not all boys had hair covering their ears. We think this was more commn in the 40s, but there are still many examples in the 50s. Thus we see boys with hair over their ears and others with shorter styles. A good example of the shorter styles is the Wallis brothers in 1852. We also see boys with longer styles over their ears. A good example is John Van Horn in 1859. We continue to see girls with center parts. A good example is unidentified sisters. Short hair seems to have been common for girls.

The 1860s

Very young boys commonly did not have their hair cut. We do not yet notice many boys with ringlet curls, but it was a common style for girls. We notice boys wearing their hair longer than in the early 19th century. Boys from fashionable families commonly wore their hair over their ears. This can be seen in many American Civil War images.

The 1870s

Younger boys commonly had long hair, sometimes curled. We note school-age boys with shorter hair styles in the 1870s. We see fewer boys with hair over their ears. While cuts were shorter they were still generally long enough to comb and part. Boys hair was generally parted ar the side. A good example is Dan Brown, an American boy in the 1870s. Another example is Minnie Tamn. We note a very young boy, Charley Rosewater, with short hair in 1876. There were country difference. Some German boys had cropped hair. although this was not yet common.. It was also not very common in America.

The 1880s

Throughout the 19th century, mothers commonly delayed cutting thr hair of their younger children. Francis Hogdson Burnett published Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1885. There were no references to the ringlet curls in the book. The illustrations accompanying the book also did not depict ringlets, but they did depict long flowing hair. This created a sensation in America and Europe. Ringlet curls for American younger boys became fashionable in the 1880s-90s, but only a minority of boys wore them. They were most common for boys from affluent families. Styling boys hair in long curls increases greatly in popularity, including that of some older boys. While Little Lord Fauntleroy was not pictured in ringlet curls, that style becomes especially popular in American and becomes associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy fashions. Only a minority of boys wore Fauntleroy curls, but it became much more common than before Mrs. Burnett wrote her book. Boys after their curls were cut tended to wear short hair. Bangs were popular for younger boys and latter styles with prominent poarts. We notice some boys slicking their hair down.

The 1890s

While ringlet curls continued into the 20th century, most boys wore short hair and the longer styles popular at mid-century were little in evidence by the 1890s. The short hair worn by the Syder brothers is a good example of popular hair styles. They are notable for how modern they look.







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Created: October 4, 2002
Last updated: 1:30 PM 8/29/2007