Boys' Ringlet Curls: Gender Connotations



Figure 1.--Only the younger brother wears full ringlet curls. His older sisters wear plainer hair styles with central parts. These children are American, probably photographed in the 1890s. Notice how the sister to the left has hair with short ringlets and the older sister has pigtails. Image courtesy of the RG collection.

HBC is unsure at this time as to the gener connotations of ringlet curls. Today of course they are associated with girls. The connontations in the late 19th century are less clear. The available photographic record shows girls wearing ringlets. HBC notes, however, that boys with ringlet curls are rarely pictured wearing the same ringlet style as their sisters. Normally his sisters do not have the same ringlets. HBC has noted this tendency on large number of images. HBC's preliminary assessment is that ringlet curls in the late 19th century were more of a boys' fashion than a girls fashion. This is, however, a very preliminary assessment at this time. HBC has noted no reference to this on in contemporary household advise journals or in the written record of family letters. The tendency to use ringlet curls as a younger boys fashion changed rapidly after World War I (1914-18). Boys were still seen with ringlets, generally short ones, during the early 1920s, but ringlets became increasingly a girls fashion, except for very young boys. By the late 1920s and early 1930s with the appearance of Shirley Temple--ringlets had become an entirely girls' fashion.

Gender Connotations

HBC is unsure at this time as to the gener connotations of ringlet curls. Today of course they are associated with girls. The connontations in the late 19th century are less clear. HBC's preliminary assessment is that ringlet curls in the late 19th century were more of a boys' fashion than a girls fashion. This is, however, a very preliminary assessment at this time.

Family Trends

The available photographic record shows girls wearing ringlets. HBC notes, however, that boys with ringlet curls are rarely pictured wearing the same ringlet style as their sisters. HBC has noted this tendency on large number of image. Their sisters have their hair done in a range of different styles.

Sister without ringlets

HBC has noted in the largest number of family images that the younger brother may have ringlets, but his sisters have various hair styles and lengths without ringlets.

Sister with different ringlets

Brothers and sisters occasionally both have ringlets, but the ringlets are styled differently. There are a variety of variations in both the length and styling of the ringlets.

Sister with braids

One alternative to curling long hair is putting it in braids. We note portraits of girls with braids with brothers, normally little brothers, in ringlets. The braids can both be made to hang long like ringlets, or curled up behind the head or on top of the head. we suspect that some of these girls, if they did not jave little brothers wearing ringlets, would have worn ringlet curls 6themselves.

Sister with similar rinlets

On a few occasions HBC has noted brothers and sisters wearing similar or identical ringlets. They occasionaly even wore similar clothes. It was fairly common for brothers and sisters to be dressed alike, but similar hair styles was not common at all.

Ages

Normally the brothers and sisters assessed here are brothers with older sisters. Normally an older brother would not have his hair styled like a younger sister.

Contemporary Journals

HBC has noted no reference to brothers and sisters wearing ringlets in contemporary household advise journals or in the written record of family letters. HBC hopes to persue this line of research.

Chronological Trends

There seem to be substantial differences between the chronological trends for boys' and girls' ringlet curls. We have limited information on the early-19th century, but with the invention of phoptography we do have a great deal of information beginning in the mid-19th century. There are notable differences in styles and popularity of ringlets for both genders. Both boys and girls wore ringlet curls in the the late-19th century, but they seem especially common for boys in the late-19th century. Ad as ringlets for boys become common, they seem to become less common for a time with girls. We note this especially among families which had boys whose hair was done in ringlets. We have begun to build a chrinological archive to study trends in greater detail.

Boys

Boys wearing ringlet curls appears to have become very fashionable in the 1880s and this continued through the early 1900s. We have noted boys wearing ringlet curls earlier, but not as commonly as in the 1880s-1900s. We note that mothers during this period might do their sons' hair in ringlets. They do not, however, appear to have done their son's and daughters' in matching ringlet styles. At least we have never noted this before. The tendency to use ringlet curls as a younger boys fashion changed rapidly after World War I (1914-18). Boys were still seen with ringlets, generally short ones, during the early 1920s, but ringlets became increasingly a girls fashion, except for very young boys.

Girls

Girls appear to have worn ringlets in the 18th century, although we have only limited information on this. We know more about the early and mid-19th century. We have noted girls commonly wearing ringlets thoughg the Civil War era of the 1860os. We have less informatin about the late 19th century. A HBC reader reports, "I have looked at a lot of images of girls the last few days and I will be darned if I can find a single image of a girl with ringlets. I am beginning to believe that ringlet hairdos in the 1880s-1900s were probably worn by boys. Girls seem to have a wide variety of hair styles, e. g., long loose curls with hair bows, hair pulled back behind their heads and tied with a large ribbons, hair pulled back close to the head so they almost look like they have short hair, and finally very long straight or naturally curly hair." By the late 1920s and early 1930s with the appearance of Shirley Temple--ringlets had become an entirely girls' fashion.

Country Trends

Most of the information and images here concerns American boys. HBC has little information at this time about brother sister hair styles in other countries.

Brother Sister Outfits

Many mothers like to dress their children in identical or similar outfits. Generally this involved similar clothing. It was much less common to coordinate their hair styles. Generations of mothers dressed their children, in some cases both sons and daughters, identically or in similar outfits--convinced this was a charming fashion. This was a simple matter in the 18th and much of the 19th Century. As little boys wore dresses just like their sisters, it was easy to ooutfit the boys and girls in identical. At the time it ws considered in appropriate to outfit girls in boys clothes. As distinctive dress styles for little boys developed in the late 19th Century and the fashion of dressing little boys in dresses disappeared after World War I (1914-19), this became more difficult. Many nothers, however, still wanted to dress their children similarly. Thus styles outfits with girls dresses and coordinate boys outfits were developed.

Girls Ringlet Curls

One style that girls have worn, although the popularity has varied over time has been ringlet curls. The popularity of ringlets has varied significantly over time and among countries. We believe that during the time that ringlets became most popular for boys, about 1880-1905, that they were less popular for girls. One major difference between boys' and girls' ringlets is that quite old girls even young women might wear them. Also girls, especially in the early 1900s might wear them with very large hair bows.






HBC







Navigate Related HBC Pages:
[Return to the Main Ringlet Curls page]
[Return to the Main hair page]
[Return to the Main curl page]
[Bangs] [Long hair] [Hair bows] [Caps] [Collar bows]



Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: September 13, 2000
Last edited: 3:39 AM 2/24/2011