Figure 1.--Here are two boy from a family portrait. Te boys look to be about 3-6 years old. The family had six children, three boys and three girls. Except for the older boy, mother had to do the hair of five children, quite a task when you have to a lot more than part and comb the hair. Notice that the younger boys hair is not done in ringlets. Than was unsusual for American boys. We are guessing that mother here just did not have time to do all the chikdren. Notice that boys here have Eton collars on top of their lace collars. The portrait is undated, but looks like it was taken about 1900.

U.S. Boys' Ringlet Curls: Social Class

Ringlet curls were a style for childrn from affluent families. This does not mean just upper-class or rich families, it als means middle-class families in confortable circumstances. This is relatively easy to assess by the way the child or family is dressed. Boys with ringlet curls are lmost lways well drsednd in group potraits with well-dressed family members. We don't think this meant that working-class fmilies had different fashion tastes. In fact at the time it was the elites of society that set the fashion trends. Middle class and working-class families tried to emiulate, but only middle-class families could aford to do so. Hair styling was different as this did not involve the purchase of expensive clothing and/or fabrics. Ringlet curls only required time and it took a good bit if work to do them. At the time modern hir products were not available. Working-class mothgers were less likely to have the time to do this. Some had to work. And they could not afford to hire domestic staff to assisst with household chores like the upper-class or affluent middle class. One child might be doable, but commonly at the time families were larger. It is notable that ringlet curls were more common in america thn any other country/. This is clearly observeable in the photograohic record. There are an emense number of portraits of American boys with ringlet curls. Ringlets like fancy clthes like Fauntleroy suits were away that families could show off their material success. The photographic record shows that many more American boys had ringlet curls than boys in in any other country, in fact more thn all of Europe to gether. Of course the United States was a large and growing country, but not as large as the modern population. The European population at the turn of the 20th century was five times the population of North America (primarily the United States). We believe that the large number oif Anerican boys with ringlet curls in the photogrphic record reflects the economic vibrancy of the United States nbd the higher income levels in the United States compared to Europe, including the most prosperous Western European countries (Britain, France, and Germany). This is often missed in American school textbooks because the editors are more interested in demonstrating poor living conditions than the act that standards of living in Americ were the highest in the world.


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Created: 6:18 AM 6/14/2015
Last edited: 6:18 AM 6/14/2015