Figure 1.--Henry Allingham was painted by his mother at 3 years of age wearing dresses and pinafores. His hair appears to have been natuaraly curly.

Natural Curls

Hair comes in all type from straight to natuarlly curly. When the style of keeping younger boys hair long increased in popularity, some mothers found that the boys' hair was natuarally curly. Some mothers were particularly enamored with this look and begun to curl their sons hair to produce the desired effect. Often boys with this style would wear their hair over their ears, but not down to shoulder level as with ringlet curls.


I believe that most of the curls worn by these boys were their natuaral curls, but I know little about this style and I could be wrong about that.

There apeears to be two major types of naturally curly hair, all over curls and curls ar the sides.
All over: Some boys have curls all over their head. While not the most common style, there appear to be a good many boys with hughe masses of curly locks.
Side curls: The style appears to have been often to comb the hair sraight on top and for the curls to appear at about ear level. This styles appears to have been the most common, at least in the photographic record I have assessed so far. Im not positive that all of these curls are natural, but hopefully more information on that will emerge from future research.

Figure 2.--This boy who appears to be wearing natural curls is dressed in an all-white sailor tunic with white stockings and shoes.

I have been able to find relaicely little information written on this style. Hopefully some readers can offer some guidance or some information will surface from my ongoing research.


This style appears to have been worn throughout the 19th Century. Currently the images I have found date from the mid-1860s. A good example is a German boy about 1862. This may be a function that that photographic images significntly increased the number of vailable imges. Through much of the 19th Century boys wore short hair, but I believe younger boys often did have longer hair with these natural curls. The popularity was probably affected in the 1880s with the Fauntleroy craze, but I'm uncertain at this time just what the impact was. The Fauntleroy craze made long hair more common, but mothers appear to have preferred longer shoulder length curls, especially in the United States.

Natural curls worn shorter than shoulder level seems to have become more popular during the early 20th Century. As ringlet curls became less popular, this shorter style appears more commonly in the photographic record with Fauntleroy suits, Buster Brown suits, and other juvenile styles.


It is primarily younger boys that appear in photographs wearing natural curls. Mostly we see pre-school boys to avoit 6 years of age with natural curls. An exception here was English boys, at least some boys. I have noted the style on boys up to about 8 years of age, but rarly older. This was the age many boys began their prep schools. Interestingly this appears to be younger than some boys wearing longer hair, even ringlet curls. This may be because the mothers most enchanted with long hair for their sons chose the longer look and the mothers choosing this style were lest insistent on maintaining it as the boy got older.

Figure 3.--This American boy in a kilt suit and lace collar has naturally curly hair that has been cut short. I am not sure if this boy's mother could have let it grow out to form ringlets--even if she had wanted to do so. Note the vest rather than the frilly blouse.


Quite a number of boys with natural curls have been archived on HBC. We have not yet assessed country trends. This is one of many tasks that remain to be accomplished. Initilly we do not see as much ifference in thetrends fir younger boys with natural curls as we see for vrious clothing styles. We do note an American boy, Lloyd Whitney, in 1895. We note a German boy, Franz Mayer, about 1862. Notably his older brothers have cropped hair. Letting a younger boy's hair grow into natural cyrls seems to have been a very common trends throughout the world. There seems to have been country differences as to how common this was or to wht age the curls were allowed to grow.


Boys wearing natural curls are usually seen wearing a variety of juvenile styles, including pinafores, smocks, tunics, sailor suits, Buster Brown suits and other outfits. Thanks to photogrphy, we have a vast photograpic rcord whih can be used to asses this,nespecually after the apperanc of the CDV and its acceptance as the standard photograohic format (1860s). Some infirnation is of course vailable early, but it is only with the 1860s that we have really large numbr of images with which to work.
Dresses: Boys in dresses wore a wide range of hair styles. The available images here are very difficult to assess. This is in part because a child in dresses and curls is often assumed to be a girl. Family convenions were involved here. Some boys had their curls cut before they were breched and visa vrsa. Somtimes it was done at the same time.

Kilts: Boys in kilts and long natural curls are also relativeky rare images. This is because younger boys commonly wore dresses until very late in the 19th century. And proper Highland kilts were not seen as proper wear for very young boys. Highland kilts were not nearly as common as kilt suits in America and even less so in Europe. And in Britain where kilts were more common, curls were less common for older boys.

Kilt suits: Kilts suits and relted kirt suits were another matter. They were enormously populr, especilly in Americ. And unlike Highland kilts they had nothing to do with Scottish ancestry. They were a major style, especially for pre-school boys. We do not see themin the schoolmphotography which by the 1880s was becomingincreasingly common. We have not noted a lot of natuaraly curly hair cuts, and are not quite sure why. We think kilt suits worn with natural curls are relatively rare images, because the kilt suit was an American style and American boys often had their hair curled into ringlets. Large numbers of wll-to-do and middle-class boys wore kilt suits.

Fauntleroy suits: Interestingly this hair style was rare with the classic Fauntleroy suit worn during its peak popularity from 1885-1990 before the turn of the 20th Century. After the turn of the century, however, ringlet curs becanme less common, especially after 1910. The shorter natural curls, however, became increasingly common with the Fauntleroy suits worn in the Edwardian era. This corresponds with the popularity of ruffled collars which began to replace lace collars on Fauntleroy suits after the turn of the century.

Figure 4.--Velvet Fautleroy suits for boys were popular for many years. After the turn of the century short pants replaced kneepants and white knee socks or white long stockings became more common.
Smocks: The natural curls appear quite common in images of boys wearing smocks, probably because in many countries such as England and the United States, these were the younger boys.

Tunic: Various styles of tunics were worn by boys throughout the 19th Century. There was a revival of tunics at the turn of the 19th Century. Russian styling was particularly popular. I am not sure yet which was the most popular hair styles with these tunics at diffrent periods.

Buster Brown suits: There seems to be a good many boys wearing natural curls with Buster Brown suits, although Dutch-boy bangs were the most popular style. I think this was primarily an American style. I think the natural curls were more common as the Buster Brown suits became popular at the turn of the century when Fauntleroy ringlet curls were going out of style.

Figure 5.--This little French boy photographed in the 1910s has natural curls and wears a classic middy blouse with above the knee knickers.
Sailor suits: Sailor suits were worn with a variety of hair styles. Some boys wore them with ringlet curls, but most were worn with short hair as many most mothers decided that if a boy was old enough for a sailor suit that it was time to cut his hair. Some believed, however, that natural curls seemed to have been more acceptable. After the turn of the century it was more common to see boys wearing long hair and sailor suits to have natural curls rather than ringlet curls. The sailor suits these boys wore shifted with the times. Boys in the late 19th century generally wore sailor suits with long stockings. American boys even with natural curls often had their hasir curled into ringlets. European bous might also wear ringlets, but natural curls were also common. After the turn of the century knicker or short pants became more common with knee or short socks. These boys might have natural curls, but by the 1910s ringle curls wre less common.

Hair Styling

I'm not quit sure what the options were for styling naturally curly hair. The natural curls might looked nice if allowed to grow out to about ear length. They would look rather unruly if allowed to grow out further. It would be impossible, for example, to form Dutch boy bangs falling straght over a child's forehead. I also think it was not possible to form natuarally curly hair into long ringlet curls. However, HBC readers with more knowledge of hair styling might be able to provide more guidance here.


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Created: March 10, 1999
Last edited: 10:58 PM 10/15/2006