Figure 1.--Most mothers who styled their son's hair with ringlets chose other styles for their daughters. These american children were photographed in 1909. Note the girl's center part. Click on the image for more details about these children.

Boys' Ringlet Curls: Family Trends

One decissin mothers had to make when they styled their son's hair in ringlets is how to tyle the hair of the other children. We think that some boys who wore ringlets were only children or came from small families where their mothers could lavish their attention on them. Older boys would have thir curls cut. Curiously mothers often did not do their sisters' hair in ringlets. Thisis interesting because we note ringlet curls were commonly worn by girls and young women in the early and mid-19th century. There are a wide range of girl's hair styles, both long and short, that do not involve ringlets. If they did choose ringlets for sisters and brothers, the ringlets were normally styled differently. Presumably there must have been mothers who put their daughters and sons in identical ringlets, but we have not yet found any portraits showing this. we wonder if some of the boys' sisters did not envy their ringlets curls.


We have not found many portraits in the photographic record with brothers wearing ringet curls. It is not unknown, but the rarity in the photographic record suggests tht it was not common. There seem to be several reasons for ths. One is simply numbers. Boys were old enough to have long ringlets until they were about 2-3 years old. And most boys had their curls cut before they started school at age 6. That didn't leave many years in which brothers could have ringlet curls. Another constraint was the boys. Moms were morelikely to sell the idea when a boy had older sisters. A boy with oldr broters was a different proposition. Thus the ringlet curl and short hair combination with brothers is not one we see to commonly in the photographic record. There are examples, such as the Harrison brothers about 1890. They do not, however, seem very common. More common were ringlets without an older brother or with sisters. We suspect that the reason was that most younger brothers at a fairly early point wanted to dress and wear their hair like their older brothers.


A girl's hairstyle was and continues to be her most important fashion accessory. Massive rows of tightly curled locks have in many ages been highly fashionable for little girls. Never was this fashion so widely esteemed than in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The extension of this fashion to the girl's brothers is a much more unusual fashion. Many Victorian and Edwardian mothers viwed their sons and their hair styles in the same light. For this reason, some boys in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century were done up in the same long ringlet curl styles once worn by their sisters. In most cases, the sisters of boys one up in ringlets often had their hair done differently. Boys at the middle of the 19th Century wore generally short hair. By the end of the century, however, spurred on by the Fauntleroy craze of the 1880s, young boys as well as some older boys of 12 or even 13, were wearing long ringlet curls just like their sisters.


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Created: November 16, 2002
Last updated: 10:00 PM 9/9/2007