Boys' Hair Styles

Figure 1.--Art provides detailed information about both clothing and hair styles. This is a portrait by Italian Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca (c1415-1492) painted in 1483. We are not sure who the boy is. There was no unique Renaissance. We see many different styles.

Hair styles are not precisely clothing styles, of course, but because they are such an integral part of how boys looked and were dressed during the past 500 years, that we would be remiss in not briefly addressing the topic. Boys hair fashions have ranged even more significantly than their clothes and have varied from the long sausage curls of the 1880-90s to shaved heads in Germany in the early 20th century and the short crew cuts in the America of the 1950s. Long hair became popular again in the 1970s and early 1980s. Boys in the 1990s have been more free to select a style and length that suited them with no one style predominating. The long hair worn in the 1970s, however, is now rarely seen. One style popular in the 1990s has been shearing the head off at the neck giving a bowl-cut look. HBC addresses the hair styles of boys and youth. Of course the subject of hair is much larger. Much of the scholarly work on hair and fashion has focused on adult's hair, especially women's hair styling. HBC will focus ob boys' hair, collecting available research as well as commentary from contemporary fashion magazines and other period sources. Please let HBC know if you come across any useful information or historical or literary references providing information on boys' hair styles.

Hair Styling

Hair can and has been for a variety of purposes styled and dressed in many different ways. Hair was styled for a variety of paractical reasons as well as personal adornment and to convey status. Hair sdstyling vcould be quite varried. The most common is arranging the hair, but other processes include cutting, curling, perfuming, bleaching, dyeing, powdering, waxing, plaiting, weaving, and anointing with oil. Various implements from a shaving balde to scissors have been used over time. To the list the modern blow dryer has to be added. False hair or a wig or headdress is another possibility, although more common for adults than boys. A number of adornments such as hairbows have also been employed.

Historical Background

Hair has absorbed humankind since the beginning of history. Cultures have often defined themselves by it. The Egyptians hated it. The Greeks loved it. The Persians curled it. Warring parties, the Whigs and Roundheads of the English Civil War have focus on their hair styles. Within cultures succeeding generations adopted new styles and conventions concerning hair length. One generation reviling in long hair might be followed by a generation committed to long hair. Americans came to associate long hair with protest and civil disobedience. In previous generations it was short hair that was seen as modern and progressive. Especially notable is the intensity of feeling concerning hair length. Text exceeding 2,000 years reveal Greek civic leaders railing against the "atrocious" hair of young people. In our modern day, war veterans question the patriotism and manliness of long -haired protestors. Long haired youth saw the attitude of parents and school officials as repressive and unreasonable.


Some key dates in the history of modern hair styling include the following. Some trends developed over long time periods. Other major developments can be traced to a specific event or person. It is interesting how hair so consistently in different eras inspired such passion, but how often how differently it was viewed at different times. I've just begun to compose this chronology. Please let me know if you can think of other important dates which ought to be considered here.

Gender Trends

Hair styles like clothing trends over time and across cultures have commonly been different for men and women. These differences have varied in both style and the extent of difference. The most radical difference have been when men and boys have had very short if not shaved hair at a time that women and girls have had long hair. At other times they have been less detinctive. As a general case, women have had longer hair styles and men shorter styles. There have, however, been times that men have had long, very elaborate styles. This was the case in ancient Mesopotamia. We also see Europeans men with elabiate hair dos (17th and 18th centuries), but these were wigs. We know the Europeans wire wigs, given the elaborate dpictions from Mesopotamian and Persian scultures, surely they must have worn wigs as well. Notably boys at the time did not have similar elaborate hair styles, pronably because they were so impractical. Egyptian boys often had shavec heads. And these were rare exceptions generlly men and boys had shorter hair than women and girls. We do note times when hir styles for boys and girls have been less differentiated. We notice many boys in America and Europe with longish hair (1970s-80s).

The Hair Cut

A boys first hair cut was once a major step in growing up. Baby hair was cut at home and varied substantially among boys. There was some difference of opinion among 19th century mothers as to when a boy's hair shold be cut, before or after he was breeched. This might occur anywhere from 3 to 5 years of age, although some boys wore long hair much longer. The first hair cut is no longer such a major event, but it still very important. A modern boy generally gets his first hair cut at about 2 years of age. The trip to the barber shop later became a monthly ritual. At first with his dad, armed with detailed instructions from mom, and then by himself as he begins to develop his own ideas about how his hair should be styled.

National Styling

Some boys hair styles are particularly associated with specifically associated with individual countries. Some styles are generic and worn in many countries. Long uncurled hair was worn by French boys while ringle curls were most common in America. Flats tops and crew cuts were once standard American styles. German boys once commonly had closed cropped hair. I'm not sure if Dutch boys bangs was once a common Dutch style, but presumably it was.

Religious Connotations

The religious significance of hair is seen in tonsure of Christian monks and the shaved heads of Buddhist monks, indicating renunciation of the world, and in the single long lock on the shaved heads of Nluslim men, by which, they believed, Allah would pull them up to heaven. In 17th century England, both politics and religion were pro fessed by the long curling locks of the Royalist Anglican Cavaliers and the cropped hair of the Parliamentarian Puritan Roundheads.

Social Class

Fashionable hair styles were once generally limited to the upper classes, and the dictates of fashion were relatively rigid. The clothes and grooming of children reflected on the family's status. The new found rich in America and Europe in the late 19th century souught tonconvet their new status with elaborate clothing and hair styles. In the 20th century with the general increase in wealth, the improvement in mass communication, and the trend toward informality and individualism, women (and men) in all classes can choose the style and color of their own hair, or of a wig, that best suit their needs and tastes.

Adult Styling

While HBC focuses on boys' styles, some historical information on hair styles provides some interesting background information for the boy's styles discussed in more detail.


The lack of beards on soldiers has a very ancient tradition. It was reportedly first introduced by Alexander the Great. It was to prevent an enemy soldier from grabbing the hair, lifting the head and slicing ones throat. The US military still forbids any facial hari except for the US Navy submerine service. Little chance for hand to beard combat there.


Tonsure was not a hair style but a lack of hair. It was taken by a monk as a sign of his devotion and that the Holy Spirit had direct access to him. The Eastern and Western church developed different styles. So whateverhair grew on his head, wasn't the tonsure but just the opposite. It is no longer practiced by monastic groups.

Important Hair Sites

HBC has noted several valuable sites dealing with hair abd hair styles. We will however only archives sites which have information about children's hair styling.

Hair Boutique

Hair Botique is an interestng site with a galleryof hair styles, including many children's styles. There are also forums on hair styles.


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Created: March 5, 1998
Last updated: 9:13 PM 10/6/2018