Long Hair

Figure 1.--Paintings provide a great deal of information about hair syling over time. Both men and boys in the 17th Century wore long hair. This painting pictures a Dutch boy.

Boys over centuries have worn different styles of long hair. These styles have been worn in both historical and modern eras. Long hair became popular for boys after the publication of Frances Hodgson Burnett's book Little Lord Fauntleroy in 1885-86. Many romantically enclined American mother sought to recreate Cedric in their little darlings. Often the boys' hair was curled. Sometimes it was just left long or put into bangs. After the turn of the century long hair became uncommon, except for very small boys. Long hair has meant different styles to varius generations. In the 1880s, long hair was shoulder-length ringlet curls. In the 1960s, bushy John-John bangs were considered long hair by many. There was a revival of long hair beginning in the mid-1960s, influenced by John-John Kennedy's bangs, the Beattle's cut, and incrasingly long hair worn by popular rock groups. Relatively long, uncurled hair was very common for boys through the mid-1980s. Contemporary boys do not seem to favor long hair, but the styles are less rigid than before and more open to personal choice so long hair is occcasionally seen in the 1990s.


Boys hair styles have varied widely over time. Roman boys wore short hair. Boys in the medieval era often had long hair. In fact, boys in Western Europe seem to have worn long hair more than short hair. Even so, by the 20th century, short hair had become the standard for boys, often quite short hair. And until the 1970s you almost never saw school-age boys with long hair. There were variations by country. Many German boys, for example, at the turn of the 20th century had cropped hair. Rel;igion might also be a factor. Social class was also a complicating factor as was age, however, we are not sure how these factors played out before the modern era. Generally long hair even curls has in the 19th and even the 20th century been seen as appropriate for younger, pre-school boys. Shorter styles have become popular in the erly 21st century, but there seems to be a high degree of toleration for boys who care to wear longer styles. Parental tastes are often less important than in earlier eras.

The Issue of Long Hair

Reactions to long hair has varied in different historical periods. Long hair has been both admired and veviled often with freat vehemence the meaning of long hair, however, has varied over time. Some civilizations view it as a sign of verility. Others saw it as effeminate. At other times it was considered suitable for young, but not older boys. Some boys despised having to wear long hair. Other boys were distraught about being forced to cut their hair.


Boys in the 19th century and early 20th century might have long hair and curls as young boys. The pattern, however, was quite variable, The age of cutting a bpys lon hair varied, as did breeching. Some boys might have their hair as young as 2or 3 years of age Some boys might wear long hair until 7 or 8 years of age or even older. Some boys had their hair cut upon breeching, while others had their curls cut before or after breeching. Generally it was the older boy who had the shorter hair--but this was not always the case.


Long hair was worn in a wide variety of lengths. These different lenths were popular in different historical eras. Boys during some eras wore similar length hair while in other eras there were considerable diversity.

Shoulder-length Long Hair

One style has been long uncut hair. In some cases the hair was worn shoulder length. There have been several historical periods in which this style was fashionable. During the 17th and 18th Centuries long hair was a general male hair style and not a specifically boy's style. Men's hair syles in the 19th Century grew shorter and thus long hair in the 19th Century began ti be seen as a juvenile boys' style, although most boys wore short hair. The long hair worn by boys in the late 19th Century were loved bu the mothers, but very unpopular with boys. As a result, after the first decade of the 20th Century, it became increasingly rare to see boys with long hair. Boys with long hair during this period almost always hated it. This continued to be the case until the late 1960s and 1970s when long hair became very popular with boys. Mothers put up with it. Fathers hated it. Bu the 1980s, long hair became less stylish. However, in the 1990s, hair styles have become less sandard and boys have mich more leeway as ti how they wear their hair.

Naturaly Curly Hair

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.

Figure 2.--We know much more about hair stling after photography was developed in the mid-19th century. Many American mothers curled the hair of their boys as late as the early 20th Century. This was most common in affluent families or in those boys' case, a mother who wanted to keep up appearances. The boy is American author Tom Wolfe.

Over the Shoulder Styles

Most mothers limited the elaborate hair styles for their sons during the late-19th Century to shoulder length. A few mothers, however, could just not bare to cut their son's hair, even when it grew beyond shoulder length. This style was not common, but available images sow that it did occur.

Medium Length Long Hair

A popular style for little boys has been longish over the ears hair, but not not uncut shoulder length hair. Only little boys or boys schooled at home would wear this as virtually all their contemoraries wore short hair. Many British mothers would keep their boys' hair long until they went off to their preparatory boarding school at about 8 years of age. Often the hair was natuarally curled, but mothers by the 1920s were no longer curling it.

School and Long Hair

When boys first began wearing long hair in the 1960s, it was quite controversial. Many schools which did not have rules about hair, quickly implemented them. Side burns had been a minor problem, mostly with older teenagers, but long hair became a major isuue between schools and boys and their parents. Some parents were thankful for the schools to insist on hair cuts. Other parents supported their sons. The issue of hair became less confrontational in the 1980s as schools became more accepting of long hair and boys became less interested in it. The issue has not totally disappeared, however, as some conservative school districts in the united States still insist on short hair.

Country Trends

Hair styling trends appear to have varies even more among different countries than clothing styles, some of which were relatively standard among many European countries. I'm not sure why this was, perhaps because hair can be so easily styled or perhaps fashion mgazines did not address different hair styles as much as clothes because there was no profit motive involved. Long hair dies not seem to have been as popular in Germany as in France and America. Many American mothers liked to curl their son's long hair rather than just let it grow naturally.


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Created: May 5, 1998
Last edited: 10:23 PM 5/27/2007