Boys' Hair Styles: History--Modern Era

Figure 1.--This portrait of a boy was drawn about 1500. It shows a young teenage Italian boy wearing shoulder-length hair. It was drawn by the great Italian Renaissance artist, Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio).

Modern civilizations in the Christian era have adopted a wide range of hair styles. These styles have not only been stylistic changes, but early Christian churches as well as other religiions have attached moral conotations to hair styling that persists today. HBC is most familiar with American styles and knows less about hair styling in Europe.

European Trends

European hair styles have also varied greatly during the Christian era. The early Christian reaction to ostentaous styling and long hair for men has influenced western additudes for two mellenium. While long hair has at times been considered stylish there have only been critics, often with moral arguments, even when kings wore long hair. Stylistic trends in the medieval period were much more stable and slow changing then in our modern era influenced by the mass media. Considerable diversity existed in Europe until about the late 18th century.

Asian Trends

Asian hair styles have alsp varied both by country and over time. HBC believes that the elaborate long hair styles at times so popular in Europe were less common in Asian. HBC has, at least, seen few illustratiions of such hairstyles in Asian countries. At this time, however, HBC has little information on Asian hair styles. Chinese men traditionally shaved their front hair and combed their back hair into a queue or pigtail which the braided with horsehair or silk. The conquring Manchus during the 17th century imposed queues on the Chinese as a symbol of submission, they came to be regarded a symbol of manhood and dignity. [HBC note: The source consulted is confused here.] It was a grave insult to pull the queue. Women combed their hair straight back, occasionally under a bandeau, into a low knot which might be decorated with flowers, jeweled combs, or hairpins. Unmairred girls commonly wore long plaits. Japanese men usually shaved the front and top of the head, leaving a small stiff pigtail at the back og the crown. Women in the medieval era let their long hair fall down their backs. Pommade was introduced in the 17th century and women began wearing their hair swept up and arranged with combs, bars, ribbons, and long ornamental hairpins which revealed th npe of the neck which Japanese men found appealing. Geishas adopted elaborate hair styles, often lacquered wigs.

Native Americans

Native American men in North America along the eastern coast mostly shaved their heads with shells or stone knives--except for a ridge or comb of hair along the crown of the head. The Plains tribes of the mid-west wore two long plaits as was common for women in many North American tribes. Hair styling was more complex in the more civilized cvilizations of Mecico and Peru. Mairrageable Hopi girls wore a whorled squash-blossom arrangement. Mixtec women worked their hair into a bun which they wore under a horned turban. Aztec women braided their hair with colored materail and wound it around their heads. Aztec warrirs wore a ridge of hair tyo show he had taken many captives for sacrificial cerremonies. Mayan nobels wore elongated headdresses, but shaved their heads. Inca chiefs wore short hair with a handband wrapped around five times. Nobels and the common people had longer hair and fewer wraps of thevhair band.


The rise of Islam in the 7th century AD gave religious backing for beards. Millions of Muslims swore on the red beard of Mohammed who taught them to let their beards grow so they would not be mistaken for clean shaven Christian infidels.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: March 5, 1998
Last updated: November 10, 2000