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Summary Article: hairdressing from The Columbia Encyclopedia

arranging of the hair for decorative, ceremonial, or symbolic reasons. Primitive men plastered their hair with clay and tied trophies and badges into it to represent their feats and qualities. Among women, a band to keep the hair from the eyes was the forerunner of the fillet. Much early hairdressing is traditional, as in the feather tufts or stiffened coronet of some primitive peoples, the queue of the Chinese, the tonsure of ecclesiastics, the flowing locks of the maid, and the bound or cut tresses of the wife. From ancient times hair has been dyed, bleached, curled, braided, waxed and oiled, hennaed, powdered, perfumed, cut, shaved, enhanced with false hair, covered with a wig, concealed by nets and veils, or adorned with beads, jewels, pins, combs, feathers, ribbons, and flowers, natural and artificial. In the world of fashion, hairdressing developed as an art during the Middle Ages, when an appropriate coiffure became as important as the proper costume. Since that time, styles, especially for women, have been created and re-created, from long to short, from the high pompadour or use of chignons to the close bob, in a repetitive cycle. In the 1960s and 1970s hair styles for men in the United States and Western Europe changed dramatically from short fashions, popular since the late 18th cent., to varying degrees and styles of long hair, often accompanied by beards, moustaches, and long sideburns. Hairdressers, especially those employed by motion picture companies, have become personally renowned for the styles they create. During the 1980s styles such as cornrows, rattails, dreadlocks, and punk spikes migrated from their ethnic and cultural associations to mainstream culture. The most popular styles in the early 1990s were the chin-length bob for women and the fade for men.

  • See Cox, J. S., An Illustrated Dictionary of Hairdressing and Wigmaking (1984).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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