Welcome to Perfect Locks!

Timeline Tuesday: Head-Turning Turn-of-the-Century Hairstyles

Timeline Tuesday is a continuing series, looking back at hairstyles and trends of the past, to draw inspiration for the future. Check in every Tuesday for style ideas that build on retro looks to create new profiles, and get how-to instructions and tips every Thursday.

One hundred years is definitely a long time ago. For many young women today, it is probably hard to imagine a time when electricity was rare, the Internet not even dreamed of, and television still fifty years away. Yet the hair styles of the early twentieth century are not so hard to understand, and many of them can give us ideas for the new millennium. Here are some of the major trends in early-twentieth-century hairstyles, from 1900 to 1919.

Anybody Order an Ornate Updo?

During the first decade and a half of the twentieth century, updos were extremely popular. For women of the richer classes, it was all a matter of refinement and allure, showing off necks and décolleté by piling their long locks high in ostentatious puffs or winding them into several series of coils and curls, pinned into place. Women of the poorer classes tended to make do with less elaborate coifs, pulling hair up and away for more for convenience than style. As long hair was still very much the norm, yet indoor plumbing was not always available, updos were also popular because they allowed a lady to style her hair and leave it alone for a little while.

This time period also saw some of the biggest breakthroughs in African-American hair care and styling ever, as Madame C.J. Walker innovated not only hair straightening methods, but hair growth treatments and beauty supply sales systems. Her empire of products and licensed techniques changed the face of black hair styling, allowing women of color to emulate the mainstream styles intended for straight hair and innovate their own new looks, too. No longer were hats or headwraps necessary to cover poorly-maintained locks; Walker products opened the door for women of color to sport the same vintage hairstyles as any other woman.

How about a Short Stack?

Things started changing in the mid-1910s, though, as the suffrage movement tipped into full swing. Ladies took to the streets demanding equal rights and full citizenship, and they donned short, spunky hair cuts to match. Favoring lively curls over the straight look that would become popular in the 1930s, these ladies showed courage and diva-tude in the face of danger and disfavor. The popularity of short locks waned over the next few years, but didn’t stay gone forever – as we can see today!

Without a doubt, the early-twentieth-century era was a hard one to live in. Racial, gender, and class oppression were rampant, and medicine and technology were just beginning to advance. However, ladies of the day faced these obstacles with wit, dignity, and verve, especially in their hairstyles. Hmmm…what else can we borrow from them?

Take care of yourselves,


2 thoughts on “Timeline Tuesday: Head-Turning Turn-of-the-Century Hairstyles”

Leave a Reply