Hair Styles of Ancient Rome
Hairstyles of the Past are still fresh Today
The Ancient Romans were very much like us.
When you take away the visible slave presence and much of the particularly grisly criminal justice, you'll find that we have a lot in common. Things like ancient Roman food, many leisure activities and their art are quite at home with us today.
Just like us, they paid a lot of attention to their dress, and hair styles were very important.
Hair Styles of Elegance for the Rich
In Ancient Rome, your hairstyle showed who you were and where you stood in society.
Wealthy women could, and did, wear extravagant styles which might take an hour to dress. Specialised slaves, Ornatrices, did nothing but wash, brush, colour, cut, curl the tresses of their mistress. It was a privileged position - for a slave.
These wealthy women had plenty of time to sit in front of a mirror while their hair was being ornately dressed. Dyes were used to colour hair, such as henna (which we still use today) and saffron, another expensive import for Roman matrons.
Empress Faustina the Younger
I was moved very close to tears by this statue of Faustine Minore (Faustina the Younger) at the Capitolene Museum in Rome.
It wasn't just the genius of the unknown stone artist ,but the very real impression of a young woman. It seemed as if she could turn to me and speak. I wanted her to speak to me, I wanted to hear about her husband, Marcus Aurelius, one of my favourite Emperors. I wanted her to tell me what her life was like, with her children, her travels and her exalted position.
Would she tell me of her great uncle, Hadrian?
Faustina, what was it like making your home in a military camp for two years?
If only stone could speak.
Of course, I was fascinated with her hairstyle too.
Hairstyle of Faustina the Younger - About 160 CE
Late 1st Century - The Orbis Comarum
Hairstyles were a sign of Value
Hairdressing was part of a woman’s cultus, the practice of self-cultivation and improvement, which was central to the lives of elite Roman citizens.
For the Romans, a woman’s ability to afford the time and manual labor necessary to have her hair styled was not only a sign of wealth, but also of her value within the household.
About 40 BCE - The Tutulus Style
Hairdresser and Amateur Archaeologist
Janet Stephens, hairdresser extraordinaire, recreates the Ancient Roman coiffure using the styling tools available at that time. Even this simple Tutullus style is intricate.
These videos show how she goes about it.
Modern Hairstyles from Ancient RomeClick thumbnail to view full-size
How about you?
Would you wear an Ancient Roman hairstyle?
Hair Styles for Roman Men
Roman men kept their hair cut short, it was the 'barbarians', after all, who grew it long. A good enough reason, the Roman men obviously felt, to keep their crop trimmed.
Romans thought the barbarians were too primitive to keep their hair short, too somehow ..foreign .. with their thick clay-decorated pony tails and painted faces.
The specialised Roman slave hairdressers created the master's hairstyle each day, pulling out any grey hairs and keeping the ears and nostrils neat and tidy. .
You can see in the bust of Julius Caesar that his hair is thinning and it's combed forward in an attempt to disguise this. But a comb-over never conceals baldness and soon enough the busts showed Caesar with his hair cut right back to the scalp.
Hadrian and his Beard
When Hadrian (76-138) became Emperor, he chose a completely new style for himself.
He didn't go for the lean, ascetic lines of the Caesar cut, he didn't want the elaborate curls and sideburns which framed the face of Nero, he chose his own individual look.
Hadrian wore his brown, wavy hair au naturelle, cut to the length that most men now have in the western culture.
He also wore a close beard - a startling departure from former Emperors. It was quite a shock at the time and he was accused of turning his back upon the traditional Roman manly virtues and, instead, becoming just like a decadent Greek or an even more decadent Persian.
Needless to say, soon every man of note in Rome was sporting a similar beard.
The Modern Caesar Cut
How about you? What do you think of the modern Caesar cut?
Do you like the modern Caesar cut?
© 2013 Susanna Duffy