The long hairstyles of the 1800s

Written by amie martin
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The long hairstyles of the 1800s
Modern ringlets were also popular in the 1800s for long hair. (Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Two major differences exist between 21st- and 19th-century long hairstyles: technology and choice. During the 1800s, women styled their hair around their limitations --- electricity, hairstyling appliances, hair products --- and often used their hairstyle to define their marital status. Today, long hair styles are chosen and styled with modern conveniences, such as a blow dryer. Still, the influence of long hairstyles of the 1800s lives on.

19th-Century Context

Long hair was predominant in the 1800s, when people had their hair cut as a necessity rather than out of vanity. Females of all ages worked with what they had --- and what they had was usually long hair and the ability to braid it or curl it overnight with household materials, such as rags, resulting in ringlets in the morning. While hair oils were available, the predominant hair care during the 1800s consisted of simple, and frequent, brushing.

Long Hair for Girls

Long hair in the 1800s was a mark of femininity, so young girls --- especially those seeking marriage --- wore their hair fairly free flowing. In the absence of modern hairstyling appliances, young 1800s girls slept in "pin" curls fashioned out of pieces of fabric, resulting in ringlets the next day. Long braids were also common for young girls in the 1800s who had a more active lifestyle, perhaps helping their families with outside chores on their property.

Long Hair for Women

Hairstyles for ladies in the 1800s were similar to the girls'. Hairstyle staples included ringlets prepared overnight by wrapping sections of hair with household materials, such as rags, as well as braids. If a woman was already married, she usually gathered these ringlets and braids in an "up-do" to distinguish her from a younger, unmarried girl who wore her ringlets and braids longer. Though she often wore it around or atop her head, the married woman of the 1800s traditionally had long hair and cared for it predominantly by brushing it ritualistically.

21st-Century Context

Long hair has made a comeback in the 21st century, with ringlets becoming most predominant. Of course, modern times bring technological advancements, so a current 19th-century retro look is often achieved with hair extensions, blow dryers, hot rollers and curling irons or straighteners. The long hairstyle of the 1800s sprang from necessity, but today it is considered both retro and modern, and the same signature ringlets and braids of the 1800s can be worn at any length.

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