Medieval or renaissance hairstyles

Written by martha mendenhall
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Medieval or renaissance hairstyles
Women in the Renaissance showed off their hair with elaborately braided styles. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

There was a huge cultural transition in Europe from the Middle Ages -- from the fall of the Roman Empire until the middle of the 14th century -- to the Renaissance, named for the period's "rebirth" of art and learning. As the fashion of the Middle Ages transformed into that of the 14th and 15th century Renaissance, hairstyles for women and men reflected this change.

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No Visible Hair Look

Medieval noblewomen wore hairstyles that included tall headdresses, veils or other hair coverings. Women wore these styles to show their dignity, modesty and religious piety. The large cone-shaped headdresses, an iconic image of the medieval woman, were meant to hide a woman's hair. To complete the effect of "no visible hair," women often shaved, scraped or plucked hair that grew too far down onto the face, creating a "receding hairline" that was considered the most beautiful and elegant of looks. Women also shaved or plucked their eyebrows into oblivion, further eliminating any visible hair on the face.


Women of lower classes or those living simple lives wore basic braids in the Middle Ages. Women grew their hair long, and braiding it in a single braid that fell down the back kept the hair conveniently out of the way when cooking, cleaning or caring for children. Since medieval women of the nobility covered their heads in public, braids wrapped into knobs on either side of the head that didn't interfere with a head covering were also prevalent. By the Renaissance, noblewomen were no longer interested in covering their heads, but rather, they created elaborately braided hairstyles meant to show off their hair.

Hair Color and Decoration

Renaissance women used hair dyes and other natural elements to create coloured and shimmering effects on their hair. Women with blonde and gold hair were favoured, so those whose tresses were darker often dyed them. They crushed certain flowers and plants and created pastes and gels for their hair. Women began to decorate their hairstyles with gems, flowers and ribbons, often braiding these into their elaborate coiffures. Women also adorned their hair with crownlike circlets.

Men's Hairstyles

In the Middle Ages, the most predominant hairstyle was no style at all. After the neatly groomed look of the Romans, the men of the Middle Ages followed the lead of those tribes who had invaded from the cold northern climates and sported long, basically unkempt hair and full beards. For these tribesmen, hair was a sign of strength and virility. As the Renaissance approached, faces became clean shaven once again, and though men tended to keep their's at least to the chin, they generally wore it off the face and held back by a stylish hat.

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