Ancient Celts--early inhabitants of what is today the British Isles and western Europe--were noted by neighbours and conquerors as being particular about the cleansing and styling of their hair. Perhaps being unexpected among so-called "barbarians," this trait was described by early travellers from the Greek and Roman world. One early depiction came from Greek writer Diodorus Siculus, who noted that Celts used lime dissolved in water to lighten their hair and give it body. Both men and women wore their hair long, and nobles often incorporated elaborate braids and decorations. The working class relied on braids for more pragmatic reasons: to keep their hair out of the way.
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Noble Celtic women favoured elaborately braided hairstyles. Gold beads or balls were braided into the hair, particularly at the end of the braid. Braided styles included three- or four-strand braids, in which ribbons or gold thread was twined into the hair; cross braids with twists; and side braids which were then either gathered at the neck to cascade down the back or looped around the ears to frame the face. Commoners might braid objects such as glass or bone beads into their hair.
Combs and Pins
Metal combs and pins were common. Elaborate knot-work designs, still popular today, were worked into the gold, silver or bronze pins and combs. Enamelled bronze pins fashioned in a U shape were also popular. These items might also be made out of bone or horn.
Bands and Fillets
Forehead bands made of gold, silver or bronze were worn by wealthy or noble men. Fillets, bands around the crown of the head made from cloth or metal and adorned with beads and gemstones, were worn by women. Sometimes, a thin band of gold hair called a linn was also worn.
Beards and Mustaches
Nobles and upper class men usually wore both a beard and moustache. Beards were either forked or squared at the bottom. Cheeks were shaved, however. Lower class men wore a long moustache that might be curled at the ends, but did not wear beards. Moustaches were generally grown until they covered the mouth.
The Criminal Shave
Cutting a man's or woman's hair in public was considered a form of humiliation. In tribal culture, if a man was found guilty of breaking a law, his head and facial hair would be shaved. The man was still allowed to eat and work with the tribe, but he lost his rights to vote and have any input into tribal decisions. Once his hair grew back, his privileges were returned. Running away rather than facing the prison shave wasn't a viable option. Every tribe had its own elders who knew the names and lineages of all their own tribal members as well as the members of neighbouring tribes and it was unlikely that a runaway would be accepted into a new tribe.
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