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Monday, September 11, 2017

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow? by Karla Stover

I love the feeling of fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair. Evel Knievel

Lady Godiva hid her naked body with flowing locks of hair. Anne (of Green Gables) Shirley died her red hair green. Jo March cut hers off. Since time immemorial, women have been doing things with their hair.

In ancient Greece, (unless you were a slave) the only time women didn't have long hair was when they were in mourning. Most of the time, they let their tresses fall over their shoulders and down their back, sometimes restraining it with a headband or diadem. Over the ensuing years, buns, headbands, scarves, and hair covers came into play.

Meanwhile, Roman women were constantly changing their hair styles. Fashionable, elaborate dos were how they showed "worth and social standing." And in Egypt, while both boys and girls had their hair "cut short  or shaved off, except for a long lock--the lock of youth-- on  the side of the head, women liked a "smooth, close coiffure, a natural wave, and a long curl."

In Europe, the years passed by until the Renaissance came along. Women still preferred long hair, but they also wanted to expose their foreheads. To achieve this, they created coils above their ears through braiding (think Princess Leia). They then covered these coils with hoods and wimples, or with hairnets and snoods decorated these with gold, pearls or semi-precious stones.
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When red hair became popular, thanks, in part to Elizabeth I, men and women used borax, saltpeter, saffron, and sulphur to achieve the desired red color. The combination made them sick ,but that's never been a deterrent to beauty. One wonders if Anne Shirley ever knew how popular the color was..

Which brings us back to Jo March. Thanks to the Civil War, and that Monarch  of Melancholy, Queen Victoria, the Victorian era was extremely sentimental. And for some reason, this inspired women to make a variety of ornaments out of human hair. It was used to make bracelets (when your sweetheart is going to war, what says, I love you more than a bracelet made from your hair?) When family members have died, what better way to remember them than earrings made from their hair? Or if you have a  lot of  time and a  lot of deceased relatives, how about a framed hair wreath?

Human hair artifacts were first made by the Norwegians. Then the French perfected the craft. Soon, companies were manufacturing gold mountings for jewelry, and selling the tools needed--bobbins, thread, a stand and counterbalance, and molds--and Godey's Lady's Magazine was printing instructions.

And if women weren't doing arts and crafts with hair, they were "carefully pulling the broken and spent strands from their hair brushes, and storing them away in a pretty hair receiver." When they had enough hair they "either put it in a hairnet or rolled it into a sausage-like shape" and use it to help create those "fabulous victory rolls that we see in old photos." These clumps of hair were called rats, and the practice continued until "well into the 20th century" As a very young girl, I saw my grandmother's rat and thought it was a bit creepy.

Through out history, women have used henna, indigo, senna, turmeric, black walnut hulls, red ochre, leeks, and whatever else nature provided to dye their hair black, gold, green, red, yellow, and white. Though why white is a puzzle since most women were trying to hide white hair. According to The Art of Hair Work, both extreme fright and excessive grief can turn hair white. When my neighbor's mother died, her (the neighbor, not the deceased mother) dark hair turned white over night.

And both sexes have worn so many wigs for so long. that's a blog of its own.

Cocoa Chanel once said, "A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life." There are a few celebrities who I wish would do something with their hair. Angie Dickinson has the same style she wore in her Police Woman days, and Marie Osmond could add five pounds to her weight loss ad if she cut hers.

With age, a woman 's face begins to sag. Hair hanging down the side of the face accents this.  From what I see on Nexflix, British woman are smarter about this than American  women are.

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