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Hairstyle Trend: Adornment
Humans have been adorning their hair with accessories since time began. From cave paintings of prehistoric people wearing feathers and bones in their hair to the plethora of options available in just about every high street store today, the use of accessories has always straddled the line between fashion and functionality.
Combs are perhaps the original hair accessory, with primitive versions dating back to ancient times – archaeologists have found Stone Age models, which could date as far back as 10,000 years! Made from wood, ivory, antlers or bones and personalised with paintings, carvings or gemstones, combs have often served as a tool that’s both practical and decorative. One example of a comb that was completely impractical was the Chinese coronet. Horn combs were worn as a headpiece during ritual ceremonies and could be over a foot long and carved with elaborate scenes and symbols. In the 1800s and early 1900s, combs were worn by self-respecting women everywhere – locks were almost always kept long, but styled in sweeping updos secured with decorative hair combs. The Gibson Girl style in particular relied on their use to keep those rolls in place. Art Deco mania in the 1930s called for combs crafted from Bakelite and decorated with elaborate motifs – simply the most fabulous thing to display on one’s dressing table. In the 70s, the Afro pick became a political statement as much as a tool, worn to symbolise solidarity and black pride.
Today we take hair ties for granted, used for everything from ponytail hairstyles to braided updos. But given that elastic wasn’t invented until the 1800s, there was a lot of time pre-ponytail holder in which people had to get clever about tying back their hair. In ancient times, solid hair rings made of gold, clay or bronze were used to secure styles in what must have been a precursor of the modern frustrations of an elastic that’s too loose after two twists but won’t fit around a third time… In the 20th century, elastic became cheap and widely available enough to create hair ties as we know them, gradually getting covered with fabric to avoid snags and serve as a fashion accessory in their own right – scrunchie, anyone?
The 1980s was all about this much-maligned accessory, which was in fact a design patented by Rommy Revson in 1987 – and named after her poodle, Scunci. Derided for years - including in a memorable Sex and the City scene, where Carrie claims no woman would be seen dead in one - it’s currently enjoying a revival thanks to a general 90s nostalgia, as well as starring roles in campaigns for designers including JW Anderson and Chanel.
Mesopotamian men and women in 500BC were amongst the first to wear headbands to keep their hair out of their eyes. Generally made from cloth strips, they were wrapped and knotted around the head, much like a bandana. The Greeks wore headbands too, known as diadems. More decorative than practical, they were nevertheless used for keeping hair off the face. In the 1800s, the ferronnière was the headband must-have: a gold chain with a single pearl or gemstone worn on the forehead. The name comes from a Renaissance painting, believed to be by Leonardo Da Vinci, named La Belle Ferronnière. Hats became a necessity in polite society for many years and it was until the 1920s that headbands started to appear once again. Slick bands decorated with feathers and jewels were the perfect accompaniment to flapper style, and topped off sleek bobs to perfection. The Alice band is said to have originated around the late 1800s, when Lewis Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was largely restricted to children until Sloane Rangers adapted the look in the 1980s. It’s been a preppy staple ever since - hello, Blair Waldorf - and has recently enjoyed a revamp at the hands of a host of designers. Dolce & Gabbana went seriously, unsurprisingly blingy with their take, while Givenchy flashed right back to 90s face-wash ads with their plain black elastic version.
"She’s confident, cool and keeps her tongue firmly in her cheek. It’s fun, it’s fashion and is about transforming hair into a 3D material to play with."
Tiaras and crowns have always been worn to denote class, from the Romans with their laurel wreaths to the tiaras topped with ostrich feathers which any self-respecting Edwardian debutante would wear for a ball. Once reserved solely for royalty and noblewomen, tiaras became a fashion trend in the Victorian era and really took off in the 1920s as yet another option for flappers to top off their shingled hair. In the 1960s, Audrey Hepburn gave the tiara comb its moment in the spotlight with her iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s look: fashionable ladies picked up the trend and made sparkles an essential addition to any beehive. So far so elegant – until the 90s, when grunge queen, Courtney Love, reimagined the tiara as the perfect addition to bedhead blonde hair. A generation of grunge girls followed suit – as have designers including Saint Laurent, Miu Miu and Ashley Williams, all of whom have paid tribute to Courtney’s anti-prom queen look since.
Ribbons and hair bows are another accessory with a long and popular past. Ancient tribes dating as far back as the Aztecs wove fabrics through their braids to denote tribal allegiances and mark special occasions. In modern Mexico, hair ribbons remain a staple of many regional folk costumes, woven into braid styles to dazzling effect. Bows have been in and out of fashion for centuries, switching from childish to chic depending on the mood of the moment. In 17th century France, the Marquise de Fontange is said to have created a trend - coiffure à la fontange - after tying her hair up with a rough piece of ribbon after losing her hat while out riding. The end result was copied by women throughout France, eventually spreading to Europe – growing bigger and more OTT as it went. Men weren’t immune from the trend, either. In the 1600s, love locks were all the rage – long hair worn over one shoulder, tied in a bow. They caused a scandal at the time for being ‘too feminine’, but that didn’t stop dandies rocking the look in ribbons selected to match their outfits. The humble bobby pin also has an interesting history. Bones, wood, ivory and thorns have long been used to keep in hair place, with more ornamental metal pins also being found at countless Bronze Age sites. These ancient pins - or bodkins, as they were known - were generally extremely long and became increasingly decorative, carved with animals or patterns and worn deliberately to be seen. The Romans were said to use hollowed-out bones as pins which also stored vials of poison; allegedly that’s where Cleopatra kept the dose which she used to kill herself.
In terms of crowning glories, not much can compete with La Belle-Poule; the famous-for-five-minutes French trend for topping giant hairdos with model ships. During the reign of Marie Antoinette, women competed for the biggest hair updos they could manage and decorated their coiffures with birds, butterflies, bows and all manner of other topical and seasonal accessories. When the French warship, La Belle-Poule went to war in 1778, high society ladies found no better way to show their support than wearing boats in their barnets.
Today, the OTT nature of hair accessories is represented through layering masses of cheap and cheerful accessories: see Guido’s brooch-heavy hair for Alexander McQueen, which any self-respecting society lady through time would have been happy to sport in a bid to show off her wealth. Moving forward, hair accessories will become more bespoke – referring back to the earliest days of accessories, they’ll be almost tribal in nature, denoting individuality and personality. Hair tapestry will move to the mainstream, spelling out precisely how we feel in a highly-personalised trend.
For this look, she’s confident, cool and keeps her tongue firmly in her cheek. It’s fun, it’s fashion and is about transforming hair into a 3D material to play with and shape into new structures. Worn with textured hair to keep things from looking too ‘done’, this look is all about more is more, but with a sense of humour.
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