For Medieval people, hairstyles were dictated by fashion and the cultural norms prevailing at that time. Women’s hairstyles, as well as men’s hairstyles, represent culture other than being fashion statements. More about the headdress was the medieval hairstyles than the actual medieval hair under them. Throughout the Medieval period, medieval hairstyles represented status in society and were sexy and attractive. As already said, medieval women, especially married women, were required by different cultures to cover their hair completely.
The Medieval hairstyles were very formal with a variety of styles. The upper class used braids and buns along with metallic wires and ribbons. Sometimes, these silk ribbons were accompanied by bands of leaves and flowers. When we compare medieval men’s hairstyles with medieval women’s hairstyles, it appears that the latter was greater than the former for obvious reasons. Medieval women wore flowers and colorful ribbons and made styles into braids and other arrangements.
Styles of the Times:
In the Medieval period, whether a woman is married or not as indicated by her covering hair. Young girls and unmarried women used to wear their hair uncovered and loose. Sometimes plaited styles and braids for women were also worn by them. Due to cultural norms, widows and married women were required to display a greater modesty degree by covering all hair in public. They belong to which social and financial status was represented by their accent and headdress such as ribbon hairstyles, gold or silk thread. Women were accused of witchcraft or low morals if they wore loose hair.
From Practical to Elaborate:
It represented social status and were those of function and neatness. For instance, women belonging to the working-class wore braids to keep their hair out of the way while doing work. On the other hand, women belonging to the upper class kept their hair secure under elaborate headdresses and other coverings by relying only on practical braids. Moreover, accessories played an important role in medieval haircuts throughout this period.
There is not much difference between medieval hairstyles during the early, high, and late medieval periods. After the end of the united Roman Empire, the early medieval period began. The German invasion and the decline of the Roman Empire became the cause of this which began the early medieval age. German people gave significance to these hairstyles and considered them the symbols of authority and power. Women used braids and bands to avoid their hair from falling on the face.
On the other hand, men used to tie their hair at the top of the head and make a high knot. Long plaits were in fashion during the middle and let medieval period. Now let’s have a look at these hairstyles.
• Early Middle Ages:
In the early period of the medieval age, women used to wear loose hair but were covered. With Christianity coming, married women were required to cover all their hair under a wimple, veil, scarf, or loose shoulder cape when going out in public. This early medieval hairstyle was for women of all classes.
•The Viking Age:
The Vikings once inhabited the Scandinavian countries, Norway, Greenland, Sweden, and Iceland. Viking women’s hairstyles and Viking haircuts were common at that time. Young girls and unmarried women did wear loose hair up with a circlet or braided or braids for women. Women having blonde hair were prized, and brunettes would often bleach their hair to get red-gold.
Another Viking hairstyle female was for married women who were asked to wear their hair either on the sides of the head that hung down beside their cheeks or in two braids or in a long ponytail knotted into a bun at the top or back of the head and let it fall freely down the back. A veil or hood-like cap would have been their headdress. However, archaeological sites do not give any evidence until around the 10th century near Jorvik or Dublin, which were dwelled by the Vikings in the United Kingdom. Servants and thrall women wore their hair cropped as a sign of servitude, displaying their social status. These historical Viking hairstyles were common during the 10th and 11th centuries.
•Medieval Hairstyles in the 12th Century:
In the 12th century, women began to have their hair uncovered but not all the time according to the 1200’s fashion. Women belonging to aristocracy or royalty used to wear two long hair lengths that were loose lengths bound throughout the hair with ribbon or braided with ribbon. Sometimes these braids for women were extended to the ground by weaving in false hair. The headdress would be a crown with or without a veil or a circlet. Young girls used to wear loose, flowing hair accompanied by a chaplet of flowers of a wreath.
Queen’s hairstyle was a bit different during the 12th century. For formal occasions, the queen had loose and flowing hair. Her crown with or without a light veil was her headdress.
However, braids for women were stopped wearing by women by the end of the 12th century. They began to hide their hair again by wearing a wimple that covered the neck completely and hid all the hair. It was often worn with a circlet.
In the later part of the century, the barbette that was a band of linen was worn. It was pinned on top of the head and encircled the face. Nobel women used a light veil and that, but all other women have worn the barbette alone, with hair braided at the back of the head. Girl Medieval hairstyle was a bit different because they used the barbette with a fillet, a stiffened band of silk similar to a circlet or linen. It looked like a hat and could be as wide as four inches. This is how women in the 12th century worn hairstyles. British hairstyles, Italian hairstyles, and French hairstyles were almost similar with a few differences.
• 13th-Century Medieval Hairstyles:
As the century changed, so did the medieval hairstyle. With the dawn of the new century, women began to use the wimple as a veil with a broad piece of cloth lying under the chin. This style was mostly used by women belonging to royalty and the noble class.
Along with that, hair nets which were also called crespines, began to be used worn by women belonging to the noble class at the beginning of the 13th century. Later on, this was common for women belonging to all classes. A barbette or fillet held these hairnets, and the latter held braids or rolls of hair in place. These are now old-fashioned hair nets that were an important part of women’s hairstyles until the late 15th century.
When it comes to the last decade of the 13th century, arranging plaited or braided hair was the popular hairstyle. To keep these braided coils in place on both sides of the head, the crespine was used and adapted.
• 14th-Century Medieval Hairstyles:
The veil was dropped from wearing wimple at the beginning of the 14th century. Wearing this was, the wimple was referred to as a gorget. Women began to wear braid vertically during the middle of the 14th century, which resembled loops over the ears. Young women still kept their head uncovered and often wore a fillet to support these braids. However, in the latter part of the 14th century, women began to leave their necks and chins uncovered. They began to prefer wearing a veil with a narrow fillet. On the other hand, married women have still worn their hair wounds and plaited closely around their heads. This was covered by a wimple or veil when they were in public.
In this period, elaborate headdress made their debut in mid medieval women’s hairstyles. Crespines now became cylindrical cauls formed by reticulated, flexible metal wire mesh. At the intersection of the mesh, ornaments and jewels were inserted. To cover the back of the neck and head, short veils were worn. Later on, this style came to be known as a larger face-framing headdress.
There came the horned, heart-shaped, reticulated butterfly and steeple headdress with the dawn of the new century. These headdresses were elaborate and large decorated with jewels. Hair was completely hidden under the attached veil and was closely wound and braided the head. The French hairstyle was a little bit different as women in France shaved or plucked their hairline back to meet the headdress’s line. This was specifically accompanied by the steeple headdress, which was also known as a hennin. High foreheads were s symbol of beauty and intelligence. Unmarried women used to keep their hair loose and flowing while wearing a hennin without a veil.
On each side of the head, women in the medieval period typically wore two braids. Several replicas of the original style can be seen today. Hairstyles with characteristics of waves or feeder or accent braids that completely clear up the forehead. Except that lace braid versions on the back of the head were also common at that time. Multiple braids were also in vogue as women wearing more than three plaits at one time. These braids were also decorated and adorned with pearls and metallic accessories.
Following are the famous for women:
- Braided Updo
- Halo Crown
- Dual Braided Bun
- Forehead Four-Strand
- Fishtail Halo
- Side Fishtail
- Loose Fishtail
- Skinny Temple Braids
- Two-pronged Tied
- Two-pronged Braided
Medieval Men Hairstyles:
As has already been said that great importance was given to hairstyles in the medieval era. When we talk about men’s hairstyles, it was considered the highest form of humiliation when a man shaved his head. However, monks used to shave their heads from the middle but leaving a narrow strip around it due to some reasons. Common people in this period had short hair. This was combed towards the front on the forehead without parting them. Even the monks used this hairstyle, except the few ones who shaved the middle of the head. Men belonging to the upper class let their hair grow longer and sometimes part it from the middle, unlike common people’s style. However, men’s hairstyles were few as compared to that of women.
Medieval Children Hairstyles:
Medieval children’s hairstyles were almost similar to the hairstyles of the grownups with few changes. Boys shaved their heads, especially from the peasants and the lower class. Boys belong to the nobility, and royalty used to have long hairs and part it from the middle like the grownups. On the other hand, girls arranged their hair into two braids on each side. They also parted them from the middle. Two plaits brought from the nape of the neck crossing over the top of the head and tie together was another important medieval hairstyle for girls, especially the working class.
Medieval Royal Hairstyles:
Having long hair and a growing beard was the style of royalty. In the early middle age, the beard was very popular and later lost its importance when men began to shave their beards. Long hair, however, remained popular throughout the medieval period. Most of the kings from the Carolingian and Merovingian dynasties used to have long hairs. That is why it was considered a symbol of power and authority. Having short hair became common in the reign of Charlemagne because it was considered improper by the church. That is why King Louis II of France cut his hair short like that of the monk in response to an order made by the pope. Although having long hair was a notable trend in royalty, short hair was also found among the royals.
To sum up, medieval hairstyles were directed by norms prevailing at that time and were a symbol of people’s social and financial status. Various hairstyles existed at that time with a nominal difference during different phases of the medieval period. Women had more hairstyles as compared to men. However, being a theologian society, the church played an important role in the hairstyles’ domain, just like everything. Covering heads by women was influenced by the church. Most of the medieval hairstyles we find nowadays survived because of the images on historic coins, portraits of royals, writings, and paintings.