Roman Hair & Beards



Women's Hair & Hair Coloring

As today, women's hairstyles could be simple or elaborate. Hairstyles varied according to a women's social status and age. During the Republican era, a popular conservative style involved tying the hair back into a bun and fixing it with a pin. Other more elaborate hairstyles involved puffs, waves, and curls--sometimes alone, sometimes in combination. In addition, hairpieces were sometimes used to complete a particular hairstyle.

Some women dyed their hair--blonde and red were particularly popular hair colors. Something called Batavian foam was used to produce blonde hair; fat and ashes were used to produce red. Wigs made from the hair of Germans captured in battle were very popular because of their natural blondness.

Women regarded body hair as undesirable; so they removed such with pumice stone (ouch!). Facial hair was removed with resin and pitch.

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Men's Hair

A man might get his hair curled or have his hair cut. If he were experiencing severe hair loss, he might wear a wig to cover up the problem. Then, as now, some men looked for ways to conquer the hair loss problem. During the Republic, grease and oil were thought to make hair grow.

Beards were out-of-fashion among the aristocracy of the Late Republic; and didn't come back into vogue until the first century CE. So men shaved or used the pitch-and-resin-facial-hair-removal technique to ensure they remained clean-shaven. If a man were in mourning, though, his hair and beard were permitted to grow as a sign of his sorrow. The poor often ignored fashion since it was thought impossible for a man to shave himself and they could ill afford the expense of a daily barbering. Sometimes young men would wear beards just to draw reactions from their elders (sound familiar?).

As we do today, a man went to a barbershop where the barber (tonsor)--either male or female--would cut their hair or remove it.

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Children's Hair

Children were allowed to grow their hair long, often down to the shoulders. Young girls usually wore their hair knotted at the back of the neck or in a ponytail, but some had curls or bangs, which could be either straight or curled.

Boys didn't shave until they achieved their majority and could wear the toga. When they did, the downy remnants of their first shaving were often preserved in a small box and offered as a sacrifice to one of the Roman gods.

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A calmistrum, a hollow iron instrument in the shape of a rod, was used to obtain lasting curls. Combs were made of ivory, wood, tortoiseshell or sometimes gold. Hairpins, ribbons, nets, and tiny combs were used to hold hair in place. Razors were made of bronze or iron and weren't very sharp. Mirrors were made of polished bronze or silver.

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Last Updated:

Sunday, January 20, 2008