It’s a known fact that hair accessories were fairly widely used in ancient times. What is not known is the extent to which they may have been used in prehistoric times, although there’s no reason to suppose that they were not. We do know that they were used, either as adornments or for more practical purposes, in both ancient Egypt and ancient Rome. While it was primarily women who used these accessories, men did as well a time, although in both Egypt and Rome the hair tended to be kept short and any accessory was most likely to be a cap or a headband. There was of course the laurel wreath, favored by Greek and Roman men, and by their gods as well.
Nothing Too Exciting Until the Renaissance
Since women tended to wear their hair longer they at least needed something on occasion to tie off their braids. Anything fancier appears to have been used primarily by those of great wealth. It appears that it was sometime during the Renaissance Period that hair accessories truly began to become fashion items. While women are known to have worn hair nets for both practical and fashionable purposes in ancient times, the use of clips, pins, ribbons, and various ornaments began to make their appearance during this period, at least in Europe.
Hair Extensions, Huge Hair, and Powdered Wigs
By the 1700’s wigs had become popular. Wigs were not just worn to cover baldness, although no doubt that may have often been the case. They were often worn as extensions to a person’s natural hair. Women in particular could show off a very healthy head of hair, a significant portion of which was apt to be hair that was not their own. Some of the hairstyles women wore could best be described as huge, with an abundance of hair held together by pins, ribbons, jewels, and even feathers. Men tended to wear wigs for formal occasions, the powdered wig being a prime example. Huge hairstyles eventually went out of fashion, although semi-huge hair would make a reappearance during the 20th century in the form of the beehive hairdo, a fashion that sometimes required more than a few accessories to keep everything in place.
The Era of the Tortoise-Shell Comb
Combs became major accessories during the 19th century and on into the 20th century. Combs are still very much in use today. Most of those made today are made of plastic or nylon, but in your great-grandmother’s or great-great-grandmother’s time the combs were more often than not made from ivory, tortoise shell, or metal. In those days it was not uncommon for combs to be decorated with jewels. Hatpins were more common too. Whether the hatpin should be classified as a hair accessory or a hat accessory is probably a subject for debate.
Hair accessories are still a part of life for most women. What has mostly changed over the past hundred years or so has not so much been the accessories but the hair styles. Hair styles tend to be more natural these days. They often require nothing more than a clip or a small comb, or nothing at all. The most widely used accessory today may well be the elastic band used to secure a ponytail. In that respect, the common rubber band should probably be added to the list of hair accessories. The bobby pin still enjoys wide use, although perhaps not so much as was the case a generation ago, and you will occasionally see a pin with a decorative head in someone’s hair, either that or a barrette.
Weird Will Always Be With Us
There have certainly been many hairstyles and accessories over the centuries that could be described as being downright weird. There were no doubt many unusual accessories that were used in conjunction with the huge hair of the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, one needs to go no further than Hollywood to see strange hairstyles and weird accessories. Royalty seems to be determined to stick with the strange look when it comes to headgear. While today’s accessories seem to be for the most part muted, there are those occasions where a particularly unique hairstyle is either enhanced or ruined by a particularly unique choice of hair accessory. Entertainers, especially those referred to as showgirls, are still often seen with big hair, complete with ribbons, jewels, and feathers. They are of course being paid to wear their hair, or their wig, in that manner.
There are several hair accessories on the market today you would think no one would be apt to purchase. There are those however who actually look attractive wearing something that would look ridiculous on most other people. Three examples of somewhat weird accessories are the oversized bow, oversized meaning it extends from one side of the head to the other, and even beyond; the gold plated ponytailer, which looks like it could weigh a pound, although it probably doesn’t; and the braided chain headband. Whether you like the appearance of the little braids hanging down a person’s forehead or not, this particular headband would seem to be somewhere between a distraction and an annoyance when you are talking to someone who is wearing one.