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Roman hairstyles

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Hairstyles (Latin capillitium) in Ancient Rome, as in our time, were strongly influenced by fashion. The way hair was styled changed throughout Roman history for both women and men, and the fashion for hairstyles changed more rapidly than the fashion for clothes. The most expressive feature of women's hairstyles was the use of wigs, and men's-shaving the beard.

Men's hairstyles

The Romans borrowed a lot from Greek culture, and until the end of the 4th century BC, most men followed the Greek fashion for hairstyles: they grew lush beards and long hair. This lasted until the 3rd century BC, when fashion began to change dramatically: after the conquest of Greece, short haircuts and clean-shaven stubble became fashionable. Shaving began when a man was 21 years old, the first shave (Lat. depositio barbae) was accompanied by celebrations.

Mark Crassus. 1st century BC
Gaius Julius Caesar, 1st century AD
Lucius Calpurnius, 1st century BC - 1st century AD

The moustache and beard were carefully shaved to ensure smoothness, although this was not the most pleasant task in the Roman shaving technique.: not very sharp razors, no soap or hot water. The satirist Martial wrote that "the wisest creature is the goat who wears a beard all his life." Some men wore unkempt long beards: as a rule, these were men with low social status and wealth (peasants and slaves), men who are in great grief and mourning (the emperor Augustus after the defeat of Varus grew his hair on his head and beard for several months), as well as philosophers as a sign of wisdom, nonconformity and contempt for everything material.

During the early Empire period, longer hair began to enter the mogu, but the face was still supposed to be clean-shaven.

Germanicus Iulius Caesar Claudianus. Early 1st century AD
Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus. Early 2nd century AD

Women's hairstyles

During the republic, women, like men, wore simple hairstyles: their hair was combed in the middle (or without parting), thrown back and tied in a knot at the back of the head.

During the time of the empire, complex high styling, structures of curls and braids, as well as various types of curls began to enter fashion. The tutulus hairstyle was very popular: the hair, curled in numerous curls, was fixed above the forehead on a wire frame like a kokoshnik, and on the back of the head it was braided into small braids and laid in the form of a basket. Under Flavius and before Trajan, high tower hairstyles were popular, and under Hadrian, plainly styled hair returned to women's fashion.

Livia Drusilla, wife of Augustus. Early 1st century AD
Bust of a young woman. Second half of the 1st century AD
Bust of a young woman. The back of my head. Second half of the 1st century AD

Notable women could style their hair differently several times a day. Since the time of the republic, women were forbidden to dye their hair, but over time, the ban ceased to be observed and was lifted. Henna, ash and herbs were used for hair coloring, especially red and light shades were popular. Sometimes it came to very bright colors: it was said about the Empress Messalina that " the red color of her hair is visible on the banks of the Rhine."

Vibia Sabina, wife of Adrian. Early 2nd century AD
Fayum portrait. 1-2 century AD
Poppea Sabina, wife of Nero. 1st century AD


Wigs (Latin capillamentum, galerus) came into fashion with practical benefits: they were often worn by women who hid poor growth of their own hair, failed coloring or other damage to the hairline. Men also sometimes used wigs to hide their identity or hide an early bald spot, such as Emperor Otho. Wigs were made from natural hair, women could collect their hair for a wig from a young age, or cut their slaves. Since blonde hair was in fashion for a long time, wigs made from the hair of Gallic women were most appreciated.

Aristocrat with a magnificent Roman hairstyle, reconstruction

Related topics

Men in Ancient Rome, Women in Ancient Rome