The Hair at the Nineteenth Century

Never before, like in the nineteenth century, was so demonstrated that the hair may be the outward expression of our thoughts. In the first half of the century, the literary movement, which later would become a way of thinking, was the Romanticism. This word is more related with a philosophical tendency than with a love feeling. It was the complete opposition to the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment; the other extreme of the logical rationalism of the 18th century. Romantic literature is fantastic, ideal, far from the everyday reality. The eighteenth century's rationalism believed in a world driven by mechanical laws into a universe what they thought was a smooth running machine; in an artificial life concentrated in cities; they felt that they were living in the best of all possible worlds. Romanticism discovers mystery everywhere; is irrational, conflicted and dubitative; it prefers the solitude, the melancholy of nostalgic feelings; it prefers the Nature and the release of social structures. The supreme authority will not more be the Reason, but, instead, the individual imagination. And the hair, in the first half of the century, was that way: disordered, dry, natural, with no artificial products, with no ostentation; an expression of the sense of individual freedom and a suggestion of "not-belonging" to anything previously uniformed. From the classical models of the Greek aesthetic, at the end of the 18th century, they jumped to an encounter with the medieval aesthetic. Romanticism accepts with more pleasure the mysteries of the obscurantism than the rationalist explanations of the Enlightenment. In the first years of the 19th century men wore this kind of "open-mind" hairstyle, and beards and moustaches were rarely seen.

Friedrich SchellingBeethovenRené de Chateaubriand





George Bryan Brummell was a real 19th century's "dandy". He was born in London in 1778 and died at his 61 years of age in Caen, France. He was the dictator of men's fashion in the British Regency court and for all the English society. He established the use of men's tailored suits with W collar and ties, worn by everybody today. His complete style, hair, clothes, manners and behavior were copied by every Englishmen at that time. It was also copied his habit of bathing, cleaning his teeth and shaving every day. He used to bath his body in milk, like the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. He broke with all the eccentricity inherited from the former century using a style of plain, sober and elegant colors. He used to say that he had the art of being "conspicuously inconspicuous". He delayed five hours dressing before going outside. Being a personal friend of the Prince of Wales, who later was the king George IV, Brummell made of his "dandyism" the profession of his life. Unfortunately he threw away a fortune, spending and gambling. Ruined, and leaving England with his creditors behind, went to France in 1837, where he was living until his death in 1840, impoverished and helped by a modest annual salary provided by his friends from England.



Countess Louise Van Voss - Bury

Women hairstyle was, at the times of the Napoleonic Empire, which coincided with the Georgian and the Regency in Great Britain, -the first decade of the century-, a neo-classic style inspired in Ancient Greece hairstyles. This style was characterized by using curls on the forehead and above the ears, and the hair held with a knot or a chignon at the back of the neck. Hairstyles were usually adorned with ribbons, head bands or diadems. Near 1820 they started to wear the hair parted in the center and pulled back smoothly toward the back. At this time every woman wore a hat or a bonnet in public places. Those hairstyles were also called "Jane Austen's hairstyles", because of the popularity of her stories, like the famous "Pride and Prejudice" from 1813. 

Massot Empress JosephineParis 1818Jane Austen

Around 1835 women hairstyles became a little more elaborate and men started to use beard and moustaches again. 

Stieler-Caroline Countess of HolsteinDelacroix



The Queen Victoria of England ruled from 1837 to 1901. This period was called "Victorian Age" because of the particular characteristics it have had. It was an age of energy, with a huge industrial and economic expansion, in which Britain held the position of world leadership, with the biggest colonial Empire. The Victorian moral was of straight and solid principles. Hairstyles were successively changing during different moments of this period. Men, since 1840 until approximately 1865, wore their hair more or less long, and became in fashion big moustaches, sideburns, and beards. Also was "à la mode" the puritan hairstyle of the 19th century, with no moustaches, and sideburns attached to a short beard, like Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham LincolnEdgar Allan PoeAmbrose BurnsideLew WallaceStuart Mill




AntimacassarAfter 1860, and until the end of the century, hair was used shorter, but beards and moustaches were constantly used. Gentlemen used different kinds of waxes and oils to keep their hair in shape, including wood frames used at the night time to preserve the form of their moustaches. At the end of the century many decided to use a clean shaven face and short hair. Amongst all the products used to conditioning or fix the hair, the most popular was the Macassar oil. Made with a mix of coconut oil, palm oil and oil from flowers called "ylang-ylang", advertisements promised "to strength and stimulate hair growth". Because of the popularity of this unguent, housewives began to cover the arms and backs of their chairs with an "anti-macassar" protection, which was a cloth designed to prevent soiling in the fabric.





Josephine ChestneyPrincess Victoria GermanyEliza Frances AndrewsLady in 1890




Eliza Rossana Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld, was better known by her artistic name Lola Montez. She was born in Ireland in 1820 and died in 1861. She was a famous dancer and courtesan in the court of Ludwig I of Bavaria, who made her countess of Landsfeld. She published in 1858, "The arts of beauty; or secrets of a lady's toilet, with hints to gentlemen, on the art of fascinating". The book contained recipes for dying gray hair, like this one : "10 grams of gallic acid, 1 ounce of acetic acid y 1 ounce of tincture of sesqui-chloride of iron ". Dissolve the gallic acid in the tincture of sesqui-chloride of iron, and then add the acetic acid. Before using this preparation, the hair should be thoroughly washed with soap and water. A great and desirable peculiarity of this dye is that it can be so applied as to color the hair either black or the lighter shade of brown. If black is the color desired, the preparation must be applied when the hair is moist, and for brown it shall not be used until the hair is perfectly dry. The way to apply the compound is to dip the points of a fine tooth comb into it until the interstices are fill with the fluid, then gently draw the comb through the hair, commencing at the roots, till the dye has perceptibly taken effect. When the hair is entirely dry, oil and brushes it as usual ". The book contained, besides, recipes and methods for all the aspects of feminine beauty, and some recommendations for gentlemen. 



Marcel Grateau wave

Women, in 1840, and until 1860, wore chignons at the top of their heads, combining chignons with locks falling at either side of the face. They adorned their hair with combs, flowers, leaves, pearls, or jeweled ribbons. They used to comb their, also, parted in the center and tied to the nape with a knot. Near 1860 chignons at the nape became of very popular use. Curls framing the hair were common around 1850. Curls and waves, after 1860, were generally used, and they used metallic hair curlers at the night time to preserve the shape of their curls. In 1872 the French hair dresser Marcel Grateau patented his "curling iron ", which was made of heavy tongs with rounded internal surfaces, in which one of the arms had a circular convex section and the other a concave one, so that one fitted into the other when the tongs were closed; they were then heated, allowing the hair be waved. This invention was a great success and allowed to develop new hairstyles, as the one with his name, "the Marcel wave".


Sarah Bernhardt

Near 1880 was in fashion the "pompadour" hairstyle, which consisted in rising the hair upwards in the central part and leaving fallen curls at the sides. One of the variations was the "French pompadour", with the hair held in the top of the head and curls over the forehead. 



Charles Dana Gibson


This graphic artist and illustrator made popular the "Gibson Girl" hairstyle. He was born in 1867 and died in 1944; during his professional career he worked 30 years in the Life Magazine and other important American publications. His illustrations of the American quotidian life displayed a new kind of woman: beautiful, independent and very well arranged. This hairstyle was a real success near 1890, and was used until after the First World War. 

To create this hairstyle, women added in the front of their heads hairpieces, made usually from their own hair, saving all the hair from their hairbrushes in a small container made of glass or ceramic. 



FIRST BEAUTY SALONS - Martha Matilda Harper

Martha Matilda HarperThe modern concept of beauty hair salons for women was developed by a Canadian woman, Martha Matilda Harper (1857-1950), who, in some way, also invented the concept of franchising in the bussiness' world. In 1882 she moved to New York, starting to make a hair tonic, based in natural products, harmless for the head. With her first savings of 360 dollars, she started a smart entrepreneur career, based in an active marketing and a great sense of innovation. She opened her first salon, with the slogan "Health is Beauty ”, meaning that she left appart any idea of beauty as vanity, underlying the importance of a good health as the reflect of a harmonic appearance. On the other hand, she studied with tutors to improve her education, etiquette, and the art of the elegance and good manners, and in 1882 she moved to one of the most prestigious buildings in Rochester, New York. To be attractive for her clients, she used a long hair, floor-length, keeping it always clean and shiny. Amongst other contributions, she also invented the “shampoo reclining chair”. At that time women used to groom their hair in the privacy of the home, assisted by domestic workers, or by hairdressers visiting them at home. Martha opened her salon for women in Rochester, the "Harper's Salon”, which was a fulgurant success. When other women wanted to open salons like her's, she propossed them a contract of franchising, along with a Barber School, which was called "Harper's Method". The contract included that all the purchases of beauty products should be made on Harper's salon. She also established rules to hire and train new Harper Salons' staff. At the end of the century, there were 200 salons already opened in United States, and in 1928, 500 Harper salons were operating around the world, most of them in United States, Germany and Scotland. 





Procter and GambleProcter and Gamble soap


William Procter (1801-1844), a British candle maker, joined in 1837 with the husband of his sister in law, James Gamble (1803-1891), an Irish soap maker, to create the company Procter & Gamble. In 1859 they were selling more than a million of dollars and they were the official suppliers of the Union Troops in the Civil War (1861-1865). At that time was used the "castile soap ", in bars, made with water, lye and olive oil. In 1879 P&G introduced a new revolutionary soap, the "Ivory Soap", which promised to be a "99.44% pure" and floated in water. It was achieved shaking the product with air in the mixing machine. It was the first American soap equaling in quality the best European soaps. In 1887 their operations included a huge variety of products, and later they became a multinational corporation.





The first razor machines were patented by the Kampfer Brothers in 1880 in Germany. At that time people used razors blades made of steel, which were relatively expensive, needed to be sharpened periodically, and rusted with continuous use. In 1893, King Camp Gillette, (1855-1932), a salesman of the company Crown Cork and Seal Co., bottle caps makers, designed a razor machine much more affordable, thinner and lighter, with detachable blades. The first Gillette razor machines were offered at 5 dollars, which should be something like 140 dollars today. The average salary for a worker was around 40 or 50 dollars monthly. In 1902 was created the Gillette Safety Razor Company. The company was a supplier of the United States army in the First World War. Gillette was selling at that time 70 millions razor blades and nearly 500 thousand razor machines yearly. 



Gillette safety razorGillette safety razor 


hair dryer 1890

In 1890, Alexandre Godefroy, in his beauty salon in Paris, invented a machine to dry the hair in hair salons. Godefroy's blow dryer consisted in a metal bonnet, that attached to a chimney pipe of a gas stove, blew hot air on the head. This system allowed women to dry their hair faster and to preserve designs of new kinds of hairstyles. The big size of those machines still made impossible its domestic use. In the 20th century the system was improved, adding an electrical resistance which allowed transforming the cold air at the input in hot air at the output. Later thermostats were also added to regulate the temperature and to avoid the risk of burns. Another improvement was the handheld blow dryer, made of plastic material and safer.

The Collexia Hairdryer is the leatest professional styling tool, click the link to purchase or to read more.



In 1883, Fritz Henkel (1848-1930), a German merchant, launched to the market a hair pomade, to increase the revenue of his company Henkel & Cie., founded in Aachen, Germany, in 1876 and relocated in Düsseldorf. At the next century, the Henkel Group will be one of the most important companies in the world making hair care products, with a strong presence in five continents and in 125 countries.




Moler's manual

The profession of barber was organized, revitalized and achieved to recover its importance at the end of the 19th century. They started to associate in groups of "master barbers", implementing hygiene standards and a minimum of hours of practice. They started to work with the assistance of chiropractics, including lessons about the anatomy of hair and scalp.

-In 1886 the "Barbers' Protective Union" was founded in Columbus, Ohio.

-In December 5th 1887 is founded the first barbers' union: the Journeyman Barbers International Union, which, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor, made together their first annual convention in Buffalo, New York. -Arthur B. Moler opened the first school to graduate professional barbers in the world, in Chicago, in 1893: the Moler Barber College. Simultaneously he published several texts about professional barbering, like the "A. B. Moler Barbers' Manual". - In 1897 the first barber license was issued in Minnesota. It included the requirement of knowledge of sanitary practices and educational training and a minimum of hours of practice and education in that state. 

Journeymen Barbers




Kromer's dyeHoveys tonic