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The 18th century was a period associated with much change. Just as society, politics, and the economy change, so too do fashions. Hair and hairstyles are no exception to this. Indeed, the second half of the 18th century is "an era particularly identified with hair" as it became a symbol of "aristocracy during the Enlightenment and French Revolution" (Van Cleave). For women of nobility, the styling and making-up of hair was an important part of the day and occurred during the morning toilette, or dressing (see: Toilette). Moreover, though the ideal woman of the 18th century had either dark or blonde hair, in contemporary poetry - when hair colour is specified - it is almost singularly blonde-haired women who are male objects of desire. Accordingly, natural hair became both growingly associated with female sexuality, and a point of attention and concern for people (namely nobility) despite the use of periwigs that characterised the period. Crucially, even as periwigs are concerned, it is real hair which hold significance, for the finest wigs were made from human hair. Towards the middle part of the 18th century, then, real hair became a commodity - and not just human hair. 



OED Definition


One of the numerous fine and generally cylindrical filaments that grow from the skin or integument of animals, esp. of most mammals, of which they form the characteristic coat; applied also to similar-looking filamentous outgrowths from the body of insects and other invertebrates, although these are generally of different structure (A800 – 1878)


I. to put up, turn up (one's) hair: said of a girl when she exchanges her floating hair or ringlets for the dressed hair of womanhood (1662 – 1967)

II. trans, v.: To free from hair; to depilate. (1802 – 1824)

III. trans, v.: To fit hairs to (a violin-bow). (1898)



Johnson’s Dictionary of the English language


One of the integuments of the body.



Frequency of use of the word 'hair'


The Google Ngram view allows the printed frequency of a word to be tracked over a given period of time. Below is a plot showing the use of the word “hair” throughout the 18th century (1700-1800). We can see that the printed usage of the word increases steadily throughout the 100-year period, indicating a rise in concern for, and attention to, one’s hair. The gradual rise in frequency of use may be attributed to a vast array of reasons. However, perhaps the most viable of these is that the rapid rise in usage after 1750 - which was preceded by a steady rise - correlates with the popularity of larger, more elaborate female hairstyles. Naturally, these hairstyles drew attention to themselves and for their elegance and complexity likely became the subject of authorship far more frequently. Incidentally, the sharp increase in 1775 coincides with the coronation of King Louis XIV, at which Marie Antoinette (known as something of a setter-of-trends) debuted the high pouf hairstyle (Autie).


Figure 1. Google Ngram Viewer, showing frequency of the term 'hair' in 18th century English texts. 



Hairstyles and Hair Styling


Though the use of perukes, or wigs, was conventional for men in the 18th century, this was not the case for women until after 1770. Truthfully, even after 1770, the use of wigs in styling women’s hair was far from commonplace. For women, much of the focus on the dressing of hair was centred around 'real' hair.

The Art of Hairdressing, published in 1788, dictates a “concise set of rules for dressing ladies hair” (Stewart). Throughout the guide’s 18 pages, there are precise and detailed descriptions for styling one’s/another’s natural hair - the styling of hair was not left solely to hairdressers; the knowledge of how to dress hair was spread as it was important/socially-expected that women maintained appearances, especially women of nobility.


Figure 2. Extract from The art of hair dressing, or, the ladies director; being a concise set of rules for dressing ladies hair. Alexander Stewart, 1788.


The attention to dressing 'real' hair by Stewart is not an aberration, rather a symptom of the perennial desire for hairstyling to result in a beautiful, yet natural look. Wigs, though inherently artificial, were intended to appear as realistic as possible and thus there was a concern for ensuring that they could not be noticed as being the artifice that they were. The following statement by a hairdressing academy addresses this notion:



 Figure 3. Statement by Gunner's Hair Dressing Academy, 1790.


Learners of hairdressing at Gunner's Academy are taught using real hair - which is implied to be a superior medium to wigs - and ornamental head dresses are boasted as being indiscernible from natural hair. Moreover, rather than simply advocating the purchase and use of perukes to assist those who are balding, "soft pomatum" known to thicken the hair and grow it back on bald heads is advertised. What both of these imply is interesting given the status of wigs and hairdressing in the 18th century; crucially, it was not necessarily the elaborateness of the style that was of import to people, but that they were able to boast that their natural hair was able to be styled in such a manner - the artifice of the wig, however real, was intended to be hidden.


As this is a consideration of real hair, the observation and account of popular hairstyles will look at women's hair, not men's (whose hairstyles were largely centred around the use of wigs). For information on hairdressers, hairdressing, and the tools used to style hair see the wiki page Coiffure, which details the use of powder, pomatum, and hair cushions etc. For an in-depth look at combs (used to style the hair), see the wiki page Comb.







Though the precise dates surrounding the popularity of the Fontange hairstyle are debated, its prevalence in the early 18th century came to decline somewhere between 1710-1720. This hairstyle, carried over from the latter part of the 17th century, was worn with the front hair piled up fairly - though not excessively - high on the top part of the head. The style gains its name from Marie Angélique de Scorailles, the Duchess of Fontanges, who, on a hunt with King Louis XIV, caught her hair in the branch of a tree and make-shiftedly piled her hair on the top of her head loosely using a ribbon, with curls hanging down to her shoulders (Bender). 

Figure 4. Lady wearing her hair in the fontange style: Madame la Princesse de Coney douarière. anon, 1670.


Sheep's Head/Tête de Mouton


After the higher hairstyles of the opening decades of the 18th century grew out of fashion, the height of hairdos declined until low, flat, and simpler ways of dressing hair began to take their place around 1720-1730. The sheep’s head style, gaining its name from its resemblance of sheep’s wool, grew in popularity around the 1750s It was characterized by soft, tight twists of curls arranged in rows close to the head. In France, women wearing this style generally powdered their hair with white powder to alter the colour. In England the practice of powdering hair when wearing the tête de mouton was somewhat rare (Van Cleave).


Figure 5. Lady wearing her hair in the sheep's head style: Early Breakfast. Jean-Etienne Liotard, 1753-6. 




The pompadour hairstyle, named so in homage to Madame de Pompadour - mistress to King Louis XV - was introduced between 1750 and 1760 when she debuted it. Coinciding with an increasing frequency of the use of high hairstyles in 1760-70, it gained popularity in the French female court circle first and shortly after her death it gained popularity in England. The style called for the hair at the front of the head to be swept upwards away from the face and worn high (often with the support of wires) over the forehead. The hair to the side of the face was also swept backwards. The significance of this hairstyle should not be understated, for it is one which has lasted until the present and pervades popular culture - variations of the style were worn by Elvis Presley and many others in Hollywood today.


Figure 6. The pompadour hairstyle: Madame le PompadourJohn Francis Rigaud, 1742-1810


High Hairstyles 


After the pompadour in the 1760s trends in hairstyles became more aligned with height. The dressing of hair tended towards higher and higher styles which varied from a quarter to one and a half times the length of the face. These high hairstyles were often ornamented and decorated with feathers and were favoured by women of nobility. Indeed, it is said that the extreme elegance and elaborate nature of high hairstyles like the pouf was a reason for the initial attacks upon Marie Antoinette - a response to displays of wealth by the Crown in a time of national bankruptcy and famine that became the French Revolution. Interestingly, the height of her hair, though imitated by the ladies of the court, was detrimental of another reason: they were susceptible to catching fire when brushing the candles of the palace chandeliers (Bashor). 


Figure 7. A high hairstyle worn by Marie Antoinette: Marie Antoinette. Marie Louise Adélaide Boizot, 1775.



Gendered Locks? Hair, Women, and Female Sexuality


It is axiomatic that the 18th century was a male-oriented, male-dominated, patriarchal period. One need only consider the fact that Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was written in the latter part of the century to appreciate the perceived inferiority of women to men. In her pivotal text, Wollstonecraft notes that the contemporary contention of women was that they, unlike men, lacked the capacity to reason. Women were seen as intellectually-second to men and biological particularities concerning hair were understood and promulgated by men as reflecting this (among other) misogynistic view.



Figure 8. Extract from A Treatise on the Hair. Peter Gilchrist, 1770.


Where men are prone to baldness, women are not. Though it is now known that the reason for this is largely hormonal, the rhetoric surrounding the difference in hair loss between the two sexes during the 18th century was transfigured by men to be evidence of their superiority. Figure 8 provides the following explanation for balding: "the heat of the brain sends forth ... in time of its nourishment" and hairs are "nourished or destroyed in proportion to the ... excess of heat in the brain". Those who have a greater capacity for intellect and reason will therefore become bald as thinking "great[ly]" "is the cause of baldness". In alignment with contemporary perceptions of women, this logic indicates that it is "rare to see a woman bald", for they lack the ability to reason to a degree greater than that which produces a "moderate temperature" from the brain.


In addition to the perceptions of hair being both a depiction of the subordinateness of women and a tool by which women may be subordinated (in that the plentiful hair of women was evidence of their inability to reason whilst a lack thereof might indicate otherwise), hair is portrayed in 18th century literature as having numerous other inflections, including those relating to female sexuality, disposition, desirableness, and maturation.



Hair Colour


Hair colour was an important aspect of 'hair' and the styling of it in the 1700s. Often - though more frequently in France than in England - wealthy women would sprinkle powder onto their hair to temporarily change the colour of it. Though the use of hair powder was wholly decorative, natural hair colour functions to somewhat of an opposite end in 18th century literature in that different colours are purported to symbolise, and be definitive of, certain character traits.


Red coloured hair appears throughout 18th century texts as symbolising sexual promiscuity. Those who had red hair were purported to be highly sexed and given the frequency with which periodicals and magazines published articles with instructions on turning red hair to a different colour, it also seems that red hair is somewhat undesirable (perhaps as a result of the behaviours associated with the colour). Jonathan Swift, in Gulliver's Travel's articulates the notion that red, or auburn, hair has these associations: "It is observed that the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest, whom yet they much exceed in strength and activity" and later comments "that neither was the hair of this brute of a red colour (which might have been some excuse for an appetite a little irregular) but black as a sloe". This idea that red-haired men and women are naturally more predisposed to libidinous activity than others is reflected in other 18th century prose, perhaps most notably in Cleland's Fanny Hill. One of Fanny's defining physical features is her hair, which "was a glossy auburn, and as soft as silk, flowing down my neck, in natural buckles" and she is indeed, as the novel's title indicates, a "woman of pleasure" whose premarital years are both scandalous and filled with sexual encounters and experiences.



Figure 9. Instructions for turning red hair brown. To Change Red Hair to a Beautiful Brown. Anon, 1770.


Figure 10. Instructions for turning red hair black. Recipe for Making Red Hair Black. Anon, 1770.


Figures 9 and 10, taken from two different British periodicals, show articles that provide instructions detailing how one would change their hair colour from red to another. Whilst figure 9 is likely aimed at both sexes, figure 10 is taken from a magazine for 'gentlemen' and is thus directed at men. What this intimates is interesting, for whilst the sexual promiscuity and libidinousness of the red-haired are seen as traits which depart from the contemporary construction of female 'sensibility' and 'properness' and are therefore traits which women specifically would likely not wish to have been associated with, men too did not desire to have red hair. Moreover, as is clear from the the two figures, the instructions and required ingredients for the process of dying the hair are nearly identical, much like instructions for boiling pasta, for example, would be today. This indicates that it is both a standardised and normalised process, likely due to a large public desire for it; it is therefore apparent that red hair was indeed undesirable in the 18th century. 


Though on one hand red hair was undesirable, on the other hand blonde hair was - for men - extremely desirable on a woman, even more so than black or brown hair. More often than women with dark hair, it is women with blonde hair who are the inspiration for impassioned poems in the 18th century. Nicholas Amhurst's poem entitled To a Lady, who had Yellow Hair is but one example of this:


1    Whilst on thy Golden Locks I gaze
2    And what I like sincerely praise
3    Coldly you turn your Head away, 
4    And tax with Flattery all I say; 


17  The Locks, which flow'd in Waves of Gold
18  Subdu'd the toughest Hearts of Old
19  For Charms like these, Almighty Jove 
20  Despised his Starry Realms above


23  For, if old Tales we call to Mind, 
24  Or look in Ovid , we shall find 
25  That Leda, Danae , and the rest, 
26  Whom Jove in Masquerade possest, 
27  Were Damsels of a Snowy Hue, 
28  With Locks of Amber, just like you. 


33  Fair Rosamond as Poets sing, 
34  Enamour'd thus a British King; 
35  With blazing Hair she pierced his Heart
36  And ev'ry Ringlet proved a Dart


63  However squeamish Fops may range, 
64  However Tastes and Modes may change, 
65  Whether the Black , the Brown , or Fair 
66  Shall chance to reign the favourite Hair
67  Still shall my Voice those Charms approve
68  Which vanquish'd Henry, Mars and Jove


Amhurst classifies women by their hair colour and relates their accomplishments according to these colours. This is of course indicative of the fact that in the 18th century there are prejudices concerning the colour of one's hair and the fact that in 18th century literature hair colour is symbolic of certain dispositions. For example, in addition to being perceived as highly sexed, red-haired women were also seen as having fiery temperaments to match their "blazing Hair" - in Amhurst's poem the red haired woman kills a man in a tone that makes the line recall Boudica, emphasising the notion that red hair also symbolises this temperament in the 18th century (though this symbolism and association is certainly not particular to the time). Indeed, the metaphorical line "and ev'ry Ringlet proved a Dart" signifies that it is her hair which is of consequence; it is her ringlets which are darts that pierce the King's heart.

After relating and acknowledging the various accomplishments of women with different hair colours, the poet returns to blonde hair and proclaims that in spite of the magnificence of other colours, he still favours the hair which "vanquish'd Henry, Mars and Jove". This does not only signify the contemporary preference of blonde hair, but a fetishisation of hair itself at the time; in the poem hair is both the mode of classification for women and the most important aspect of a woman, for the narrator does not favour women with green eyes and slender frames, but women with golden hair. Hair, as evidenced by the turn of phrase "to put up one's hair" (OED), is therefore linked with female sexuality and notions of womanhood and is thus a symbolic facet of female identity in the 18th century.



Hair Where? Uses, Abuses, and Class Divisions





Figure 11. Preface to The Natural Production of Hair. Alexander Stewart, 1795.

Figure 12. Extract from A Dissertation Upon Head Dress. Anon, 1767.


Figure 13. Extract from The Natural Production of Hair. Alexander Stewart, 1795. 


As evidenced by figures 11, 12, and 13, real hair (as it regards fashion) was valued by people in the 18th century. Real hair is both superior to ornamental head dresses and wigs, and is a natural ornament without which one is "imperfect" (NaturalStewart). For this reason, among others, real hair was not just valued, but was valuable in the most literal sense - it was a commodity to be traded. Interestingly, however, the use of hair was not restricted to fashion-related purposes like the manufacturing of periwigs, rather, it was used in a vastly varied number of ways.



The Hair Trade


The prevailing use of perukes in the 18th century brought forth a form of manufacturing and trade previously unknown to people. In light of the popular consensus being that real hair is superior to artificial wigs, it is axiomatic that the best periwigs were made from real hair. Additionally, it was commonplace for women to augment their own hair with real human hair that was not their own. The widespread use of real hair in places and ways other than where and how it grows therefore began a hair-trade that, despite its necessity and the unquestionable demand for it, was in disrepute in the early part of the century. Much of the contempt for the hair-trade can likely be attributed to the avarice of wig-makers, who often defrauded customers by making wigs from the hair of animals including cows, horses, goats, and camels, all the while advertising their products as being made from human hair. (It is equally likely that some of the 18th century preference of real hair to perukes stems from the fact that wigs were known to be made of brute hair.) People's desire to have beautiful, natural looking, ornate hair was therefore exploited by merchants and wig-makers. This was to the detriment of the people in a number of ways: to their finances in the sense that they would have drastically overpaid for what they believed to be human hair; wearing 'brute' hair on their head - perhaps the exact opposite of the elegance and fashionable look they had intended to achieve; to their finances in the sense that the "People" are themselves "universally hurt", for "in consequence of this Abuse, the People ... who heretofore had Reason to consider their Hair as much a part of their Estate, as the Wool upon their Sheep; but since the use of Brute-Hair has been so prevalent, the former has been of very little value" (Some Considerations on the Present State of the Hair-Trade)

As a result, the hair trade in the 18th century neglected British grown hair and instead sought hair from foreign markets - it was believed that the wig market received most of its human hair from France, yet was sold under the pretence that it was Flemish so as to avoid paying the duty on French-imported goods.


However, the trade of animal hair was not always defrauding and done under false pretences. Animal hair was traded freely too and was used in a variety of ways through the 18th century. For example, horse hair was used in the hairing of violin/violoncello bows. Sheep hair (wool) and other animal hair was used for the process of felting and creating blankets, rugs, and other items of this nature.





Though a common process in the 18th century, felting was not commonly practiced in England. Most products of felting were imported into the country, however it was a processed used by English hatters. Felting - the method of working up wool or hair into a kind of cloth or fluff without either spinning or weaving it - unlike the process of making of periwigs neither makes use of human hair, nor claims to. The method relies exclusively on animal hair, namely rabbit, beaver, hare and sheep. The reason for this is largely because the nature of the products made by felting (rugs, hats etc.) are heavy usage items and the roughness of animal hair was known to be more robust and resilient than finer, smoother human hair (The Process of Felting). It is of note that the fact that the public are aware that animal hair is noticeably less smooth than natural human hair is perhaps another reason for the outrage surrounding, and disrepute of the hair trade.

Additionally, it is of note that the process of felting, that is, details of the nature of the hair used, the ways in which it is practiced, instructions on how to do it, and general facts about it are published in a magazine entitled Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure. For, it portrays the process of felting and use of animal hair in such a way that it seems as though it may be practiced by people for pleasure/pragmatic purposes, not simply for the manufacture of commodities to be sold, much like people knit today, or used to weave/spin in the 18th century. Indeed, this would suggest that the hair trade was a widespread market because real hair, whether it be human or animal, was a commonly-used material at the time. This notion is supported by the fact that the author of The Process of Felting relays microscopic specifics, literally, about the differences between types of animal hair and their differences to human hair. The fact that details of what hair samples look like under solar microscopes are used to explicate felting (and presumably other such processes in which real animal hair is used), emphasises the fact attention to 'hair' in the 18th century did not revolve solely around human hair and fashion, but also its usefulness as an everyday material and commodity.



Unattainable Style - Hair and Wealth


Figures 4, 5, 6, and 7 each display different hairstyles that were popular during given periods of the 18th century. It is of note that in each of these works of art (which are representative of other works showcasing popular hairstyles), the women who adorn these 'styles' are, of course, women of notable wealth. Naturally, the depiction of hairstyles (and indeed most portraits) in 18th century art is likely to showcase noblewomen or noblemen. For, poorer people would not have had the resources necessary to commission them. However, it is interesting that even figure 5, which features an unnamed woman wearing the sheep's head style, is a portrait of a woman with a wealthy background (as evidenced by her attire and the maid serving her breakfast). Crucially, the vast majority of art that features these more complicated hairstyles that were popular has wealthy women as its subject. Aside from the aforementioned reason for this, it is possible that 18th century art merely reflected the fact that it was the aristocracy and nobility who governed and set trends in hairstyles - Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, and Marie Angelique de Scorailles are just three examples of such women. However, perhaps the most viable reason behind 18th century art's representation of hairstyles in this manner is quite simply because the ornate hairstyles associated with particular decades were so elaborate that they required a significant amount of time to create. Ladies of the court, unburdened by the job of maintaining the household and other like functions reserved for women at the time, were better-placed to dress their hair in these fashions than working class women. Crucially, though, it is not simply a surplus of free time which allowed women of wealth to don such ornate hairdos whilst poorer women could not. The process of dressing hair was itself quite costly during the 18th century. Requisite materials for the styling of hair were expensive. For example, wheat, the primary ingredient in hair powder had risen to "the enormous Price of Ten Shillings per Bushel" (Philanthropos) - which, according to The National Archives' historical currency converter equates to approximately £40 today, ten times the current price of a bushel of wheat - towards  the latter part of the century and the price of hair powder rose accordingly. Given the cost, the fact that ornate hairstyles often called for another person to dress the hair, and the representation of these elaborate styles in contemporary art, it is clear that in the 18th century, one's real hair functioned as a marker of wealth. 





Primary Sources


A Dissertation Upon Head Dress. London. Printed for J. Williams. 1767. Historical Texts. Web. 25 February 2018.

The extract from this dissertation was useful for contextualising the distinction between perceptions of wigs and hair, respectively. It helped to pinpoint one of the reasons for the preference of promoting natural hair growth instead of using periwigs and thus helps to define the status of hair in the 18th century. It is of course the viewpoint of one particular man, yet the opinion conveyed aligns with all other literature on the matter and as an academic document it is not conjectural, but based on facts.


Autié, Léonard. Recollections Of Léonard, Hairdresser To Queen Marie-Antoinette. London: Greening, 1912. Print.

This firsthand account by the hairdresser to Marie-Antoinette provides a unique and valuable insight into the hairstyles of the Queen from perhaps the only man who knew more about her hair than she. The book does not simply relate the particularities of her hair, however, amongst Autie's recollections are enlightening accounts of the way in which her hair was dressed at particular occasions - it is this contextualisation of her hairdressing that is perhaps most useful.


Cleland, John. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

Written in 1748, Cleland's novel is an erotic novel that is largely considered as being the first English prose pornography. It was banned and prosecuted numerous times and its protagonist, Fanny gives an account of her time as a 'woman of pleasure'. Fanny, being an archetypal 'woman of pleasure' has red hair and thus the novel makes for an appropriate example of both what red hair symbolises in the 18th century, and that real hair was perceived as relating to disposition to the extent that it could be symbolic of character.


Gilchrist, Peter. A Treatise on the Hair. By Peter Gilchrist, Hairdresser. London. 1770. Historical Texts. Web. 1 March 2018.

This non-fictional piece of prose was published and printed independently by and for the author and appeared in no journals or periodicals. However, it is likely that this was in part a result of its long length (109 pages). It is a comprehensive account of hair that discusses topics including fashions, hairdressers, and balding to name a few. In areas where it is possible for Gilchrist to be sexist with respect to hair, he is - it is this in particular which is of interest as it locates hair within the realm of gender inequality, female subjugation, and female sexuality. The extract used details this misogyny that is linked to hair at the time.   


Gunner’s Original Hair Dressing Academy. Gunner’s Original Hair Dressing Academy, at no. 66, Old Bailey, Ludgate Hill, Instituted, 1777. London. 1790. Historical Texts. Web. 26 February 2018.

This advertisement from a hairdressing academy, which sells both the dressing/styling of real hair and wigs conveys the opinion that real hair is superior to wigs. As an advertisement it is an insightful source because it speaks to, and addresses the desires and opinions of the population - though boastful and biased (as all advertising is), in its nuances it reveals contemporary views by pandering to them.


“hair.” Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language in Miniature. New York. 1819. Readex. Web. 4 March 2018.

Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language offers a contemporary set of definitions for commonly used words in the 18th century. This particular edition was originally published just after the turn of the century but the first edition was written in the mid-18th century and can therefore be quite revealing in illustrating common perceptions at the time.


Philanthropos. Sir, as a Friend to Human Kind, Without Preface or Apology, I State. London. 1795. Historical Texts. Web. 1 March 2018.

This short text which conveys the author's subjective opinions on several topics, though sparse in terms of the information it offers on hair, was useful for its provision and contextualisation of the price of wheat - the primary ingredient in hair powder. Information on the price of all things concerning hair is limited, therefore this text was valuable in its facilitation of an analysis of hair and wealth/class. 


"Recipe for Making Red Hair Black." The Gentleman's Magazine: An Historical Chronicle 1770: 431. British Periodicals. Web. 4 Jan 2018.

This short set of instructions, though appearing self-explanatory in what it offers is additionally valuable for the fact that it appears in 'The Gentleman's Magazine'. This suggests that cosmetic concerns about hair are central to 18th century notions of gentlemanliness and that the implications of the instructions (that red hair is unappealing whilst black hair is not) can be extrapolated to being an opinion that a majority of the population hold.


"Some considerations on the present state of the hair-trade." The Making of the Modern World 1730. Gale Primary Sources. Web. 4 March 2018

In exposing and discussing some of the details about the trading and commodification of hair, this economic journal article offers an interesting approach to the consideration of it in the 18th century. It reveals some of the corruption surrounding the trade of hair and the import/export of it, whilst commenting on aspects of the use, production, and nature of real hair that cannot be found in most of the contemporaneous literature (which tends to focus on styling and fashion).


Stewart, Alexander. The Art of Hair Dressing, or, The Ladies Director; Being a Concise Set of Rules for Dressing Ladies Hair. London. Printed for Alexander Stewart. 1788. Historical Texts. Web. 28 February 2018. 

Laying out step-by-step instructions on how to dress and maintain ladies' hair in numerous fashions and ways, this manual-like informative text is one which (if not this text itself, then other similar ones) was consulted by wealthy women and/or those assisting them in the dressing of their hair (though it is unlikely they read it themselves). The text progresses from the simple 'combing of long hair', the process behind which was probably common knowledge, to far more complex techniques. Stewart's guide, like many texts produced at the time, betrays a fondness and preference for real hair over perukes. 


---. The Natural Production of Hair. London. Printed for Alexander Stewart. 1795. Historical Texts. Web. 28 February 2018. 

As is somewhat implicit from the title, this piece of prose is, much like The Art of Hair Dressing, a consideration and appreciation of real hair specifically. Stewart explores the nature of hair and its significance/superiority over wigs, locating hair among the aspects of a person that makes them human and perfect. He remarks on the beauty of hair as a natural ornament and piece of decoration that exposes the status of real hair, which provides an explanation for the hair trade - that people wanted wigs to look natural, so they must be made of natural, human hair - and the corruption associated with it.


Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

This piece of prose satire written in 1726 is not only an extremely popular text today, but was an extremely revealing one at the time of its publication. If satire's function is to hold a mirror up to society to expose its vices, follies, and true nature, then Swift's novel is certainly satirical for he claimed that its function was to vex the world. In this regard, it is a particularly useful piece of literature for the investigation of the 18th century as it relates 'truths' that political rhetoric typically masks. To the same end, as it concerns hair, the satirical Gulliver's Travels makes use of symbolism throughout its narrative to convey 'truths' about hair colour and associated character traits. 


"The Process of Felting." Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure 1800: 449-452. British Periodicals. Web. 21 March 2018.

This non-fictional article published in a periodical at the close of the 18th century provides indirect explanations for some of the negative perceptions of the hair trade and helps to elucidate the proximate reasons (aside from the obvious financial benefits) behind the frequency with which animal hair was used in place of human hair. In addition, it reveals one of the ways in which animal hair was a commodity in its own right, as well as explaining and analysing one of the main ways it was used as a material at the time. 


"To Change Red Hair to a Beautiful Brown." The Scots Magazine 1770: 416. British Periodicals. Web. 4 Jan 2018.

Much like Recipe for Making Red Hair Black, this short set of instructions details how one can alter their hair colour. Though on the surface the nature of this article may appear redundant given its purpose is the same as the other text, it is far from this. In fact, it is especially useful for discerning the status/perception of red hair as it is identical in its required ingredients and instructions as those delineated by Recipe for Making Red Hair Black and was published in 1770 (the same year as other set of instructions). This indicates a standardisation of the process and that it emerged as a trend, thus, both Recipe and this article are most useful as sources when considered in conjunction with one another.


Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Revised Edition. London: Penguin Books, 2004. Print.

Perhaps one of the most recognisable and influential texts of the 18th century, Wollstonecraft's second Vindication helps lay the contextual foundation necessary for a study of the 18th century in its exposition of not only the perception and status of women, but the argument and reasoning against the patriarchal logic that subordinates them. An appreciation of this text is valuable as it allows for an understanding of the finer nuances and misogyny that permeate contemporaneous literary texts. Though often overt, the sexism of texts is not always apparent, however, through a Wollstonecraftian lens it is possible to discern that much 18th century literature is laced with rhetoric that alludes to women's inferiority an inability to reason. In this sense it was particularly useful as it places some texts about hair within the realm of patriarchal dominion. 



Secondary Sources


Bashor, W. "Marie Antoinette's Craziest, Most Epic Hairstyles." Huffington Posthttps://www.huffingtonpost.com/will-bashor/marie-antoinettes-crazies_b_4109620.html. Accessed 2 March 2018. 

This online newspaper blog published in the Huffington Post is written by William Bashor, author of a non-fictional prose text on the hairstyles of Marie Antoinette and her hairdresser Leonard Autie. It details some of the Queen's hairstyles and is a notable and unique secondary source for its consideration of her hair and its implications from a political stance.


Bender, A. “Hair and Hairdos of the 18th Century.” Marquise, http://www.marquise.de/en/1700/howto/frisuren/frisuren.shtml. Accessed 1 March 2018.

This website offers a detailed exposition of the hairstyles commonly donned in the 18th century. It was particularly useful for providing the dates during which these hairstyles were at the height of their popularity. In addition, the web page acknowledges that much of the secondary information on 18th century hairdos is conjectural and as such only states as fact that which is fact.


Currency Converter. The National Archives, accessed via: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter/

This tool was of considerable importance in calculating the purchasing power of 18th century money today. It allows today's reader to understand just how expensive hair powder would have been at the end of the century and how this contributes to hair functioning as a marker of wealth.


"hair, n/v." OED Online. Oxford University Press, January 2018. Web. 4 March 2018.

The Oxford English Dictionary was helpful as it tracks the varied usage of the word 'hair' across time, as well as providing all current and past definitions. Aside from defining the word, the dictionary acts as a secondary source in its own right by providing information on how and where the word was used in the 18th century.


Van Cleave, Kendra. “Women’s Hairstyles & Cosmetics of the 18th century: France & England, 1750-1790.” Démodé Culturehttp://demodecouture.com/hairstyles-cosmetics-18th-century/. Accessed 27 February 2018.

This web page provides an introductory overview of hairstyles in the 18th century and locates them in the times/dates of their popularity. This source was particularly use as it facilitated the process of searching galleries for contemporary paintings/sculptures that featured these popular hairdos by providing relevant images that matched the styles being described.




Figure 1 - "hair." Google Ngram Viewer, accessed via https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=hair&year_start=1700&year_end=1800&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chair%3B%2Cc0


Figure 2 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 3 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 4 - Anon. Madame la Princesse de Conty douarière. 1670, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Artstorhttp://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/#/asset/AWSS35953_35953_23296027Accessed 25 February 2018.


Figure 5 - Liotard, Jean-Etienne. Early Breakfast. 1753-6, Artstor Slide Gallery, University of California, San Diego. Artstor, http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/#/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822003277462Accessed 23 February 2018.


Figure 6 - Rigaud, John Francis. Madame de Pompadour. 1742-1810, Frick Art Reference Library. Artstorhttp://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/#/asset/FRICKIG_10310494690. Accessed 25 February 2018. 


Figure 7 - Boizot, Marie Louise Adélaide. Marie Antoinette. 1775, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Artstorhttp://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/#/asset/SS7731421_7731421_11579208. Accessed 25 February 2018.


Figure 8 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 9 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 10 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 11 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 12 - see description and associated reference above.


Figure 13 - see description and associated reference above.






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