The way your hair is cut, washed, coloured and styled is a marker of your cultural identity and has been for thousands of years.
A trip to the hairdressers is a simple but real pleasure for me and one I can’t seem to live without for very long. Yes, in hindsight, going into a hairdressers in Taiwan in which no one spoke English and trying to explain the intricacies of refreshing a mid-length, warm-toned ombre was foolish. Yes, once she had mixed up a huge bowl of bright blue bleach and started to apply it to my head I should have spoken up. And yes, I could have just waited until I got home. We live and we learn.
I can’t say I’d recommend seeing a hairdresser in Asia if you have Caucasian hair unless you like your new hairstyles to be a surprise or have always fancied a complete skinhead or a bleach-blonde Eminem disaster.
Anyway, in google image searching hairdressers in Taiwan I came across a number of gorgeous historical photos of people getting their hair put right in different cultures from around the world and thought I’d share them with you here.
The Malagasy people are the main ethnic group of Madagascar. This photograph is dated as having came from a collection published in a book in 1926 but it’s impossible to know when the photograph itself was taken. A caption from the book, Lands and People of the World, Vol.6, reads:
“The numerous tribes inhabiting Madagascar have different ways of dressing their hair. Usually it is braided tightly into many plaits, though a widow wears hers loose. We see one fashion in page 841; here we see another. With the addition of strands of false hair, it is tightly plaited, each plait being coiled into a flat disk and well greased.”
Another image from the incredible archive at the Wellcome Library in London, this photograph shows a Japanese barber wearing a loin cloth working on the hair of a kneeling man. It is loosely dated as having been taken, or first published, between 1870-1890. Traditionally Japanese men shaved the hair in the middle of their heads and tied the hair at the back and sides up in a ‘chonmage‘ – the original topknot.
This stunning image dates back to around 1890-1900 and shows a young woman having her hair dressed in the traditional Japanese style. The image was taken from a large-format glass negative, cropped down to make a round-masked lantern slide. The photographer photographed these precious lantern slides by placing them on a light box. Another five images created from similar slides can be seen on Okinawa Soba (Rob)’s Flickr Page.
A Native American tribe of around 18,000 people, the Hopi live primarily on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi people are known as ‘The Peaceful Ones’ and live in matrinlineal clans. When a married couple have children they are considered members of the mother’s clan, not the father’s. In the photo below a young woman is having her hair dressed in a ‘squash blossom’ style, a princess Leia-esque hairdo that lets the rest of the tribe know that she’s ready for courtship.
Finally, a picture of a group of ladies getting their dos refreshed in a Salon in Grosevenor Street during the Second World War. If the salon looks a little shabby it’s only because it’s a temporary salon located in an air raid shelter meaning the ladies perm and set isn’t going to be interrupted by a pesky air raid siren and bombing attack.