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Gallant Ladies and Russian Noblewomen Thrown into the Street: A History of Short Women's Haircuts
Gallant Ladies and Russian Noblewomen Thrown into the Street: A History of Short Women's Haircuts

Photos of stars who have exchanged lush curls for short hairstyles are sure to be overgrown with sad comments from people who are sure that this has not happened before: women always wore long hair, and men - short. But even a cursory glance at the history of hairstyles tells us that it was far from the age of feminism that women began to flaunt short hair.

Madame Pompadour

The favorite of the French king Louis XV, who held out under him for twenty years, reigned in the fashion of Europe in the eighteenth century - a time when both ladies and gentlemen tried to look like porcelain figurines, and not people of flesh and blood. Both of them actively used make-up, decorated their clothes with frills, wore rings and other jewelry - however, this did not prevent men from excellently wielding swords and shooting in duels and in battles from pistols. For some women, too.

Portrait by Francois Boucher

Among the styles that Madame Pompadour introduced into French fashion was a short women's hairstyle of curled hair, which was usually decorated with flowers, tiny bows and transparent headscarves. It was a bold move, since before Pompadour, the Frenchwoman cut her hair on three occasions: if she was a prostitute, if she went to a nun, or if she was Jeanne D'Arc. The ladies liked the hairstyle, because it beautifully exposed the back of the neck, did not require a lot of fuss and at the same time looked very elegant. The haircut went down in history under the name “pompadour”.

Pompadour also brought into fashion a red shade of hair (before her it was considered a disadvantage), cut diamonds in the shape of a boat, a reticule, high-heeled shoes (which were supposed to give a woman's leg the shape of a Chinese woman's feet that were bandaged, broken in half) and tall champagne glasses.

Shoes of the eighteenth century from the collection of N. Mustafayev. These shoes were supposed to give the foot a shortened and curved look

Antique style

After the revolution, France had a new trendsetter - Teresa Talien, the same lady who introduced the Corsican Napoleon into French society. She introduced a fashion for everything that seemed to her ancient Greek and ancient Roman: short-cropped curls, a high waist and a dress made of the finest, translucent muslin, descending from the shoulders in folds. Her portrait is also known, in which one of her breasts was bared - although only Artemis and the Amazons wore this way on antique statues, for a long time Christian Europeans were convinced that women in Ancient Greece generally had the habit of walking with one breast open.

The history of short women's haircuts. Fragment of a painting by Pierre Narsis Guerin

Teresa herself cut her hair just above her shoulders, curling it “under the Greek statues,” but soon the girls began to cut their hair even more radically. The new hairstyle was called “a la Titus,” that is, like the ancient Roman politician Titus. Hair was cut to an equal length over the entire head, so short that the ears were exposed, and then curled. This hairstyle was worn by both women and men. Women often tied ribbons over their cut hair, believing that this makes the hairstyle even more antique.

Illustration for a fashion magazine of the early nineteenth century


In the sixties of the ninth century, many young noblewomen in Russia cut off their girlish braids, and young noblemen, to the indignation of society, let go of beards (which, as it was believed, in status are decent for people of age and position) and, on the contrary, went too late to get their hair cut - when the hair were already starting to fall on their shoulders. The current word "hipster" was never even heard of. All these young people were nihilists, that is, deniers - of everything old that hinders progress.

Among the ideas of nihilism was the struggle against empty aestheticism, which in vain arouses sentimentality and sexual sensibility. As part of this struggle, the girls abandoned corsets, bright dresses and puffy skirts that were difficult to wear and care for, putting on blouses and the simplest styles of skirts instead. Hairstyles from long hair, which were not very easy to care for in the conditions of the nineteenth century, were also declared aesthetics.

Painting by Vladimir Makovsky

Cut hair would release about an hour of time each day - not counting another couple of hours on the days when hair was usually washed and dried - and this time was supposed to be spent on something more useful. For example, to study. Although everything was very difficult with female higher education in Russia, many progressive students, professors, doctors gave lectures for free, gathering the audience in private apartments.

Short hair was worn not only by the confessors of radical ideas. In the sixty-first year, after the abolition of serfdom, small landowners found themselves on the brink of poverty. Large landowners threw out of their homes the pupils, poor relatives, godchildren - everyone who was called "hangers-on", that is, dependents, although very often these women had quite definite responsibilities in housework. The country was overflowing with poor noblewomen on the brink of starvation.

Rural teacher. Painting by Konstantin Trutovsky

As a result, the range of professions permissible for a lady has grown very much behind the scenes. Girls hired not only as governesses, teachers and companions, but also as typists in a printing house, literary editors, journalists, saleswomen, secretaries. The work, however, letting him live somehow, often did not give the opportunity to acquire a maid and did not leave the strength to take care of long hair, so, looking at the nihilists, many other girls cut their hair, explaining to their relatives that this was just fashion. Over time, due to the active persecution of politically unreliable girls, the fashion came to naught.


In the twenties in the USSR, a haircut in the form of a short bob became widespread. Although not every girl with such a haircut was a commissar, nevertheless, all those with a haircut were called en masse - "commissars". The haircut was often accompanied by a scarf tied in a knot back (unlike the usual Russian scarf, which covered the hair and sometimes the neck), a short (knee-length) skirt and a leather jacket. Some of the skirts climbed into trousers. One thing was required of clothes: that it did not restrict freedom of movement. The hair was essentially the same. Newspapers condemned skirts and dresses that fettered a woman's legs, like a horse's fetters, excessive closure that hindered hardening and enjoying the air and the sun, reminded that girls and women were traditionally dragged around the hut by their braids - they were one of the ways to exercise power over a woman.

Painting by Georgy Ryazhsky

In Europe and the USA, the same trends followed, although hardly any of the fashionistas thought that they cut their hair under the influence of the communists. The girls actively mastered sports, the car and flying on airplanes, and with this new way of life, complex beams and simple braids interfered.

Although in the thirties there was a reversal of demonstrative femininity, and soon trousers became unacceptable at work (if it was not physical) clothing, nevertheless, the square continued to be considered an acceptable haircut even at school with its very harsh approach to the appearance of girls. With a square, for example, Natalya Varley entered the history of Soviet cinema - however, she played not an ordinary girl, but an athlete capable of traveling alone through the mountains.

20 retro photos of elegant ladies with stylish hairstyles from the 1930sHowever, evidence suggests that even women of fashion in an era that dictated deliberate femininity to women did not necessarily grow long hair.

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