A Brief History of Hair Accessories

Fun fact: Did you know that hair accessories have been around for almost as long as humans have walked the Earth?

a brief history of hair accessories

The (Very) Early Days of Hair Accessories 

Architectural findings and historical evidence indicate that hair accessories date back to prehistoric times. Back then, one-pronged sticks and small rocks with clip-like edges were used to hold their hair back. Some also used natural materials found nearby such as leaves and flowers to decorate and adorn the sticks and rocks.

Hair Accessories in Ancient Cultures

Hair accessories have been found in ancient cultures around the world. The Ancient Greeks and Romans used crowns made from twigs, foliage, and flowers. You often see these in illustrations in books about ancient Greek mythologies and their gods. In Ancient Africa, shells and beads were the materials of choice for making hair accessories. Even to this day, shells and beads made from natural materials are used to make various jewelleries and headpieces in various African tribes. For the Native Americans, headdresses were made using animal bones and feathers. A lot of the materials they used held symbolic meanings and power.

The History of Hair Ties and Scrunchies 

Hair ties are one of the oldest and most commonly used hair accessories. Hair ties are said to date back to between 10,000 and 8,000 BC. Elastic bands did not exist yet back then, but in Ancient Europe, hair rings were made using precious metals such as gold and silver. Only the wealthy could afford such luxury, and they did not shy away from also embedding gems and precious stones into their hair rings. In Ancient Egypt, hair rings were made using pottery, alabaster, or jasper. They were used as a way to display social status. One could only imagine how hard and inflexible these hair rings were, considering the materials that they were made of.

Things changed around the 20th century, when rubber and elastic fibers began to be commercially produced. Soon after, elastic bands and scrunchies became popular, making inflexible hair rings obsolete and the hair ties we know today to flood the markets. Check out these hair elastics and bun accessories, and imagine how much more flexible and lighter they are compared to the hair rings of the past!

The History of Hair Pins

The hair pins we know today looked a lot different in ancient times. Hair pins of the past looked different depending on where in the world they were made, and the purpose for which they were being worn. In Central Africa, hair pins were usually made from animal bone, ivory, or wood, and they were designed to be very functional. In Ancient Rome, hair pins also doubled up as a container for perfume or sometimes poison, so these pins were long and hollow on the inside. Today, hair pins are designed for mostly what it’s named after – pinning hair. Looking for long-style hair pins? Try Alligator Hair Clips.

During the Victorian Era, it was considered improper for a woman to have loose strands of hair around her face, so hair pins were considered vital for Victorian women. Today, hair pins are still used for that same purpose – to keep hair out of the face. 

In France in the 1600s, men wore hair pins just as much as women. The pins were called “bobbing pins” (not to be confused with “bobby pins”), and they were either long and straight or U-shaped. They were used allow the wigs worn at the time to sit better over the head, resulting in a neat and tidy appearance. Today, there are still hair pins for men, but they tend to be much shorter and smaller. Browse these Hair Pins for Men to see the options available.

The bobby pins came about around the 1920s, replacing the open hair pins that were commonly used for most of the prior century and in the early 1900s. Spring clip bobby pins became popular, enabling women to create pin curls and finger waves. They also enabled women to hold their hair better underneath the tight hats that were fashionable at that time. Want to see the bobby pins that we carry? Click here!

After the rise of bobby pins, barrettes soon followed and also became popular. These became worn all over the world, from Europe to North and South America. Mexican women were known for their fantastically coloured barrettes which were both functional and beautifully decorative.  These barrettes usually had an ornamental face, and underneath would be the spring clip that would hold the hair together – very similar to the barrettes of the modern day. The barrettes that we carry today also range in size, shape, colour, and decorations.

The History of Hair Combs (as Hair Accessories) and Banana Clips

The modern banana clips date back to the Stone Age, when people used hair combs to decorate and hold back their hair. During the Tang Dynasty period in China, hair combs were made using the horns of the rhinoceros. Ancient Romans used combs made of tortoise shells, and Japan in the 17th century used either wood or tortoise shells for combs. Some were decorated using pearls or gold for the wealthy. In the 1950s, hair combs were used not only as hair accessories, but also as a way to attach veils and smaller hats onto the head. It was not until the 1980s that hair combs turned into the banana clips we know today.

Hair Accessories in the Modern Day

Hair accessories have stayed throughout history and made it into the modern day because they are not only ornamental and decorative, but they are also functional. Two of the biggest differences between the hair accessories of the ancient world and today are the materials that they are made of, and the purpose other than functional usage. Today, most hair accessories such as hair clips are made using plastic and spring (instead of animal bones, ivory, wooden sticks, and stones). Back then, some hair clips were deemed to be status symbol, especially the ones made of gold, silver, and other precious metals and gems. Today, hair clips are mainly used for functional, decorative, and styling purposes. From the humble beginnings to the everyday objects that most people have in their dressers today, knowing about the history of your favourite hair accessories will give you a whole new appreciation for them!

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