Wacky Hair or Fashionable Foible?

By Maureen A. Taylor

I can’t help it. I love the hairstyles and facial hair in photographs so much I’m actually thinking about a second volume of my Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900 book. The curls and whorls of nineteenth century styles definitely provide insights into your ancestor’s fashion sense and their personality. This week I’m sharing three images from my growing collection of purchased images of women’s tresses and men in beards.

In this 1860s carte de visite, a middle aged woman wears her hair in the style of her youth. Women wore their hair looped over their ears in the 1840s and early 1850s. Both her attire and her hair are conservative.

Look closely at her hair.

There is a lack of gray hair. One of my colleagues who’s also a Civil War reenactor is looking for pictures of Civil War era women with gray hair. Did they color their hair or is our prevalent gray hair a result of modern living? Hair dye was available, but a fashion historian told me that women who ate a lot of seafood didn’t go gray. Hmmm.

Here’s a very fashionable woman from the 1880s with her oiled curls and large bow. Her hair is neatly coiffed.

Let’s not leave the men out of it. <smile>

It’s the 1870s look with a bit of the past mixed in. In a beard style chart from the nineteenth century, his is called the “Burnside, short.” The full Burnside look featured much longer sideburns. My favorite part of this man’s hair is the wave on the top of his head.


Hope you’re having a nice summer!

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album