Time Traveler’s Reference: Roman Hairstyles

When in Rome … Wear Your Hair Right

I’m starting  new topic today.

There’s so much interesting history research out there … and the internet makes it available to anyone with a computer. While some research is very scholarly, some is practical — if you’re a time traveler. So, this category will serve as a reference guide to historic information of practical use to time travelers.

Everything I mention will be 100% accurate to the time period. No “Well, this makes sense to me, so they must have done it this way,” or “everyone now does XX, so they must have done XX back then.”

Janet Stephens, Hairstyle Archaeologist

Romnan Hairstyles

Roman Hairstyles, duplicated by Janet Stephens. [I don’t think the makeup is accurate.] The left is how Vestal Virgins wore their hair, in the center is an unknown woman, on the right is Cleopatra.

Janet is not a PhD archaeologist … she’s a hair stylist, and still works in a 21st century salon. When she decided to duplicate a Roman hairstyle for a modern client, she began researching how the Romans created such complex styles … and found they did it without styling gel, hair spray, or even hair pins! Janet became fascinated by what she found, kept researching, and eventually began submitting papers to archaeological journals. She has also studied ancient Greek hairstyles (much simpler) and European styles of the Medieval period.

Roman woman’s hairstyles are complex, usually arranged from multiple braids looped and coiled. Woman could not style their own hair; they needed the services of an Ornatrix to create these styles.

Janet has a YouTube channel, where she posts videos of how the Roman hairstyles are created. She also shows a few ancient and Medieval European styles, and how to make a Roman necklace and earrings.

Here are links to other work of Janet’s:

Boshell Foundation Lecture: a formal presentation, complete with slides and live models.

Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (hair) pins and needles:  Janet’s article in Journal of Roman Archaeology


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