5 Medieval Facts of Hair I

1.  When the Roman Empire fell in 476 A.D., it was by invasion of Germanic peoples. Hair held great significance to these conquerors.

germanic-man

To the Germanics, hair length determined hierarchy in both military & societal arenas. In the military, long hair would be tied up in high knots on top of the head in order to make soldiers appear taller & more fearsome.

Within society, women wore their hair extremely long & freely flowing. They used these long tresses in a variety of ways to signify virginity, marital status, or availability.

medieval-woman-with-long-hair

2.  For the Germanics, hair signified power, authority, beauty, acceptance.

The loss of hair was the ultimate humiliation. The heads & beards of slaves, criminals, and disgraced women would be completely shaved to signify submission and shame.

3.  Germanic hair styles & customs became the foundation for successive empires. Kings wore long hair & beards. All those beneath him wore shorter hair & beards, the length becoming progressively shorter as they went down in rank.

germanic-king

In fact, kings who feared an overthrow by sons, nephews or other male relatives, would have the hair of the suspected perpetrators cut short. This would completely disqualify them to rule as king.

4.  In the 8th century, the ruler Charlemagne created the Holy Roman German Empire in conjunction with the Pope of Rome. This changed the Germanic influence on hair by essentially bringing back Roman customs.

roman-hairstyle

Hair became shorter as long hair began to be perceived as barbaric. In fact, the Pope of Rome issued an edict that men with long hair and beards, and women with excessively long hair, or long hair flowing freely rather than tied up, represented paganism.

5.  By the 10th century, Christianity had overtaken Germanic styles & customs. The Catholic Church began dictating new rules for how good Christians must wear their hair. Veering from these dictates branded one a “heathen,” an outcast from a God-fearing society.

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What significance does hair have for you? 

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Medieval Monday

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See all 5 Medieval Facts of Life posts!
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21 thoughts on “5 Medieval Facts of Hair I

  1. Ran across your blog search info on the Seubain knot. I have always been intrigued by long hair and ancient styling thereof from all the movies… lol

    If this is true then I fall in the regal category, hair is waist long…I have no plans on cutting it anytime soon. I really like the spectrum of colors in it from blonde gray white and brown…

  2. Good question…got me thinking a little bit. It’s funny that hair is essentially dead cells (otherwise it would mighty painful when we cut it) but for centuries it’s served as an emblem to many cultures. I think it’s amazing that hair can represent certain eras, and how like fashion, it’s constantly reinventing itself.

  3. Fascinating read! I used to fuss over my hair far too much until I decided to grow it out to donate for chemo patients. Best haircut of my life and looking forward to the next donation. 🙂

  4. Some of these people grew, and styled hair as a display of reigning over another? Harassment?

    Sorry, I couldn’t pass it up….

  5. Very interesting post, loved reading it. I would love the hair described in no2. Funny enough we always want the hairr we don’t have. I always wanted strong hair and curls as mine is straight and fine, and the curly hair people envy my straight hair. Even now though we can have anything we like, using straighteners etc. Still I have accepted my hair (even getting grey) now and I am happy as it is. 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! And, yes, isn’t that the truth? I have very curly hair & spend waaay too much time with a flatiron when I’m stateside. Now, of course, if my hair was naturally straight, I’d be spending waaay too much time curling it. Grass is always greener on somebody else’s head! 😉

  6. tying hair up accentuates a beautiful neck.It really looks awesome!
    In India, hair is associated with ego. I know of one temple where it is a ritual to shave one’s head. It is a symbolic gesture of sacrificing your ego in front of the deity. The temple is called Balaji Temple in Tirupati Tirumala and it is considered the 2nd richest religious organization in the world after the Vatican. Not surprisingly, it is also the biggest source of wigs in India 🙂
    Great topic for a blog Sylver!

  7. Hair is very important to the Amish. When I have been around my Amish cousins, I have found it to sometimes be a very sensitive subject. Unfortunately, this is also something that has been in the news this week in Ohio.

  8. This gives me pause as I consider Omani hair. The men who wear long beards are the most conservative, the ultra-religious Muslims. And they may wear a variety of head dresses. The muzzar is a square of finely woven woollen or cotton fabric, wrapped and folded into a turban. Underneath this, the kummar, an intricately embroidered cap, is sometimes worn. Most often the kummar is worn alone, without a muzzar over it. These head coverings can cover all varieties of hair loss (!). As for the women, they all cover their hair with a scarf, except the more modern women in Muscat.

    As for me, my hair used to be brown but now is white and it’s a constant battle to keep it from being frizzy. I wish I had carefree & straight and glossy hair! Hair can be very time-consuming!!

    • Thank you so much for this very interesting & informative comment! 🙂 If I were a man, I’d definitely choose the kummar, as I’ve watched the muzzar being prepared & I just don’t think I could stand the time, skill or yards of fabric. But the kummar is a snap to pop on & go, plus they can be so colorful & beautifully designed. I even have 2 kufis I got in Afghanistan, and though I could not wear them there, I wear them here. But that said, I’m glad I’m a woman because I adore scarves – it’s a total addiction. I have so many uniquely beautiful scarves from different countries that I treasure. Plus, they are the ultimate answer to bad hair days! 😉

  9. I think the hair styles of ancient Roman and Greek women’s hair styles are so beautiful and still would be so today. Of course women accent the styles with weave in wig sections but I like the freer natural styles.

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