I don’t know anything about this TV series — other than what I learned from Wikipedia, which tells me it’s about a time traveler who gets plopped down in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion in Scotland. But I know just enough about 18th-century men’s hair styles to want to post this video clip to Ordinary Time where I know I can find it again.
(Click HERE for “an aside on how [my blog] is like the old-fashioned oak filing cabinet in my home office […] where I can tuck away information that would get lost otherwise.“)
Full disclosure: I’m no expert on men’s hair styles, either, but it’s been two years since I’ve been able to go out and get a haircut. And the way the COVID-19 pandemic has been politicized, it’s looking pretty unlikely I’ll be going to a barbershop in the foreseeable future.
So I’ve been growing a ponytail. I’m not exactly the type for a man bun, and I refuse to even think about slicking my hair back with a pomade. So I’ve opted more for the Patrick Henry or Daniel Boone look (except with my own hair hanging down instead of the coonskin cap you see in the movies). That’s what my hair is damn well going to do anyway, and there’s historical precedent for it.
According to Miami hair stylist Gustavo Briand’s website The History of the World of Hair, which seems pretty authoritative to me, 18th-century men mostly wore wigs, emulating King Louis XV of France, but they “also wore since the middle of the century a single ponytail on the nape, tied with a bow, a very popular style in every European court at that time.”
Another source that looks pretty good to me is put up on the internet by the Chertsey Museum, “the museum for the Borough of Runnymede” in England. Its notes for an exhibit on “Hair: the styling of society” says wigs were common throughout the 17th and 18th century, but beginning in the mid-1600s “[s]ome men, in particular soldiers and travellers, began to tie back the long hair at the nape of the neck into a pony-tail.”
So far so good. But, the trouble is, you don’t see very many 18th-century paintings featuring the backs of men’s heads. The best I can find online is this painting of Patrick Henry arguing a 1763 case known as the Parson’s Cause. If you squint, you can just make out the hair at the nape of his neck. A fine historical moment, but hardly satisfactory for my purposes.
Wikimedia Commons also has a pretty good profile shot of Benedict Arnold that shows his hair in a ponytail, or a kind of pigtail called a queue, at the nape of his neck. But I don’t even want to think about him — let alone emulate a Benedict Arnold look.
So I’m left with the movies. Hence my interest in the time-traveling TV show.
Another video clip I especially like is a dance scene from the BBC’s 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice. We watched it in the earlier days of the pandemic, when I was just starting to let my hair grow out, and I was fascinated with the men’s hair styles. And thanks to the quadrille-style dancing of the period (which was moved back to the 1790s for that production), I saw plenty of the backs of the men’s heads. For a minute or two, I forgot all about Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. A YouTube clip is embedded below.
Two pictures document the progress of my ponytail during the pandemic:
- Click HERE for pictures taken in October 2020, when it was first starting to grow out to tie back.
- Click HERE in December 2021, when it had nearly two years’ growth.
[Published April 22, 2022]