After years of experimental hair-dressing, the curl, which has persistently reappeared from time to time in the history of the world's fashions, has come to be regarded as the most natural and attractive way of wearing the hair. At an important congress of leading hair-dressers it was decreed that curls are to be worn in greater profusion than ever.
The curl is as old as art, as old as literature, as old as civilisation, and probably much older. Truly, this bit of toupe, this added decorative touch, from the earliest recorded times, has been accorded full recognition by the sons and daughters of men. Babylonian coiffures certainly suffered from too .much curl. Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all subsequent civilisations have had their due share, and made their peculiar contribution to the history of this adornment.
Just why the curl should be so universally accepted and worn is not quite easy to explain. Some of its manifestations are far from beautiful. The mere formalised curls and plaits are still fresh. It is the prototype of the formal head-dresses seen on monuments and tomb?
Ringlet has no beauty, although the grace and' style of natural curls are undeniable.
Fig. 1. An Egyptian wig over 3,000 years old, whose marvellous
I suppose mankind, and particularly womankind, recognised that the curl, as nature gives it, denoted a sort of vigour and liberality of physique, that it caught the light admirably, and made smoother heads look somewhat stiff and formal by contrast. "I, too, will have curls," one can imagine a distant ancestress declaring; "they can be done - a finger and some coaxing," and, lo, a fashion.
Since then the curl has had most marvellous developments. It has foamed and sunk, dangled and effervesced in a huge variety of fashions - some near to nature's guidance, some as far removed therefrom as is architecture from dancing. Now the little ringlets round the ears, now an edifice of formalism and wires.
The appearance and disappearance of the curl indicates in some degree the moral tone of different generations, for whenever history records a period of asceticism and puritanism the hair was worn smooth, and often hidden away altogether.
Fig. 2. A Greek mode that was common at one time to both men and women their sculpture
Fig. 3. An archaic coiffure in vogue in Greece about B.c. 530. The early Greeks were probably a curly-haired race, judging fron
But at times of Liberation from such strict rigidity, .and in livelier, possibly more decadent, years, the curl broke forth again in all its witchery.
Babylon, as it has been said, was curled. Somehow the fascinating daughters of Babylon do not figure much upon the life-like bas-reliefs and incised sculptures which show their men folk to such advantage; but since these latter, as to head and beard, are curled more than ambrosi-ally, one can imagine something of the feminine display which rivalled that of these "oiled and curled Assyrian bulls," to quote the contemptuous phrase used by Tennyson as a symbol of effeminacy. Egypt boasted not only curls, but also curly wigs. There is in the British Museum a saddle-shaped taure, with long, plaited ends, of the most miraculous curliness. These curls are 3,000 years old, yet as good as new, and there is an infinity of tiny plaits. The label on the taure asserts in its dry way that it is "probably female," and its shape reveals much of the secret of the big, formal head-dresses which figure on every papyrus and sarcophagus.
How this particular wig has kept its curl throughout the long centuries is a tonsorial puzzle, but it convicts Egypt of curls with marvellous freshness. (Fig. 1.)
The Greeks brought the curl, as they brought so many other things, to perfection, but even with them perfection was only achieved as the result of many trials and errors. On the more archaic Greek vases one finds a single mode common to male and female figures - a sort of pigtail with two fine plaits, a chaplet, and a fringe of isolated ringlets - such a fringe as one of the sailors in the day of Nelson might have worn, peep-ing beneath his glazed t.(fig.2.) An archaic female head in marble, dating from
Domitia in A.d. 56 and known in our own day as the
" Shoreditch fringe " this elaborate head-dress the sixth century before Christ, shows a built-up frontlct of three superimposed rows of tight cursl, framing the forehead from ear to ear. (Fie. 3.)
Greek sculptures of the best period always how the hair worn in natural waves and curls, it is probable that the ancient Greeks were a curly-headed race, who needed not the tongs of the barber, and had taste enough to know when they were well off. We, less fortunate, are well-advised in adopting for our present-day mode of hair-dressing what are termed curls a la Grecque.
Fig. 4. A style of coiffure worn by the Empress of the first century A.d., was sculptured wearing