Humans have evolved in innumerable ways over the centuries, but some aspects of human nature remain largely unchanged.
One of those aspects is our tendency to express ourselves through hairstyles. And, this Instagram account is charting women’s self-expression using their hair throughout history.
The Hair Historian, which currently has around 6,000 followers, uses portraiture in art history to tell the story of women’s experimentation with different styles
The account itself is curated by London-based beauty journalist Rachael Gibson, who says she developed an interest in the history of hairstyles when working at Hairdressers Journal, a 130-year-old trade publication with a “huge archive” of styles through the ages.
“I loved looking through old issues and was always photographing cool old hairstyles to put on social media,” Gibson told Mashable. She says this job, combined with her “lifelong passions for art and history” led her to want to “share great images of beautiful hair with the world.”
Gibson says she had amassed a massive collection of “cool historical hair images” and she decided to share them with others to demonstrate the “wealth of inspiration available out there.”
But, in doing so, she was struck by the intimate relationship women have had with their hair over the centuries.
“One of the things I find most fascinating is the confirmation through portraiture that people have always expressed themselves through their hairstyles and that hair has always been something people really care about and want to change,” says Gibson.
She also says that the images highlight the fact that trends in hairstyling are certainly not unique to the 20th and 21st centuries.
“There’s a tendency to believe that trends – be they colour trends, cuts or styling – are something new, but people have been transforming their hair since the earliest times and here’s the evidence to show you that,” Gibson adds.
“It’s a traceable, academic way to comprehend that trends have happened since the beginning of time and hair has long been the medium for bringing them to life,” she continues.
Gibson says she hopes people scrolling through the Instagram account will glean the historical significance of certain hairstyles — “That hair can tell us a huge amount about what’s going on in the world at any given time.”
For instance, changes in women’s rights at the beginning of the 20th century started to be reflected in hairstyles. Women began to cut their hair short in the 1920s after centuries of being told to have long hair that needed to be worn up.
But, history aside, Gibson hopes people can use the images as inspiration, even if they’re just looking for a new way to style their own hair.
“It sounds a bit holier than thou, but I just want people to be inspired,” says Gibson. “I don’t necessarily mean a literal translation, but maybe there’s a colour, shape or texture that sparks someone’s interest and sends them off on their own path of discovery.”