For anyone living in the Victorian age, hair was yet another important part of the style ensemble. Wear your hair right, and you would be considered cultured and sophisticated, but wear it wrong, and you would be thought of as boorish and uncouth. Hairstyles varied over time, but since hair styles were so important, it’s no surprise that many popular hair tools were invented during this time.
Victorian Hair Tools
Throughout the Victorian era, men and women both used waxes, oils, pomades, and ointments to keep their hair in shape. For men, these ointments were also used to give form to mustaches, beards, and facial hair. Hair dye was also used to add color to graying hair.
There were also many hair accessories, such as hair combs, hairpins, jeweled ribbons, and natural objects, like flowers and leaves.
Hair receivers were another object common to every woman’s collection. These were basically round containers with openings on the top for collecting hair. They were typically ceramic, bronze, or crystal. Rather than throwing the strands away, though, the hair would be collected and then turned into lockets of hair. These were often given as gifts to loved ones, or even woven into jewelry.
Towards the middle of the 1800s, hair curlers were used to keep hair wavy. The curling iron was invented and its success led to an entirely new fashion wave, called the “Marcel wave.” It was named after its French inventor, Marcel Grateau, who wasn’t the only French inventor to have such a huge impact on the hair world.
Before the curling iron became the easy to use hair tool it is today, it was simply a metal tube that was heated by fire then paired with a smithing glove while being carefully used on the hair. They had the right idea, as today’s curling wand is extremely similar, minus the heating in an open fire! Many clumps of hair (and fingers) were burned off using this tool, teaching the user and victim the hard way to pay close attention to what they were doing.
In Paris, one of the world’s most important and widely used hair tools was invented by Alexandre Godefroy: the hair dryer. At the time, these machines were enormous, and consisted of a metal bonnet, a chimney, and a gas stove. Over time, this invention was refined into the handheld version we have today.
Men’s Hair Tools
Germans invented the first razors, which were quite expensive and inefficient. Others picked up the great idea and quickly improved on it. Soon, razor machines were made that were much lighter and included detachable razors.
Another hair tool used by men was derived from Marcel’s “waving iron,” called the mustache curler. At the time, handlebar mustaches were popular, and this device helped to give them their shape. Unlike a curling iron though, this version of the mustache curler used wax instead of heat to mold the mustache tips into shape. What goes around, comes back around as fans of the old-timey mustache are using tools that are very similar.