Why did Victorian Women Cut their Hair Short?

Why did Victorian Women Cut their Hair Short?



While we know of the seemingly sudden trend for the Bob of the 1920s, but what about the Craze of 1885? Turns out, short hair was popular long before the Flapper found it! It’s a startling enough discovery that I just had to dive into the reactions and reasons for this sudden fashion. I will never cease to be amazed at how often the 19th century defies our stereotype of them. And just in case you’re worried this was only a concern for women, men were also the focus of concern during this time! Oscar Wilde lost his locks and the media went wild. Short hair made its way around society in the 1880s, afflicting the young and old, wealthy and working, actors and activists, and so many more. But where did it come from? How long did it last? And why don’t we ever hear about it??

More on the complexity of short hair outside of “fashion” from Kaz Rowe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPkNVan7rWQ

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🎶Music via Epidemic Sound (https://www.epidemicsound.com)

00:00 Hair Stories
03:45 Long Hair Concerns
07:25 The Craze
12:56 Balding & Illness
17:31 Growing Out

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49 thoughts on “Why did Victorian Women Cut their Hair Short?”

  1. Beatrix Potter had her hair cut off after a bout of rheumatic fever caused it to fall out in clumps. She hated it because her hat wouldnt stay on in the wind and once blew off into a fountain,and she and her father had to stand there while the park keeper fished it out.

  2. "The trendy middleaged woman with short hair back then, when stared right back at some fool with this claim, and said "so it causes lack electricity to the brain you say ?" (looks the man up and down with steely eyes and a sideways smirk) "I really doubt thats accurate, but in your case, it would explain a lot" (takes some snuff, slams case shut and leaves with the smirk still intact glancing briefly over her shoulder, then an eyeroll for good meassure)" (and yes shes also the kind of lady that drinks her coffee with a sugarcube in her mouth, and the coffee poured unto the saucer sithing it through the cube, because shes classy like that) <3

  3. There is a link between fever and hair loss – it's called telogen effluvium. Basically, for some people a fever will cause the normal hair follicle's growth and fallout cycle to reset. I know after having a vicious flu a few years ago, with a fever, I lost handfuls a few months later.

  4. In some cultures women cut their hair when mourning the loss of a loved one.
    After second world war people cut of the hair of those women, who "went with" gernan solders, to shame them.
    In other cultures girls had to cover their hair once married..
    In yet another cultures girls have to cover their hair after reaching puberty.
    A lot of time a short hair is more managable, especially when it is infested with lice.

  5. I'm reminded of all the nonsense and even threats from family I've heard over the many years that I've worn my hair in a buzz cut. And now… it's a trend.

  6. My hair goes all the way down to past my butt now but I have also had it cut short just to my ears… it’s amazing the difference just changing the length of your makes on a day to day. I imagine that’s why that’s one of the things people change the most often. Thank you for sharing

  7. Think of all the time,energy and money, shampoo, conditioner,
    hair salon visits, headbands, hair, clips, combs, brushes, hairdryers, straightener irons, and time we would save if we were bald. We would have so much extra time we wouldn’t know what to do with it. How freeing it must be!!!

  8. Beatrix Potter, as a young lady with a lymph node condition, cut her hair short in this fashion. This was so fascinating, thank you for all your research and for sharing your findings!

  9. Ah, yes, short hair makes women more feeble minded. Unlike men of course, even though the majority of men had been sporting shorter hair cuts for quite some time already, but at the same time couldn't give women the vote because they couldn't comprehend it. [Makes total sense to me… not]

  10. When you brought up the blonde thing I was like : yup, I get them, I shaved my head after the first time I was done with my bleached hair, it was dead and dry and I was in high school so it was cheaper. Nowadays I just dye my hair black when I'm done with bleach

  11. 9:08 It's amazing though not surprising to discover that haranguing groups of people for not buying things and thereby causing presumed hardship to the relatively affluent has been a thing for a long time. IOW, all Millennials can heave a sigh of relief; they're not the only ones killing industries! 😆

    I thought capitalism was supposed to be about the free market, not the obligation of consumers to buy things to further enrich the wealthy. 🙄

  12. Long hair is not injurious or more beautiful, nor is short hair problematic or more sanitary. These are just myths perpetuated by people who want to jerk you around. Braid it, shave it, weave it. Let no one tell you who you are or should be.

  13. wow i'm surprised the "makes women look like men" wasn't such a big argument. i guess we see different times through our own eyes until corrected by researching data points 😀
    i guess men had to be careful to fit in too
    oscar wilde…scandalously short!
    native americans…that's too long!

  14. The arguments are so familiar to me it's both funny and sad. I had mid back length and went to pixie, and I was told I looked like I was sick and I wouldn't be sen as beautiful by men. Let me tell you, whatever compliments men don't give to my hair is definnitely leveraed by all the compliments women do give me

  15. Radical Feminist Professor Dr Sheila Jeffrey's brilliantly discusses hair in her book on the history of beauty practices. It is a FETISH for many males (like wearing women's clothes and almost everything else you can think of, there is nothing they cannot corrupt). She has some great talks on youtube about this and her book.

  16. My great-grandmother cut off her long ponytail and kept it in a covered glass bowl on her dresser. I have that bowl on my dresser. Every morning, she would gather the rest into a tiny ponytail in the back and wrap her ponytail around it to make it look like she had long hair. Wondering if this was going on more than we thought. She was not fashionable. Although others wouldn’t see it, I’m sure all of the extended family had seen her very short hair regularly.

  17. Actually regularly cutting the hair can stave off balding to some extent because it reduces pulling on the scalp caused by weight and combing through stubborn tangles. Also if you shave it 😮 (which seems harsh for most people but if you can get over the initial shock it’s not that bad) it reminds the hair to grow sufficiently dense to make up for the lack of coverage that you normally have with longer hair.

  18. Thank you for posting this two days after I shaved my head again— I was worried that my daily historical clothes would look out of place and out of balance because usually you see at least a bun or braid of some kind. I will worry less now that I’ve seen these wonderful pictures😍

    They had it right, my long hair is/was a nightmare in terms of maintenance. If it takes me like 10 minutes to get dressed I do not want to faff with my hair too- especially bc it’s fine and straight and never holds in any hairstyle (when a simple bun) more than a few hours. And the shorter hair looks surprisingly good with 1880s dresses anyways💁🏻‍♀️

  19. Hair. 🙄 A marker that can tell others much about the wearer; socially, spiritually, physically, and lifestyle. Wealth, religious observation, beauty/health, and choice.
    But the short of it all is beauty, perhaps? If long is ideal, then more is, well, more beautiful, even pious (Samson's strength was his adherence to religious rules)?!
    Ok. All that is, whatever, right? Well, I can't go into short hair better than what we already watched. Thank you! Men can be so weird about women and hair. Twice I've gotten into arguments with boyfriends in the past and, to blow off steam, had my hair "shorn." In retrospect, perhaps it was a way of saying "you can't make me" or "who the hell do you think you are?". Maybe some women of the past did that, too. And, bc I knew I was right, there was never any regret. 😉 Hair is just dead stuff we play with. Now, THAT is weirder than short hair on any human.

  20. Those arguments for why women "should" keep long hair don't sound that far off from when people these days say that it's "unhygienic" for women not to shave their armpits or legs, while believing men can go buck wild with body hair. The pseudoscience is just as (un)sound.

  21. Interesting that women were accused of trying to look younger by cutting hair short, and that shorter hair was seen as more childlike", when these days people generally have the opposite association.

  22. I'm a trans man with short hair who loves vintage dresses and have been distressed over weather or not the shirt hair and Victorian style dresses would look too abrupt together and now I feel empowered to gender bend the heck out of some beautiful clothes with my very short queer hair!

  23. How interesting! I am now interested in the same trend you mentioned in passing of the same thing in the late 18th century. When the late Susan Fleetwood played Lady Russell in 1995 film Persuasion, she played it with short hair which I found a fascinating choice from the wardrobe department. and could that be an example of Revolutionary style "a La Guillotine"?… still a bold choice as I'm not sure Lady Russell's attitudes, as a character, with her great respect for Sir Walter's status as a Baronet, sense of tradition and concern that Anne should not marry a humble Naval officer sits well with the elegant and apparently revolutionary image that she portrayed in the movie

  24. I was interested that one writer said all kinds of women were cutting their hair short. Where I live now, it's rural, and windy, and sandy. Most people don't have that much money, and many women are ranchers and farmers, and care more about practicality than style, except for a few young women and teens who go for short hair and various colors. It's not common away from cities and larger towns. This is true for Anglo, Mexican and Indian women. Most grown women around here let it grow longer, and clip it up out of the way, make a bun, or wear it in a single braid, and some just wear it long, if they don't have crazy hair. Mine is curly and crazy, so it gets the braid or clips. Some women cut their hair shorter, but just a practical sort of short. Women often do dye their hair here, but that's a cheap and easy bit of vanity to manage. It seems to be both a practical and cultural preference. I thought it might be like that for country women then, too.

  25. I think women with ethereal features, and also those with childlike features look prettiest with short hair.
    I’m super chubby, so I look best with volume on top and enough length to balance- at least to the chin

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