In 1855, Queen Victoria gave Empress Eugenie of France a bracelet made of a lock of her own hair. She also had some hair made into a bracelet for her governess. Victoria was quite the trendsetter in the field of hair jewellery – she had lots of Prince Albert's hair turned into jewellery. Thanks to her, the only mourning jewellery appropriate for Victorian widows consisted either of jet, or objects made from the deceased's hair. Victoria also had her children's milk teeth set in a bracelet.
The Victorians had a mania for hair. It was used to replace thread in embroideries, table linen and handkerchiefs, or to make entire objects, including watch chains, necklaces, belts, earrings, rings, buttons and bookmarks. Magazines printed hair-braiding advice columns. Some artists chopped hair into powder, then sprinkled it onto glue-covered canvas to make pictures; at the Paris Exhibition in 1855 there was a life-size picture of Queen Victoria made entirely of hair. In 1864 one Nila Bailey managed to make a wreath using locks of hair from Lincoln, his cabinet and the top Union Generals (more than 30 VIPS in all) in the middle of the Civil War. Framed, it raised $400 in a charity raffle.
To collect hair, maids picked strands that came loose as they brushed their lady's heads and stored it in special little jars, but this wasn't enough to meet demand. In the mid-19th century the UK imported 50 tons of hair a year for hairwork, often sold by nuns who had shaved their heads – though the newspapers ran sensational exposés describing pathetic peasant girls being shorn for the hair trade, or (worse) hair being picked off dead bodies with the rotting follicles still attached. These eventually undermined public confidence – and after Victoria stopped wearing hair jewellery it immediately fell out of fashion. Today there is only one hair museum in the world, in Missouri, which contains over 2,000 pieces of hair jewellery.
There are many candidates for the most disastrous haircut in history, but one strong contender is the monastic haircut given to King Louis VII in the 12th century when he fell under the influence of preachers who had spoken out against long hair, which they said would condemn the wearer to Hell.
His first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, on seeing her husband’s cropped head and shaved chin, complained that she thought she had married a king but found she had married a monk. She had their marriage annulled and went off to marry Henry II of England, taking with her the Duchy of Aquitaine, a large part of south-western France. Disputes continued between the English and the French over the possession of Aquitaine for decades and eventually triggered the 100 Years’ War. It is arguable that Henry VII’s haircut caused two centuries of international conflict and the violent death of three million French people.
In Samuel Pepys’ time the word ‘wigg’ referred to a bun, the ancestor of today’s hot cross bun.
We'll probably never save our souls, but hell, at least we'll get our hair sorted.
Jazz musicians of the 1950s referred to classical musicians as ‘long-hairs’.
West End hairdressers used to be considered quite dangerous places. Stories abounded about people who, while bending their face forward to have their hair shampooed, caught the stench of the vile air emanating from the Victorian sewers from the plughole. The fear of cholera and getting various viruses through the miasmic air was one of the factors which led to the practice of washing a customer's hair while they tilted their hair back – the others included it being easier for longer hair.
There is a school of thought which says that it does your hair no harm to give up shampoo and just rinse it with warm water every couple of days. Two brave QI Elves tried this as an experiment, and found that after over three months without shampoo, their hair looked absolutely fine and they got no strange looks on public transport. Lots of people advocate it – the movement is referred to as the ‘No Poo’ movement.
Some people advocate not washing at all and claim that after two weeks or so the body normalises. We haven’t tried this.
The word ‘shampoo’ is a Hindi word, referring to a type of sensual massage. Sake Dean Mahomet, the man who opened Britain’s first Indian restaurant in 1809, was also appointed Shampooing Surgeon to both George IV and William IV (in the sense of head massage, rather than hair-washing).
In the 1770s there was a fashion for women to wear huge wigs, sometimes with model ships built onto the top. They took several hours to assemble and were kept on for a week at a sleep upright, and if she was travelling in a sedan chair, she had to sit on the floor. Built-in mouse traps were also featured.
Men of the time also wore wigs. Available designs included Adonis, Artichoke, Cauliflower, Elephant, Grecian Fly, Indifference, Puff, She-Dragon, Spinach and Staircase.
Since Autumn 2008, judges in civil and family cases in England and Wales no longer wear wigs in court. Judges in the very highest courts (the House of Lords and the Privy Council) have never worn wigs whilst sitting as legislators and Privy Councillors respectively – they wear ordinary suits.
The Cuban leader Fidel Castro estimated that he saved 10 working days a year by not shaving (about 13 minutes a day).
In the 18th century, wigs were generally about as expensive as the rest of a gentleman’s clothing put together.
Do you know a shop where they cut your hair properly? I keep on having my hair cut but it keeps on growing again.
Castration prevents male pattern baldness if it is done before hair is lost.
The French fashion for men wearing wigs began with Louis XIII (who went prematurely bald) and ended with the Revolution in 1789.
Women would send Lord Byron locks of their hair with their fan letters. He often returned a lock of hair from his pet Newfoundland dog. His old publisher has an archive of over 100 locks of hair from fans.
Marquisotte means to shave or trim the beard with exaggerated fastidiousness.