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Story: Personal grooming

Hairstyle and make-up fashions change over time, reflecting social trends and attitudes. People also use their hairstyles and the way they present themselves to communicate their identity.

Story by Bronwyn Dalley
Main image: Competitive beard-growers Jeremy Mayall and Jason Hanson, 2010

Story Summary

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Women’s hair

In the 19th century women had long hair, which was generally worn up in elaborate hairstyles. In the early 20th century hairstyles became less intricate and shorter. In the 1920s many women cut their hair into a ‘bob’ (chin-length), signalling more independence.

From the 1930s to the 1950s Hollywood glamour influenced women’s hairstyles. Hair was longer and curled softly around the shoulders, neck or head. Since then, hairstyles have changed frequently, including the beehive in the 1960s, long ‘hippie’ hair in the 1970s and ‘big’ permed hair in the 1980s.

Men’s hair

Since New Zealand was colonised by Europeans men have generally had short hairstyles. The short-back-and-sides look was popular for much of the 20th century. In the 1950s some men grew their hair longer, influenced by film and rock-and-roll stars. Some men’s hair became even longer in the ‘hippie’ era of the 1970s.

Men’s facial hair

In the 19th century many men had beards; later in the century beards became shorter and neater. Other men had sideburns or moustaches. Since about 1900 most men have been clean-shaven. Facial hair became fashionable among younger men during the 1970s, and again during the 2000s among young men.

Hairdressers

Until the 1920s women did their hair at home, and commercial hairdressers (barbers) were generally only for men. Later, women’s hair salons opened and offered cuts, perms and the wash and set. In the 2000s most hairdressers are unisex.

Barbers were kept busy until the mid-20th century, while men’s hairstyles were short and clipped. Many barbers closed down from the 1950s.

Hair removal

In the later 20th century it became more common for women (and sometimes men) to remove body hair from their armpits, legs, face and pubic area. Some see this as unnatural and forcing women to conform to excessive ideals of femininity.

Cosmetics

‘Respectable’ women generally didn’t wear makeup until the 1920s, when fashion changed and new products became available. Make-up fashions change over time and subcultures often have their own style of make-up as well as clothing. For example, goths and punks often had dramatic make-up.

In the late 20th century a small but growing number of men used skin-care products and make-up.

How to cite this page:

Bronwyn Dalley, 'Personal grooming', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/personal-grooming (accessed 25 May 2017)

Story by Bronwyn Dalley, published 5 Sep 2013