There are lots of movies that aim for a historical aesthetic when it comes to hairstyles and others where it’s a mishmash. But it seems to me that when historical costume movie/TV series hairstyles vary from what WOULD be historically accurate, it’s due to current-to-filming perceptions about hair. So, working decade-by-decade, let’s look at some of these not-so-accurate films/TV series and compare the hair to what’s going on at the time of filming, and see if I’m right! See my posts about the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s in two parts, 1940s in two parts, and 1950s to find out about historical hairstyles in the movie industry’s earlier decades.
This time, it’s the 1960s, aka the shooting-fish-in-a-barrel decade for contemporary influences on “historical” hairstyles.
Fashionable Hairstyles of the 1960s
In general, it was all about big, high hair — the bouffant! Early on, it was teased out versions of the styles worn in the 1950s. As the decade progressed, longer styles came into fashion, usually teased up for volume as well. Hair was often straight or waved, and near the very end of the decade, a “natural” look came in with straight hair worn without volume.
Men’s styles were generally side parted, layered, and combed back — but sometimes there would be bangs brushed forward. The Beatles and the counterculture started to introduce “long” styles for men, but these were about 1″-3″ longer than mainstream styles.
Historical Movie Hairstyles of the 1960s
Let’s do this! Film images first, followed by period sources for comparison.
Ancient Films of the 1960s
“The Bible-In the Beginning…” (1966). Of course Adam and Eve are blonde! Per my not-so-deep-read of the relevant entry on Wikipedia, scholars possibly date the two to the 6th century BCE. I started trying to find comparative images for amusement’s sake, then gave up because it was too annoying. Let’s just say I don’t think, if there was an actual Adam, he would have gone with short chunky layers.
Nor do I think “Eve” would go for razor-cut bangs, but you do you.
Spartacus (1960) shows the titular character with a military-style buzz cut.
Compare to this “Roman mosaic of gladiators fighting” via Britannica.com. Sadly this is the best I can do for an ancient depiction of Spartacus (can’t find anything that’s not totally indistinct).
Laurence Olivier plays Roman general Crassus with short, combed-forward hair, while Jean Simmons plays “Varinia,” I think a made-up character? She’s got long hair in back and short combed-forward hair in front.
Compare to this copy of an ancient Roman bust of Crassus. Not bad! | Marc Licini Cras, còpia d’un bust romà (Museu Frederic Marès, Barcelona)
King of Kings (1961). Yet Another White Jesus, this one with center-parted, slightly long, wavy hair and beard.
One of the oldest known depictions of Jesus shows him with short, possibly curly hair | Painting of Jesus healing the paralytic from the wall of the baptistery in the Dura-Europa church circa 232 A.D, Yale University Art Gallery
Salome, daughter of Herod II (ca. 27 BCE – 33/34 CE), ruler of the Herodian Kingdom (a client state of Rome), again from King of Kings. They’ve got her in an “Egyptian” costume here, but I’m guessing this isn’t how the real deal would have styled her hair.
That being said, I’m having a devil of a time (see what I did there?) finding actual period sources for 1st century Herodian dress. Feel free to help me out, in the meantime, here’s what they thought they’d be wearing a century and a half ago. Looks like updos and veils? | Ancient Times Roman-Christian, Costumes of All Nations (1882), via Wikimedia Commons
1963’s Cleopatra is legendary for big hair, don’t care! I have no idea what is going on with this bouffant. It’s not good by ANY era’s standards!
Here’s the stereotypical braided Egyptian hairstyle.
And a high, long bouffant for sexytimes.
How might the real Cleopatra style her hair? In this contemporary sculpture, she’s got waved hair around the face and a low bun | Bust of Cleopatra VII, Altes Museum – Berlin – Germany
Yes, they did do versions of those “braided” hairstyles, but the bangs would have been braided/twisted too | Egyptian portrait of a Ptolemaic queen, possibly Cleopatra, c. 51–30 BC, Brooklyn Museum
Marc Antony from Cleopatra, rocking the short tousled curls.
The real deal did something similar, although with a much lower hairline | Roman male portrait bust of Marcus Antonius, Flavian age (69—96 A.D.), Rome, Vatican Museums, Chiaramonti Museum
Medieval Films of the 1960s
Let’s start with the men of Camelot (1967). They’ve both got short hair, but Lancelot’s (top) is more layered, while Arthur (bottom) is rocking the Bettie Bangs.
Why do I do this to myself? I can’t find any images of male hairstyles from the 5th century CE (when historians theorize King Arthur MIGHT have lived, if he was real), so here’s something five centuries off and therefore probably unhelpful | 10th century Anglo-Saxon illustration of a two-horse chariot, in a copy of Prudentius’s Psychomachia, British Library
Ditto. That’s Adam on the left, Eve on the right | Expulsion from Paradise, illustration from page 46 of the Caedmon manuscript, 10th century, British Library
Guinevere from Camelot. Occasionally she wears her hair up in a sort of 13th-century over-the-ears style.
Sometimes she goes full half-price-tickets-at-the-Renaissance-faire.
Here’s something in between.
Compare to Eve again, on the right | Expulsion from Paradise, illustration from page 46 of the Caedmon manuscript, 10th century, British Library
Sophia Loren in El Cid (1960), with full-on bouffant updo on the left and a bouffant ponytail on the right.
Even when her hair is down, it’s been teased and bouffanted.
“El Cid” has short-ish, layered, poufy-on-top hair with bangs combed forward.
Once again I am driving myself crazy to find a contemporary image from the period of the real El Cid (11th-century Spain – Castile & Léon to be specific). This is as close as I can find. The king on the left has longish wavy hair with short bangs, and the queen has long wavy hair with a veil | Miniatura do Tombo de Toxos Outos (c. 1289), representando a Fernando II de León e Galicia e a Urraca de Portugal
The Lion in Winter (1968) – Katharine Hepburn rocks the wimple, yet goes weirdly bouffant on top!
The real Eleanor of Aquitaine did go in for the wimples, but she skipped the bouffant | Eleanor of Aquitaine’s tomb in the church of Fontevraud Abbey, France, via Wikimedia Commons
King Henry II of England, with short, layered, side-parted hair.
Not TOO off from the real thing? Effigy of Henry II of England in the church of Fontevraud Abbey via Wikimedia Commons
Renaissance Films of the 1960s
There’s Juliet from Romeo and Juliet (1968) with her hair long, straight, center parted, and pulled into a wrapped braid.
Sometimes she just leaves the hair flowing and adds a veil.
Romeo goes for a long on top, short, layered cut.
It looks like they should be definitely adding a whole lot more veils | Fresco in Verona, Italy, 14th century, via Pinterest
Anne Boleyn in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons has long, straight, center parted hair that hangs down under her French hood.
The real Anne did something similar, except she put her hair up in back | Anne Boleyn, 1534, Hever Castle
Sir Thomas More (left) and King Henry VIII (right).
The real Thomas More had less layering in his hair, and more length | by Hans Holbein, 1527.
Meanwhile the real Henry VIII was keeping it very cropped in this period | King Henry VIII by Joos van Cleve, c.1535. The Royal Collection
Nope, we need that center part back! Anne Boleyn, late 16th-century copy of a lost original of c. 1533-1536. National Portrait Gallery.
18th Century Films of the 1960s
Not everyone in 1963’s Tom Jones refuses to wear an 18th-century-style wig or hairstyle!
But Tom does! He’s got what I call a pony-nub, with long on top, side-parted, poufy, feathery hair.
The source novel was published in 1749, so Tom should be wearing a wig with buckles (side rolls) and a long queue in back | Francis Hayman, 1707/8–1776, British, George and Margaret Rogers, between 1748 and 1750, Yale Center for British Art
Love interest Sophia is all ringlets, sometimes in a high ponytail!!, with a bit of sideswept pouf on top.
A young lady of this era would be wearing an updo styled close to the head | Allan Ramsay, Portrait of Lady Susan Fox-Strangways (1742-1827), 1761, private collection
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) — another pony-nub, but the front hair is combed back into said pony-nub.
Compare to this print showing a naval officer dressed for active duty. He’s wearing either a wig or his own hair pulled back into a queue (unseen) with large buckles (rolls) on the side | After Unknown artist, line engraving, circa 1778, National Portrait Gallery
Which 1960s films do you recommend, either for historically accurate hairstyles, or for hairstyles that are screamingly contemporary?