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?
Sophia Loren of course is beautiful no matter how her hair is done. In Thousand Days after Anne sleeps with Henry she puts her hair up, a nice touch.
Recently I found a sixteen century portrait of a woman wearing a French hood’s billiment over loose flowing hair. Going by the gown it dates from the later 16th century when fashionable women were showing more hair under small decorative headresses but usually up. My guess would be that the flowing hair was symbolic and wouldn’t have been worn so in Real Life.
Is that image online anywhere? If so, please post a link. If not, do give any info you can about where/who/what it is!
Found it! It’s a sixteenth century portrait of an Italian lady. It’s on writingren.blogspot.com/202 a site called Writing the Renaissance
Dr. Zhivago, for the women at least.
I dunno… Julie Christie’s looks a bit teased up with maxi-bangs.
Also, medieval queens sometimes got to do Long Flowing Hair for special occasions because, you know, QUEENS! It was recorded somewhere that Anne Boleyn went to her coronation practically sitting in her unbound hair. I believe brides were also allowed to wear their hair down and decked in rosemary, symbolizing fertility.
Kendra dug into that trope & the stuff behind it last Snark Week! https://www.frockflicks.com/snark-week-girls-did-not-wear-their-hair-unstyled/
The wrapped braid + cap combination Juliet has is definitely something you see in 15th-century Italian portraits. (And the movie does pretty clearly seem to be set in the 15th century and not the 14th.)
You can see the same hairstyle depicted very well/clearly in this 1490s drawing, which may or may not be by Leonardo da Vinci: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Bella_Principessa
I really don’t think 5th-century Britain is relevant to costuming anything about King Arthur (unless of course you’re going for the ‘The Truth behind the Legend, the way Antoine Fuqua in 2004 claimed to do, but didn’t). The legends as we know them are late medieval fantasies – Camelot specifically references Malory – and it would be absolutely absurd to costume them in Migration Period clobber. 14th/15th-century, with or without a touch of fantasy, is really the only way to go.
Fair point – Arthuriana generally falls into the “set in the High/Late Middle Ages of the specific source material”, like Perceval le Gallois (1978) or Excalibur (1981), or in Sub-Roman Britain, like Arthur of the Britons (1972) or King Arthur (2004) (how’s that for a laugh?). So Late Middle Ages might be a better comparison for Camelot – though I’d argue it wouldn’t come out looking better. Especially the… “armour”.
Then again, I’ve mentioned in other discussions online some of the odd implications of directly interpreting Sir Thomas Malory. He features both the Western Roman Empire and heavy cannon (i.e. culverin) in the same book:
“𝚃𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚂𝚒𝚛 𝙼𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚍 𝚠𝚒𝚜𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚞𝚗𝚍𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚝𝚘𝚘𝚍 𝚑𝚘𝚠 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚐𝚞𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚍, 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚙𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚠𝚛𝚘𝚝𝚑 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚖𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚞𝚛𝚎. 𝙰𝚗𝚍 𝚊 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚛𝚝 𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚝𝚘 𝚖𝚊𝚔𝚎, 𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚕𝚊𝚒𝚍 𝚊 𝚖𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚢 𝚜𝚒𝚎𝚐𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚃𝚘𝚠𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚏 𝙻𝚘𝚗𝚍𝚘𝚗, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚖𝚊𝚍𝚎 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚜𝚜𝚊𝚞𝚕𝚝𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚠 𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚢 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚎𝚗𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚜 𝚞𝚗𝚝𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚝 𝚐𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚐𝚞𝚗𝚜.”
–Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XXI, Chapter I
Siege cannon in a King Arthur movie? That would really throw some audiences for a loop, haha.
And on the 6th day, God created Man with fingered, tousled hair, and called him Adam.
God also created Woman, and gave her a crappy, frizzy wig that God found in a garage sale that was at least ten years old, and called her Eve.
Eve was angry that God thought so very little of her and gave Adam way better hair. So Eve, in defiance of her Creator that clearly favoured Adam, started breaking rules. Like talking to snakes that were symbols of Goddesses from earlier eras. This made God angry. Especially as He was hoping no one would know that snakes were a symbol of feminine knowledge and wisdom.
….so if God had given Eve better hair (or at least — not a crappy wig), history would be much different.
That’s what this post is about…. right? Better hair? Well, at least we now know it was God’s fault after all. lol
It’s a good thing my husband wasn’t home when I read this – I laughed so hard, he’d have had me locked up!
This is my new biblical headcanon and no one can stop me. Cheers!
I suspect that god also gave Adam his special stash of gel, while Eve didn’t even have a nickel-size dab of leave-in conditioner. She was further irritated by the sweaty wig covering her dark hair, not to mention the itchy blue contact lenses. Men!
Swedish university student “discovery” Ulla Bergryd not only had to deal with a “crappy” wig as Eve, she had to deal with having it glued to her chest, because the edict at the time was still “Thou Shalt Not Bare Thy Boobies” (at least, in a film that needed to go out with the approval seal from the Motion Picture Code).
Not surprisingly, she only appeared in one other obscure film in a supporting role, went back to university and eventually wound up in academia.
As you’ve already written about in another post, there’s “My Fair Lady”, which has some very ’60s hair (Eliza at the Embassy ball). There’s also “Sword of Sherwood Forest” (1960) and “A Challenge for Robin Hood” (1967).
I love this series and am glad to see another entry!
As for El Cid (1961): I thought it was a pretty by-the-numbers sword and shield epic that didn’t know what century it was set in visually. Architecture, clothing, and armour from all over the place. The jousting scene is particularly egregious. And it would seem this extends to the hair.
There are some decent references for clothing, armour, and some hair in the Biblia Sancti Petri Rodensis, dated to the second half of the 11th century:
In my opinion it’s a bit subjective exactly what that hair should look like in corporeal form, but Heston’s mop ain’t it.
“Women in Love” is a film I like but I haven’t seen it in a while. I don’t remember anything egregiously wrong with the hair… Ursula has kinda messy fly-away hair, very feminine. Gudrun is very Louise Brooks vamp-y with a bob. Hermione’s hair is mostly up and dressed. There’s also “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, the 1st movie where I ever noticed the costumes. Again, the 20s, and again, I haven’t seen it in a while, but I don’t remember the hair being bad.
“Bonnie and Clyde” is often discussed as one of Hollywood’s 1st attempts at period accuracy in costumes so I wonder how the hair holds up. I haven’t seen it in a while either.
I can’t remember where I saw this, but I once saw an interview with (Oscar-nominated) BONNIE AND CLYDE costumer Theadora Van Runkle where she said she was out shopping for materials for the film and ran into Edith Head.
Head asked her what she was working on, and Van Runkle replied that it was a period piece set in the ’30s. She said Head beamed and nodded knowingly, gushed, “Chiffon, chiffon, chiffon, dear!” and walked away.
These posts are great. I hope y’all do one of these for the 70s. It’s when accuracy finally becomes a thing. It was the default setting when I was studying design in college in the late 70s. It’d be interesting to see how 70s hair creeps into otherwise pretty accurate movies. And of course there’s “Barry Lyndon” but also “Joseph Andrews”… there’s Richard Lester’s 3 Musketeers films but also “The Devils”.
Try La Folie des Grandeurs set in Spain 1640´s, they alternate between good « velasquez » court hair style and girly bouffants. The court costumes are also quite good
These posts must be so labor-intensive, but I love them! They’re right up there with Snark Week for me. Bonus points for your hilarious Quixotic quest for what historical Adam and Eve looked like.
“The Lion in Winter (1968) – Katharine Hepburn rocks the wimple, yet goes weirdly bouffant on top!”
That was kind of Hepburn’s own default hairdo, and it can be seen in GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967) and off-screen photos of her at that time.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. Babs rocks a bouffant like no one else in the Regency!
Also, Funny Girl, 1968. Bouffant for the win.
I’d go with Julie Christie’s look in Dr. Zhivago. I mean, it’s supposed to be late 1910s/1920s and she’s totally bouffant!
This post is making me question the accuracy of the hairstyles in Mary Poppins and Pollyanna.
Also, I’m also curious about the accuracy of the hair in the Vincent Price version of The Fall of the House of Usher.
Not a film, but my mother’s been watching Here Come the Brides. The costuming is…not great…but the hair is pure 60s bouffant goodness.