SNARK WEEK: Wait, Men Had Hairstyles Too?


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I’m the resident hair expert around here, and while I’m not actually expert in all eras and my strength is in women’s hairstyles, I had a thought while watching the Tulip Fever preview and decided to bookmark it for Snark Week. To wit, and facetiously: wait, men had hairstyles too?

Tulip Fever (2017)

Can you explain what Christoph Waltz’s hair has to do with these real portraits from 1630s Holland?

Granted, I’ve already started touching on this in my occasional series on how contemporary hairstyles affect those seen in historical costume productions as well as posts like my hair review of Versailles (2016) and my snark of mullets. We all know that what’s currently fashionable affects the costumes seen in movies and TV, as they are tweaked to appeal to a modern mindset. And yes, historical hairstyles — particularly men’s — can look very foreign to modern eyes. But too many film/TV hair designers these days seem to think a modern short, layered, clipper cut will pass muster as a historical hairstyle. I think we tend to let it slide because that’s the default hairstyle of our era, so it looks neutral. But when you compare it with what the hairstyles of the period really looked like, it’s really kind of laughable.

Medici: Masters of Florence (2016)

Medici: Masters of Florence (2016): 1430s Florence (allegedly)

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (2016)

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (2016): 1480s England (allegedly)

The Borgias (2011-13)

The Borgias (2011-13): 1490s Italy (allegedly)

The Tudors (2007-10)

The Tudors (2007-10): 1530s England (allegedly)

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008): 1530s England (allegedly)

Wolf Hall (2015)

Wolf Hall (2015): 1530s England (allegedly)

Lady Jane (1986)

Lady Jane (1986): 1550s England (allegedly)

Elizabeth (1998)

Elizabeth (1998): 1550s England (allegedly)

The Virgin Queen (2005)

The Virgin Queen (2005): 1550s England (allegedly)

Henri IV (2010)

Henri IV (2010): 1570s France (allegedly)

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007): 1580s England (allegedly)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love (1998): 1590s England (allegedly)

Bill (2015)

Bill (2015): 1590s England (allegedly)

Tulip Fever (2017)

Tulip Fever (coming this year 2017): 1630s Netherlands (allegedly)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998): 1660s France (allegedly)

Moliere (2006)

Moliere (2007): 1660s France (allegedly)

A Little Chaos (2014)

A Little Chaos (2014): 1670s France (allegedly)

Moll Flanders (1996)

Moll Flanders (1996): 1700s-20s England (allegedly)

The Slipper and the Rose (1976)

The Slipper and the Rose (1976): mid-18th century (allegedly)

Valmont (1989)

Valmont (1989): 1760s France (allegedly)

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Sleepy Hollow (1999): 1780s United States (allegedly)

Poldark (2015- )

Poldark (2015- ): 1780s Cornwall (allegedly)

Roots (2016)

Roots (2016): 1780s southern US (allegedly)

The Devil's Violinist (2013)

The Devil’s Violinist (2013): 1830s Europe (allegedly)

Victoria (2016)

Victoria (2017): late 1830s England (allegedly)

12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years a Slave (2013): 1850s Southern United States (allegedly)

Roots (2016)

Roots (2016): 1840s southern US (allegedly)

From Hell (2001)

From Hell (2001): 1870s Britain (allegedly)

Wonder Woman (2016)

Wonder Woman (coming this year 2017): World War I (US?) (allegedly)

Timeless (2016- )

Timeless (2016- ): 1937 New Jersey (allegedly)


Which are your (least) favorite modern-hair-on-men movies?



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21 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    I’d have to say it’s a toss up between Man in the Iron Mask (w LDC), Roots, Any film about ERI, and dare I mention Braveheart.

    Rufus as Lord M I’ll give a pass the long sideburns would be accurate due to portrait but COVING HIS FACE IS A CAPITAL OFFENSE. Tom as Albert had longer sideburns.

  2. Robin Harsh

    I love fashion history and I love this site, and I’ll gripe mightily about lace and darts and no hairpins, but I’m just shallow enough to not want some historically accurate but dorky hair style getting between me and my smoldery on-screen hotties.

  3. athene

    “Can you explain what Christoph Waltz’s hair has to do with these real portraits from 1630s Holland?” Yes! I can explain! “I am Christoph Waltz and I vahnt Mareceline, who alvays does my hair, to do my hair, or I valk! It’s in my contract!

    Actually, I think this often explains the inexplicable.

  4. Tamara

    The hair on Poldark (male and female) makes me very twitchy! But don’t mention it on any Poldark post on facebook!

  5. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Patrick Swazye’s Orry Main in the North and South. Serious Mullet Hair!!!!!!!

  6. picasso Manu

    Well, most men at Louis XIV court slavishly copied the boss… Who’d lost most of his hair due to illness. So they clipped their own hair ultra short and slapped those gigantic wigs on.
    I have a hunch that if the set hairdresser came in with the clippers, there would be a panicked stampede!

  7. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    The main issue does seem to be volume, which is in the wrong place for some of these – it’s bouncy where it should be limp, and subdued where it should be huge. For example, the Borgia guy would actually look probably OK if you dumped a bucket of water over his head to de-boing his hair.

    I don’t know about the Christoph Waltz thing, given the variety of the 1630s portraits, it wouldn’t particularly stick out to me as egregious – it looks pretty close to the guy on the far right, top, and the beard is similarly shaped and grown to the guy immediately on his left (although rather shorter) So I dunno. I’d give Waltz a pass, based on this one image I can see of him, as he doesn’t seem that particularly out of place. Unless I’m missing a man-bun or bro-braid or something.

  8. Karen K.

    Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love is my favorite. I’m guessing not very historically accurate, but he’s pretty dreamy.

    • MoHub

      All the girls in my class were in lurve, and the teacher had a hard time getting us to move on.

  9. Jessa

    The dude from Timeless is a time traveler from2016, so I think he gets a pass for having modern hair.

    • Kendra

      I KNOW, but it pains me b/c the whole idea is they’re supposed to blend in! Wouldn’t everyone be looking at him thinking “Who’s the guy with the weird haircut?”??!!

  10. Susie

    The Borgias guy almost looks sort of a little right if you tilt your head just so and squint… It’s longish and needs brushing… that’s kinda…

    No. No it’s not. Not without liquor.

  11. aelarsen

    This is so unfair of you! All you have to do to signify that men live in the Renaissance/Early Modern Europe is give them a close-trimmed beard and mustache and then put them in something vaguely doublet-y. Why are you being so unreasonable?

  12. Angela Gyetvan

    I don’t know, some of these aren’t too bad But am wondering why you used a pic of Christopher Marlowe for Shakespeare. (Yes, I’m a Shakespeare nerd.)

    • Luanna

      My guess is because we don’t have a reliable image of Shakespeare in the 1590s (when both those depictions are meant to be). The three probably-trustworthy images we have of Shakespeare – the First Folio engraving, the Stratford bust, and the Chandos portrait – all show him later in life, and so couldn’t be used as an example of 1590s hair.

      Marlowe’s putative portrait is from 1585, which still isn’t the 1590s, but… is closer, I guess? Personally I would’ve gone with the Grafton Portrait, which (1) is from 1588, so much closer to 1590s than any of the other options discussed here, and (2) has at least been discussed as a possible Shakespeare likeness, even if I personally think there’s no real evidence to support it. (If the putative Marlowe portrait is really him, IMO it’s more likely the Grafton is too, since there’s a close resemblance between the two.)

      Of course, they could’ve used any portrait from 1590s England, but my guess is they wanted someone from a similar milieu to Shakespeare since fashion is also affected by things like social class and occupation. So Marlowe, as a fellow playwright with a similar family background (who was also exactly the same age) makes sense as a point of comparison.

      (Signed, a fellow Shakespeare [and Marlowe] nerd who noticed this too and has far too many thoughts about it!)


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