Beards and Braids

Trendy hairstyles are always changing, and these days we tend not to think much about how people tend to wear their hair. Personal preference is the norm.

Trends do factor in for a lot of young people; the ‘middle part’ has gained popularity among Gen Z, and the classic (yet infamous) mullet is pervasive as ever. However, there are of course plenty of styles that have cultural and religious meaning and there are also practical reasons for different hairstyles, due to hair type or job demands. Facial hair is hit-or-miss. It’s all up to genetics, but there is no harm in trying to grow a beard or moustache!

Early Ashburton settler and businessman Henry Cranaway Turner, who sported a bushy beard and well-groomed hair. Taken from approximately 1874 to 1884, by S C L Lawrence, Christchurch.

Popular hairstyles have changed quite a lot during Aotearoa’s history, to the point where you could roughly guess the decade or era photograph was taken in based solely on the hair of the subjects. Ashburton of course has had its fair share of hairdressers to provide our citizens anything from a simple trim to the latest trendy ‘dos. Let’s look back at popular styles from the past, as well as the men and women who held the razors and snipped the scissors.

Early Ashburton hairdressers

On the 23rd of September 1875, an advert started running in the Lyttelton Times expressing the need for a hairdresser and tobacconist in Ashburton.

This advert was put in by Hugo Friedlander, who it appears had interest in such a business initially in Ashburton. It took two years before Friedlander’s call was answered and eventually Mr. A Pearce took up the Moore Street business in 1878. Pearce was styled as a “tobacconist, hairdresser, and dealer in fancy goods,” and he also had a billiard room on the premises, which seems to have been common for the more sophisticated barbers at the time.

Noel Green cutting John Bell’s hair (background) at his hairdresser’s, Burnett Street, 1952. Charlie Reid is cutting Leo Evan’s hair in the foreground. Only short styles and clean-shaven faces in this photo!

Three months before Pearce arrived, E A Garnett had also been practicing as a hairdresser, perfumer and tobacconist in Tancred Street. Others followed such as A W Weston, who also sold stationery and books. Clearly the early New Zealand hairdresser was obliged to offer multiple services to bring in the money.

In those very early days up until the 1880s, big beards and sideburns were looked on favourably, as the notion was that healthy facial hair denoted a healthy man.

In the nineteenth century, women of European descent wore their hair long and very often wore it up. Shorter styles were less common until women started to increasingly take up jobs away from home in the early twentieth century.

Changing styles and toilet rooms

As the twentieth century rolled on, beards fell out of popularity in favour of clean-shaven cheeks and fancy moustaches for men (which also fell out of fashion.)

Part of an advertisement for Beath’s, a beauty salon on Tancred Street, which shows that waving was still quite a popular style in the thirties. From the Ashburton Guardian, 12th of August 1935.

Styles for women really took off, allowing for more freedom of expression, empowerment and practicality. “Waving” was a popular style for women in the twenties and is representative of the period, having been offered at pretty much all salons at the time, which were once referred to as “toilet rooms”. The word toilet originates from the Middle French “toilette” which means a small piece of cloth. This referred to a towel or cloth draped about the shoulders while you were having your hair cut or being shaven.

Toilet rooms in Ashburton such as the establishment of Mrs Monson (also spelled Monsen, Mousen) and the Camille Toilet Rooms in the twenties provided a variety of services to women such as “tinting, face and scalp treatment, water and Marcel waving, shampooing” and more.

Inside the Camille Toilet Rooms, Cameron Street, 1926. Open 9am to 6pm, this “Ladies’ Saloon” catered to all types of styles and treatments.

The term “toilet rooms” fell out of use fairly quickly, having been confined solely to the twenties, in favour of “beauty salons”.

Short, long, bushy and bald

For a long while, styles were relatively conservative until the 1960s.

By the ’60s, beards, moustaches and long hair became more common options for men once more, and styles for women became more varied also. Smaller trends came and went several times over the decades, and now you would be hard pressed to spot the same hairstyle twice in a crowd. This is in contrast to what you would see in nineteenth and early twentieth century group photographs. I have often glanced over such images and seen the same (or very similar) styles on many of the subjects.

No matter how you wear your hair, it is good that we are no longer as constrained by societal norms as we once were in the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

By Connor Lysaght

This post was modified for this blog and was originally published in the Ashburton Guardian, 10 April 2021.

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