Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: Menswear

Hair in the late 18th century was worn long, particularly by older and more conservative gentlemen. This hunting squire of c.1800 still wears his hair quite long under his large-brimmed casual hat.

From a series of hunting illustrations by George Morland, c.1800.

More fashionable men, however, began wearing their hair cropped in the late 1790s. For the most part, this shorter hair was worn brushed forward, and a certain lively, wind-blown look was admired. Sideburns suddenly appeared and became an almost constant fixture for the next several decades.

From an 1801 portrait of the Duke of Argyll.

Unnamed portrait of 1810-20.
Even those without much hair combed what they had well forward and cultivated a tousled look. It's easy to see the "Grecian" influence on these hairstyles - not only do they imitate the "Caesar cut," but they even remind me of laurel wreaths!

Litho of a self-portrait by Jean-Louis-Andre-Theodore Gericault.
The other obvious influence on men's hairstyles of this period was that of the Romantic poets and painters, and Gericault makes the most of his richly curling hair in this self-portrait of 1816. This is the hair of heroes and heartthrobs!

From A Gentleman in Rome by Ingres.

Although the most desirable type of hair was curly, since it most easily achieved the thick, lively look so admired, even men with thin, straight hair did their utmost to give it some oomph. The fact that hair was infrequently washed in this period no doubt made it easier to produce such a wild look. Today, it would probably best be reproduced by ruffling a small amount of hair wax all over the head and then twisting the locks loosely forward.

1818 portrait of Hugh Price of Castle Aladoe, by Englehart.
If your modern hair is too short for the wild styles above, fear not. More conservative men continued to comb their hair back rather than forwards, and kept it fairly short. But grow out those sideburns, the indispensible accessory of the Regency male!

From an 1818 plate in Costumes Parisien.

This in-between style is more or less brushed back, and yet manages to achieve an unruliness rivaling even the most swept-forward styles above. It's rather bad-boy hair for such a sweet-faced gentleman, don't you think?

From an 1823 plate in Costumes Parisien.

In the 1820s, hair continued to be active and voluminous, and sideburns began to increase. In fashion plates of this time the curls become larger and somewhat more regular, and there is perhaps the suggestion of a side part.

From an 1824 plate in Costumes Parisien.

This plate from 1824 definitely shows the hair being brushed to one side, with the curls very fat and sideburns very prominent. However, no matter how big the hair got on top, it was always kept fairly short at the nape of the neck. At this point, long hair on the neck was considered hopelessly 18th century.

From an 1825 plate in Costumes Parisien.

Although late (1825), this plate is worth showing because it offers a glimpse of the back of the head and reveals how, as the curls in front became more exaggerated, the back by contrast was worn quite short and smooth. And, it's a rare man without sideburns! Since some men simply cannot grow them, it's nice to see that they were not absolutely required.

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