Hand in hand with Brigitte Bardot and the stars of the sixties, the hairband is making a huge comeback. However, this isn’t really a rebirth because this accessory, as old as hairstyling itself, has constantly been reinvented to transcend the ages.
Whether worn on the forehead or higher up, the headband very quickly went beyond its simple useful function. Made from fabric, elasticated, braided or studded with rhinestones and adorned with charms, it constantly transforms to suit current trends – no doubt the reason behind its longevity.
In ancient times, it was already at its peak. Worn by both men and women, it was either very simple, adorned with leaves from symbolic trees such as the bay tree, or made from gold for the wealthy. Its width was proportional to the wealth of the person who was wearing it. It therefore became the ancestor of the tiara as we know it today.
After all that flashy extravagance, the headband became more discreet, but just as precious. It appeared in paintings from the Middle Ages in the shape of a fine braid, sometimes a double braid, onto which a stone or a pearl was threaded, hanging down beautifully in the middle of the forehead. However, the Renaissance was another chance to make it extravagant once more.
In search of an even more elegant style, it was turned into a ‘wreath’, quickly leaving behind its initial function and transforming it into a simple ornament. This was a trend that appeared in the 18th century, when it formed part of the hairstyles of extravagant ladies, who turned it into a floral headband.
However, it was in the 30s that it fully went all out. It succumbed to the extravagant atmosphere and became overly elaborate. It was adorned with rhinestones, pearls and oversized feathers. It was commonly worn with short bob haircuts on the forehead by flattening the hair down all around – perfect for dancing the Charleston until the early hours without a hair out of place! It no longer just became a piece of hair jewellery, but also a main accessory for an outfit.
All that was enough to make your head spin, and so in the 60s it adopted a very conventional look: simple and wide, often worn by young girls who had been well brought up. It covered the front section of hair, keeping the hair out of the face. Made from elasticated fabric, it was not very extravagant, and yet when Brigitte Bardot wore it, it became iconic. The following decade, it traded in its conventional look for a more bohemian androgynous style. It went back to being a simple fabric tie or braided thread, but always colourful and worn on the forehead. The new style? Its length. It was tied on the side and the ends would hang down to the shoulders, reminding us that it was also a key piece of American Indian jewellery.
In the 21st century, the headband has chosen its side. It is either hair jewellery or not. It flourishes on the catwalk, coated in metal, adorned with gems, rhinestones, feathers… or has a simple grosgrain bow, for a seductive look, whilst not forgetting its practical side.