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The Abridged History of Bangs


By Erin Gignac

Horse hair and human hair have more in common than just Mane ‘n Tail. The word bangtail, which means to cut the hair of a horsetail horizontally so it has a flat, tassel-like end, is the origin of the word bang—the term we use to describe the fringe on your forehead.

The word bang was first referenced in relation to hair in the late 1800s; however, the hairstyle goes back much farther than that. Bangs have a rich history. For centuries—even millennia—people have worn this look across the globe.

More than 1,000 years ago, an influential musician by the name of Ziryab popularized bangs in Medieval Spain. Ancient Egyptians were onto this trend even earlier than that, using blunt styles cut across the forehead for natural hair and for wigs.

Not exclusive to women, this hairstyle was also seen on men, whose short hair naturally gave them bangs. Medieval and Renaissance Europe also saw a lot of men with some fringe. When you think of bangs in the modern age, think of The Beatles, Spock or the Caesar cut that George Clooney had on the TV show ER. Even Amish men wear this cut!

Women were criticized at one time for wearing bangs and were even chastised by the conservative clergy of the church in the 1600s, according to The Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. A woman who wore the style was said to be well on her way to committing a mortal sin.

Bringing bangs back into style for the modern age can be credited in part to 1930s actress Louise Brooks. She also popularized the bob while she was at it, as if one iconic hairstyle wasn’t enough!

Then came Bettie Page with the pinup style, Audrey Hepburn with the pixie cut, Brigitte Bardot with her parted fringe, Jane Birkin with her famous brunette look, Farrah Fawcett’s feathered bangs and Zooey Deschanel’s full, thick tresses.

Bangs come and go, but there’s no doubt that when they’re in, the blunt hairstyle makes an icon out of whomever chooses to assume the look. You could be next!

Erin Gignac covers stories for Paramount Beauty.You can follow her on Twitter and find more of her work here.