history. ancient roman. hairstyles. women.

Antinous Mandragone profil

from an arti­cle in the wall street jour­nal on pins and nee­dles: styl­ist turns ancient hairdo debate on its head

Ms. Stephens is a hairdo archaeologist.

Her ama­teur schol­ar­ship is stick­ing a pin in the long-​held assump­tions among his­to­ri­ans about the com­pli­cated, gravity-​defying styles of ancient times. Basi­cally, she has set out to prove that the ancients prob­a­bly weren’t wear­ing wigs after all.

This is my hair­dresserly grudge match with his­tor­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of hair­styles,” says Ms. Stephens, who works at Stu­dio 921 Salon & Day Spa, which offers circa 21st-​century haircuts.

Her coif­fure queries began, she says, when she was killing time in the Wal­ters Art Museum in Bal­ti­more back in 2001. A bust of the Roman empress Julia Domna caught her eye. “I thought, holy cow, that is so cool,” she says, refer­ring to the empress’s braided bun, chis­eled in stone. She won­dered how it had been built. “It was amaz­ing, like a loaf of bread sit­ting on her head,” says Ms. Stephens.

A hair­styl­ist by day, Janet Stephens has become a “hair archae­ol­o­gist” study­ing the intri­ca­cies of ancient Greek and Roman hair­styles. As WSJ’s Abi­gail Pesta reports, she’s been pub­lished in the aca­d­e­mic com­mu­nity on her research, which she says proves the intri­cate hair­styles were not wigs.

She tried to re-​create the ‘do on a man­nequin. “I couldn’t get it to hold together,” she says. Turn­ing to the his­tory books for clues, she learned that schol­ars widely believed the elab­o­rately teased, tow­er­ing and braided styles of the day were wigs.

She didn’t buy that.