What are Bangs?

A Kaminsky

Men and women have for centuries worn bangs. Bangs are a fringe of hair cut across the forehead. The use of “bangs” describing this fringe of hair has murky origins. There is no clear word etymology suggesting why this term is used for this hairstyle. However, There are Roman sculptures featuring men with short bangs, and bangs for women came into vogue, it is thought, with the stylings of Ziryab, a resident of ninth century Islamic Spain, and who owned a beauty parlor.

A hairstylist cutting a short bob with long bangs.
A hairstylist cutting a short bob with long bangs.

From then on, bangs have come and gone out of style. In 15th century Europe, women wanted such high foreheads that they would shave their hairlines in order to properly wear the henin, the cone-shaped headdress popular in that time. The gabled hoods and cauls of the 15th and 16th centuries also necessitated a high forehead look, so bangs didn’t truly come back into vogue until the late 18th century and early 19th century. Fashions were changing and so were hairstyles.

Bangs are a popular hair style.
Bangs are a popular hair style.

Bangs, in fact, are mentioned throughout women’s literature of the 19th century. Louisa Mae Alcott talks about curling bangs in her novel Little Women and Laura Ingalls Wilder, although writing in the 20th century, talks about curling her bangs into a “lunatic fringe” in 1880s Dakota Territory in Little Town on the Prairie. They have been in style for women through the majority of the 20th century.

Men also take wearing bangs by spells. In the 1930s through the 1950s, men wore their hair short and slicked-back. However, when the Beatles led the British Invasion, their “moptop” hairstyles prompted a resurgence in the popularity of bangs for men.

These days, bangs may be worn short, long, full or thin, straight across the forehead or angled. There are dozens of different ways to wear bangs. Many people choose to wear bangs because they minimize a very high forehead and also give shape to a face. They draw the eye up to the eyes, and can also minimize other less desirable facial features.

A popular men's haircut features long bangs parted to the side.
A popular men's haircut features long bangs parted to the side.

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