Baltimore, MD – Ancient Greek hairdos were said to be wigs, according to modern scholars. But a Baltimore hairdresser named Janet Stephens has rediscovered how our ancestors managed to pull off those amazing fashions like those worn by Cleopatra, Faustina the Younger, and Empress Plotina.
According to The News Tribune, Janet Stephens, 54, works as a hair designer at Baltimore’s Studio 921 Salon & Day Spa. Stephens told the Wall Street Journal she was killing time in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore back in 2001 when she caught sight of a stone bust of the Roman empress Julia Domna, which features a braided bun hairstyle:
“I thought, holy cow, that is so cool. It was amazing, like a loaf of bread sitting on her head.”
Scholars of ancient history widely believe the elaborately teased, towering, and braided hair styles of the day were wigs. Stephens did not buy this explanation and “found that she could achieve the hairstyle by sewing the braids and bits together, using a needle.”
An ancient term “acus” was translated to mean “hairpin,” but Stephens thought the term referred to a needle and thread. Using her methods, Stephens found that while hairpins couldn’t reproduce the ancient hairdos she could accurately reproduce the hairstyles with needle and thread.
In 2007, Stephens sent her findings to the Journal of Roman Archaeology:
“It’s amazing how much chutzpah you have when you have no idea what you’re doing. I don’t write scholarly material. I’m a hairdresser.”
John Humphrey, the journal’s editor, was intrigued by the hypothesis and allowed it to be printed under the headline Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair)Pins and Needles:
“I could tell even from the first version that it was a very serious piece of experimental archaeology which no scholar who was not a hairdresser—in other words, no scholar—would have been able to write.”
While some scholars disagree with Stephens on some of her findings, in general her ideas seems to be well-received. On the other hand, she hasn’t received any ancient hairdo requests from clients other than an Augustus Caesar cut.