For those who did, the choice was usually to grow it long, au natural, or to cut it all off and wear a wig. Of course, I exaggerate. There were a few other variations, as well.
Quite often, men with long hair wore their hair gathered together behind their heads in what today you call a “pony tail.” While we didn’t have those stretchy elastic circles called “scuncis” (a very practical modern invention, I must admit), we made do with some simple styling aids such as yarn, string, or leather. They did the job, and no one complained – because, basically, there wasn’t anything better at the time.
For individuals like myself, who might have lost some of our upper thatching due to heredity, we did not concern ourselves mightily with the scarcity, since it was considered an ordinary fact of life.
For those men who were of the courting age, desiring to attract the opposite sex, the hair issue was often second in priority to attire. They made up for any shortcomings with a finery of wardrobe – ruffled shirts, elegant jackets, frocks, breeches, etc.
And for those with quite a bit of wealth to show off, a powdered wig was a fashion necessity, especially in England and France, where appearance was everything. (But I must confess, there were also practical reasons behind the use of wigs. In my day, head lice were a problem, so the solution was usually to shave one’s head and wear a wig).
Today, as I understand it, many men who might otherwise still have a fair share of hair (despite hereditary thinning), have intentionally chosen to “take it all off,” and sport the shaved head look. Many well-known artists, professionals, business leaders, performers, and others have chosen this style because of its distinctive, eye-catching appearance. I daresay, there must also be some degree of male/female attraction factor going on as well, otherwise this look would not be so prevalent as it is.
Inventing the electric head trimmer
To accommodate this particular fashion, a number of your ingenious 21st century inventors have recognized the necessity for daily upkeep, and responded with electric devices that quite efficiently shave the head in relatively short order, far more quickly than our old-fashioned methods of razor and lather. (Another good use of the science of electricity, which I pioneered through my experiments in the 18th century!)
One other hair-related topic I also need to mention is the matter of facial hair. If you ever look closely at the portraits of most of us Founding Fathers, you’ll notice that very few, if any, sport any mustaches or other facial adornments. That, too, was an intentional fashion choice. And, quite often, men of means had a personal servant to aid in maintaining this clean shaven look; others chose to make use of barbers. As for myself, I took great pride in doing the job myself every day (Some might criticize me and say it was out of my frugal, penny-pinching ways; but I also saw a greater efficiency in this choice.)
Today, I see there are many more different alternatives for facial foliage than we had. There are mustaches, sideburns, goatees, full beards, short beards, scraggly beards, and well-trimmed beards. While it was not the style in my day to indulge in mustaches and beards, I have often wondered what I might look like with this facial fashion.
Finally, as to my own particular style – shoulder-length hair, nothing on top – for the most part, this was something I grew accustomed to over the years. It required minimal maintenance (not needing to be trimmed short every day), was simple, economical, dignified, and did not call undue attention to myself. In the wintertime, I wore a cap to keep my head warm.
The only exception to all this, of course, was the time I spent in England and France, serving as the country’s first ambassador and diplomat. In order to mingle and fit in with the leaders of those countries, where powdered wigs were very much in vogue, I found it necessary to adopt this fashion as an expedient, pragmatic way of furthering the colonies’ interests and accomplishing my mission. (For that reason, you will see a few portraits of myself with the requisite wig and expensive wardrobe).
As it ultimately turned out, my strategy proved to be right on target – I won official recognition for the colonies, and secured substantial financial support for our battle for independence as well, helping us to win the war.
Your humble servant,