Taverns and Drinking in Early America

America's Founding Food

Customs and Fashions in Old New England


FROM the earliest days the Puritan colonists fought stoutly, for the sake of St. Paul, against long hair. They proved themselves worthy the opprobrious name of Roundhead. Endicott's first act was to institute a solemn and insistent association against long hair. This wearing of long locks was one of the existing evils, a wile of the devil, which bade fair to creep into New England, and in its incipiency was proceeded against by the General Court, "that the men might not wear long hair like women's hair." The ministers preached bitterly and incessantly against the fashion; the Apostle Eliot, Parson Stoddard, Parson Rogers, President Chauncey, President Wigglesworth, all launched burning invective and skilful Biblical argument against the long-growing locks—"the disguisement of long Ruffianly hair" (or Russianly-whichever it may be). It was derisively suggested that long nails like Nebuchadnezzar's would next be in fashion. Men under sentence for offences were offered release from punishment if they would "cut off their long hair into a civil frame." Exact rules were given from the pulpit as to the properly Puritan length—that the hair should not lie over the neck, the band, or the doublet collar; in the winter it might be suffered to grow a little below the ear for warmth. Personal pride and dignity were appealed to, that no Christian gentleman would wish to look like "every Ruffian, every wild-Irish, every hang-man, every varlet and vagabond." By Sewall's time, however, Puritan though he were, we see his white locks flowing long over his doublet collar, and forming a fitting frame to his serene, benignant countenance.

Puritan women also were not above reproach in regard to the fashion of extravagant hair-dressing; they also "showed the vile note of impudency." One parson thus severely addressed them from the pulpit: "The special sin of woman is pride and haughtiness, and that because they are generally more ignorant and worthless," and he added that this feminine pride vented itself in gesture, hair, behavior, and apparel. I fear all this was true, for the Court also complained of my ignorant and worthless sex for "cutting and curling and laying out of the hair, especially among the younger sort." Increase Mather gave them this thrust in his sermon on the comet, in 1683: "Will not the haughty daughters of Zion refrain their pride in apparell? Will they lay out their hair, and wear their false locks, their borders, and towers like comets about their heads?" And they were called "Apes of Fancy, friziling and curlying of their hayr."

I think the sober and decorous women settlers must have worn their hair cut straight across the forehead,

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