The male ideal of beauty in ancient Rome was dictated by Roman ideas about the right way of life. A young man is primarily a warrior, lean and hardy, of strong physique, muscular and tall. A middle-aged man is a respectable master and politician, majestically speaking in ceremonial toga, with smooth movements and a serious face. It is believed that the Romans shaved all the facial hair. This is not entirely true, in early Rome in general there were no special standards of male beauty, and in the days of the Empire, a well-groomed short beard or whiskers sometimes came into fashion. At the time of the Republic, it was not shameful to wear long hair and a beard, a short hairstyle for men became the de facto standard only during the first Roman emperors.
Women’s fashion, of course, was much more volatile. But at all times, the Romans considered beauties not too thin women of medium height, with wide hips and a pronounced waist. Body fit was also appreciated, the Romans were engaged in sports exercises no less than men. The beauty should have had an oval face with a straight nose and almond-shaped eyes. But the most important thing is fair skin and hair. Vegetation on the body was not allowed, so the Romans used pumice and razors for depilation, which was carried out after the bath.
The fashion for women’s hairstyles in ancient Rome was constantly changing. In the days of the Republic, simple and modest hairstyles reminiscent of Greek prevailed: the hair was divided with a straight part in half and combed on the sides back, collecting in a tight “Greek knot”. Neither forehead nor ears should have been covered by hair. By the end of the republican period, hairstyles became more complicated. They began to use hot and cold curls, weaving of small and large braids, high rollers. In the imperial period, from the first half of the 1st century to the end of the 3rd century. AD women’s hairstyles are becoming more complex, pretentious, taller and more voluminous. Hair was curled in tight curls, laid around the head, braided in braids, loosened on the back of the head, placed a roller over the forehead or laid on the frame in the form of a kokoshnik.
Complex voluminous hairstyles required very thick hair, so Roman women of fashion began to use fake hair, hairpieces and wigs. Hairstyles were decorated with tiaras, headbands, curly hairpins, hoops of various widths. Often used gold hairpins with a pommel depicting the goddess Fortuna. These figures were hollow inside and were used for scented beads. With stilettos, irritated patricians pricked gaping slaves during dressing or when building a hairstyle. Reprisals against home hairdressers were so frequent that Ovid persuaded the Roman matrons in their verses not to disfigure the faces of the maids, not to prick and pinch them.
The wives of the Roman emperors spent several hours a day creating some intricate hairstyles. Hot curling hair was done by specially trained slaves, who were called “Tonsores.” After that, hairdressers began to work. The most complex tall structure of small curls laid in tiers over the forehead of Empress Julia Domna, the wife of Septimius Sever, could only be built by a very experienced hairdresser.
In addition to the aristocratic pallor of the face, provided with dangerous and harmful to the skin white lead, blond hair was also valued. Moreover, to such an extent that the Roman Senate issued a special law prohibiting the inhabitants of Rome from changing the natural color of their hair. But this, of course, did not stop the fashionistas. Wealthy Romans bought up blond slaves, cut their hair and made light wigs from them. And those who could not afford it, bleached their own hair – for example, with a composition of goat milk and ash from a beech tree. After using this composition, the hair should be dried in the sun. Such a procedure could lead to sunstroke, and with frequent use, to baldness, but fashionistas did not care too much about it.
In addition, the Romans actively used cosmetics, face masks and oils for the skin, tinted lips with compounds based on wine or vegetable paint. They brushed their teeth with coral powder. Fashion-watching matrons for cosmetics, hairstyling, and clothing selection sometimes took many hours, while dozens of slaves and slaves of various specialties were involved. In this, Ancient Rome was not too different from our present.