From Ancient Braids to Modern Ombres: The Fascinating History of Hairstyles

From Ancient Braids to Modern Ombres: The Fascinating History of Hairstyles

With Independence Day right around the corner, we decided to step back in time and #RememberYourRoots. Let's journey through the captivating history of hairstyles and how they've evolved. From exploring the rich tapestry of hair trends, tracing back to Ancient India to the bold and versatile styles of the 21st century, it is remarkable how far we've come in how we perceive beauty. This is a call to celebrate hairstyles' creativity and diversity, urging you to embrace your unique style. So, whether you prefer an elegant updo or a daring pixie cut, let your hairstyle truly reflect who you are. Keep scrolling to learn more about hairstyles through the ages.

Ancient Hairstyles: From India to Egypt

As we peel back the layers of history, we find ourselves looking at ancient Indian civilisations. Unknown to most, hairdressing has been in vogue from time immemorial. For example, during the Harappan period, they used combs and mirrors to create various hairstyles popular at the time. The Mauryan period saw women sporting braids or shaven heads. The Satvahana period, on the other hand, focussed more on high buns for women while men had short, curly hair. The deeper you delve into the art and sculptures left behind by these civilisations, the more you realise how the beautification of hair is an innate part of human culture. Not just that, the hairstyles of these ancient civilisations also served as markers of their identity, spirituality and social status.[1]

In Ancient Egypt, braids emerged as a popular and symbolic hairstyle, adorning the heads of both men and women. These braids were carefully crafted and held deep cultural significance. They served as self-expression, displaying one's social status, religious affiliation and even profession.[2]

Ancient Hairstyles

What is common between Ancient Egypt and Ancient India is the significance of these hairstyles extended beyond the realm of personal expression and practicality. They were intertwined with religious beliefs and rituals, with certain hairstyles reserved for ceremonial occasions or religious ceremonies.

The Opulence of the 18th-Century Jewelled Braids

This fascinating part of the evolution of hairstyles saw Indian women donning long, flowing hair usually styled in five different ways – tied in a knot, gathered in a bun, curled, parted in the middle or plaited.

The beauty of long hair, while still wet after a wash, recurs throughout Indian literature, especially in outdoor settings. The hair is usually depicted as loose, yet to be styled and sometimes perfumed. Numerous paintings from this period involve similar scenes of women right after they bathe and, at times, accompanied by birds and surrounded by nature.[3]

Opulence of the 18th-Century Jewelled Braids

Hair jewels, such as a pendant or hair bun ornaments, enhanced the femininity portrayed during this time. It was common for women to decorate their hair with fresh flowers, apart from other small ritualistic marks.[3]

The Practicality of the 1930s

With the ongoing freedom struggle in India, the brave women on the frontlines turned to more practical hairstyles that were low maintenance. The focus moved from the beauty and femininity of long hair decorated with jewels and flowers to no-nonsense hair trends of buns, plaits or short hair.

Some noteworthy popular hairstyles of this time included Sarojini Naidu’s low bun[4], Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit’s short curls[5] and Kamala Nehru’s flattened side parting[6].

As with each decade, the evolution of hairstyles throughout history kept changing, paving the way for a myriad of styles to come. And it set the stage for the next era in hair styling – wavy hair trends.

Glamorous Waves of the 1950s

Glamorous Waves of the 1950s
Source: vintagedancer

Besides the sober hairstyles of the women above, the 1930s and 40s also saw more and more wavy hairstyles. Women used heat irons to crease the hair into shapely waves kept in place with bobby pins and hair wax.

By the time the 1950s rolled by, leading actresses had made various hairstyles popular – Audrey Hepburn’s beehive[7], Marilyn Monroe’s perfect curled bob[8] or closer to home, the frizzy bob of Nargis[9] or Sadhana Shivdasani’s “Sadhana Cut”[10], as it came to be known.

These glamorous hairstyles became a symbol of timeless beauty. Women flocked to salons, seeking to emulate starlets they idolised. The popularity of hair rollers and curling irons soared as women tried to achieve those perfect waves defined by the era.

While the 1960s saw a barrage of hairstyles involving a generous amount of hairspray, such as the popular bouffants, updos and beehives, there was also a demand for newer pixie cuts and long, natural hippie hairstyles. The next big hair trend that caught on was bangs in the 1970s.

The Beautiful Bangs of the 1970s

Unlike the 1960s, which had puffed hairstyles in towering heights, the 1970s was all about flat hair. Think 1970s Jaya Bhaduri. Whether their hair was left loose, tied in a bun, twisted into a plait or yanked up high into a ponytail, the common feature across all these hairstyles was locks of hair, parted in the middle, that fell on either side over the forehead.

Bollywood movies featuring Sharmila Tagore, Shabana Azmi and Mumtaz made fringes and bangs very popular in India, compared to other hairstyles throughout history.

This path led to the bold and versatile hairstyles of the 1990s, embodying the spirit of a generation seeking constant reinvention.

Modern Hairstyles of the 1990s

The 1990s were a time of experimentation. People sought to break free from tradition and embrace themselves. From shaved heads to colourful braids, the hairstyles of the 1990s were a reflection of the vibrant and dynamic spirit of the times.

One iconic hairstyle of the 1990s was the "Rachel" cut, popularised by Jennifer Aniston's character on the hit TV show "Friends".[11] This layered and tousled haircut became a sensation, with women everywhere flocking to salons to replicate the look.

Alongside the "Rachel" cut, alternative hairstyles also gained popularity. The rebellious youth embraced grunge-inspired looks, characterised by messy and unkempt hair.

Modern Hairstyles of the 1990s

Meanwhile, in India, Kajol Devgan’s bob in “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”[12], Juhi Chawla and Aishwarya Rai’s wild curls and the messy perms of Karishma Kapoor were all the rage.

The 1990s also saw a resurgence of bold colour-treated hair. From neon highlights to full-on rainbow hairstyles, experimenting with hair dye was at a high. The trend of "chunky" highlights, where thick streaks of contrasting colours were placed throughout the hair, became particularly popular.

Is hair dye a big part of your life today? Here’s all you need to know about colour-treated hair.

Hairstyles Today: Embracing Individuality and Confidence

As the new millennium approached, this spirit of individuality and self-expression continued to evolve. The new age of hair trends ushered in by social media changed the landscape of hair care and hairstyling. Social media also brought the rise of micro trends and gave people a platform to share their beauty regimens and knowledge with a broader audience.

What stands out from this time is the versatility in hairstyles, with people feeling free to showcase their style. We have short bobs and long ponytails, ombre and balayage dyes, chemically-curled hair and natural coiffures, tight ringlets and pin-straight hair – today we have it all!

While no one look has dominated the scene today, what is very apparent is the emergence of the importance of hair care beyond hairstyling. There is a greater focus on ensuring your hair remains hygienic and healthy. This is why so many hair care products are on the market tailored to maintaining the hair's strength, elasticity, structure and overall appearance.

It’s all about one word – self-care.

Hairstyles Today's era

From this very idea of luxury self-care, iluvia was born. With a plethora of products for various hair types, you will find natural pH-balanced, paraben-free, SLS-free, hypoallergenic and cruelty-free products that will love your hair the way you do.

So whether you want to #RememberYourRoots by recreating one of the forgotten hairdos like the 1960s bouffants or you prefer a more modern take, iluvia’s collection of hair products will help you achieve not just the hairstyle of your dreams but soft, glossy, and most importantly, healthy hair.

Head to to check out our products.


  1. Archaeological Survey of India. Kesa-vinyas: Hairstyles in Early Indian Art - I
  2. BlackThen. The History of Braids
  3. Vintage Indian Clothing. All About Hair
  4. Open. Sarojini Naidu: The Girl On The Swing
  5. The Telegraph Online. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit: Woman of many firsts and one miss
  6. Wikipedia. Kamala Nehru
  7. BBC. In pictures: Beehives hairstyles over the years
  8. Glamour. The Marilyn Monroe Bob Is Trending Thanks to the Netflix Movie
  9. Filmfare. Modern, ancient, forever... Nargis
  10. Gulf News. Sadhana leaves behind an iconic hairstyle
  11. Grazie. The Original Rachel Haircut, Modern Versions And Every Layered Look In Between
  12. BeBeautiful. Trendsetting Iconic Hairstyles From Then To Now