A Hairdresser Trounces Historians

Did ancient Roman beauties wear wigs or real hair? This 21st-century stylist gets to their roots

by Abigail Pesta
woman hair Janet Stephens image
Janet Stephens’ painstakingly re-created “Plautilla,” one of many hairstyles she researched.
Photograph: Janet Stephens

Scholars have long believed that the elaborate hairstyles of ancient Greece and Rome were wigs, but Baltimore stylist Janet Stephens is sticking a hair pin in that theory. After studying ancient texts and re-creating those often gravity-defying ’dos on mannequins in her basement, Stephens concluded that they were done on real hair—sewn together with a needle and thread—and published her findings in the Journal of Roman Archaeology. The journal’s editor, John Humphrey, noting that “historians tend to repeat the views of earlier scholars,” says it took a hairdresser to determine the truth about the tresses.


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