Bowl Haircut

The bowl haircut, especially popular among European men from the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, is one of the simplest of styles to create. It is a plain short haircut, with straight bangs on the forehead, and the rest of the hair left the same length all the way around. The cut got its name because it was originally done by actually placing a bowl on the head as a cutting guide. Most medieval men who wore the bowl haircut style also shaved the backs of their heads and shaved their sideburns.

The length of men's hair varied considerably during the Middle Ages (c. 500-c. 1500), with long curls being popular during some decades and shorter lengths coming into style during others. The Crusades, a long campaign of religious wars that lasted from

1090 through 1300, had brought both military and religious styles into popular culture, and the modest bowl haircut had elements of the shorter hairstyles of both soldiers and religious leaders. However, men of the Middle Ages did manage to add their own personal style to bowl-cropped hair by wearing fashionable hats and head coverings, which were quite complex and ornate during that era.

Though the bowl cut has an ancient history, it has reappeared throughout the centuries, often among poor people in rural areas who could not afford barbers. During the 1960s the popular British rock group the Beatles introduced a modern version of bowl-cropped hair, which became so popular it changed men's hairstyles around the world.


Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

^^^orn by women, men, and children throughout the Middle Ages (c. 500—c. 1500), the coif was a simple fabric cap that covered all or most of the hair and tied under the chin. Coifs could be worn under another hat for extra warmth, but they were frequently worn alone. They were usually made of plain linen or wool, although soldiers often wore a coif made of chain mail (flexible armor made of intertwining metal chains) under their helmets. Coifs were most often black or white, and some had embroidered designs.

Coifs first appeared as common European headgear during the 900s, and they were widely worn until the 1700s. Before 1500, a simple two-piece coif was popular, with a seam down the middle of the head. After 1500, a more tailored three-piece coif was fashionable, with two seams allowing it to fit the head more closely. Rich and poor alike wore the caps, which provided warmth and modesty. Many priests and monks wore simple linen coifs, and travelers wore them under felt caps. Married women wore coifs alone or under veils to cover their heads for modesty.

By the beginning of the Renaissance around 1450, many different shapes of coifs had been developed. Most of these were worn by women, and the shape and size of the coif could be used to show the wealth and class of the wearer. English women wore coifs that came to one or several points at the top, while French and Flemish women commonly wore round coifs that sat on top of the head and tied under the chin.


Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. A History of Fashion. Revised by Frances Kennett. New York: William Morrow, 1980.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Yarwood, Doreen. Fashion in the Western World: 1500—1900. New York: Drama Book Publishers, 1992.

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