History of the Headband

Did you know that History in High Heels all started with a headband? It was one of my first semesters in grad school and I wore what I thought was an innocuous pink headband to work. By the day’s end, my advisor had pulled me into to her office and warned me against wearing such things as she feared people would not take me seriously.

It was in that moment that I realized there was a different set of rules for female academics when it came to the way we dress and, in general, how we look. That realization inspired me to create History in High Heels. It became a space where I could express my interest in fashion while countering the assumption that women who are fashionable or appear “too feminine” cannot be serious scholars.

My blog and social media channels became an important outlet for me in grad school. Not only was I able to connect with so many like-minded and talented women, I also found myself empowered by my blog and growing online community. It gave me the confidence to embrace my feminine style and challenge the academic status quo. I now regularly wear subtle and not-so-subtle headbands to my university job.

As you can see headbands now have a lot of sentimental meaning for me, and I am absolutely loving the current statement headband trend, which remind me of 16th century hoods.

In fact, headbands have been a popular accessory in European cultures for more than 2,000 years! In ancient Greece and Rome men and women wore hair wreaths to mark special occasions and significant events. The tradition of wearing a head wreath of flowers continued well into the middle ages. Eventually, wealthier ladies replaced real floral crowns with gold, silver, and bejeweled head pieces. Most women, however, continued to wear a simple “fillet” or “torque,” which was a stiff, narrow cloth headband used to secure a woman’s veil. By the 16th century, noble women donned elaborate headwear. Anne Boleyn famously popularized the scandalous “French Hood,” which, like a modern day headband, exposed the front part of the hair.

From the 17th to the late 19th centuries, hats reigned supreme when it came to women’s fashion. Although, elaborate jeweled headbands (and feathers) were popular for evening attire. Headbands really made comeback in the 20th century when hats began to fall out of fashion for everyday wear. Anyone who has dressed up as a flapper, 50’s bopper, or flower child knows the importance of the headband when it comes to recreating those looks.

I think 2019 is going to be another banner year for headbands. Height and shape or key. Look for lush fabrics and elevated profiles. I have rounded up my favorite headband splurges and steals below.

Splurge:

Steal:

Shop the Look:

  1. Wendy

    Interesting that your advisor said that about your style. Was she trying to insinuate you needed to pay your dues so to speak before you could express yourself? My career is also in academia and I’ve worked with some very stylish colleagues, male and female. I currently work at a medical school and most of my female colleagues have great style. There’s a lot of sweater vest wearing men. I frequently wear critter sweaters and Lilly, thankfully no one has ever told me to tone it down.

    • HistoryinHighHeels

      I think it was more about the field of history, which in the past was very conservative (and slow to change). For a long time, if female historians wanted to be taken “seriously” they had to be this stereotypical dark suit and glasses wearing female who eschewed frivolous or feminine past times. My advisor doesn’t care what I wear, but I think she wanted to warn me what the field was like.

  2. briana

    I seriously love posts like this so much. I don’t know anyone else who is putting out this kind of content other than you, so way to go! Also, this makes me want to drive up to Savannah to take photos. Gorgeous!

    briana | youngsophisticate.com

  3. Tina

    I just ran across your blog and unsure how I have not seen it before. I love history and fashion, but I work in IT Security at a very traditional University. The other day I tried a beautiful bubble gum pink color dress on, but I put it back down while the image of my gray hair, serious face 70-year-old male CIO flashed across my mind.
    I thoroughly enjoy the little history tidbit you would throw into your post, and your clothing style and color combination is on point. Thank you for continuing to be a headband-wearing woman!

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