Native Americans are renowned for their beautiful, long dark hair. Long hair itself has great meaning to the Native American people (more on this to come in a future post). But did you know that some tribal groups had their own unique ways of styling their hair?
Hairstyling traditionally varied based on tribe, band, and village, and was also worn by individuals to identify themselves as a member of a clan or society.
Typical Native American Hairstyles – Men
The archetypal American Indian’s hairstyle is long and flowing or with long plaits or braids and a central part. This applied to both men and women and was particularly seen in the Plain Indians.
Men generally wore their hair long and flowing, in braids, or shaved. Hair was traditionally of enormous importance and held great symbolism for Native American men.
- Men of the Blackfoot and Sioux tribes cut their hair only to denote shame or when they were in mourning. They frequently wore a forelock between the eyes or a pompadour.
- Iroquois and Lenape warriors of the northeast shaved their heads, leaving only a single lock of hair at the crown (scalplock), a roach (the stereotypical “mohawk” style), or a tonsure (a fringe running around the head). (Shaving the head may have been a self-preservation tool for warriors, leaving no long hair to grab or scalp in battle).
- The Apache cut their hair each spring in a ceremony to bring success and good health.
- Men who had long braids or shaved heads often wore artificial roaches; these were made of brightly dyed deer hair or porcupine hair.
- Seminole Indians believe that hair is sacred and must be protected from others seeking to do them harm; it was traditionally worn in a large fan shape over the front of the head to keep it safe.
- Pueblo men often wore a chongo (low bun at the nape of the neck) or shoulder-length hair – by the 1800s this was worn with a bandana. Some men of the southwest wore dreadlocks or topknots.
- While men of the northwest coast wore beards and mustaches; the vast majority of Native American preferred to remain clean-shaven.
Typical Native American Hairstyles – Women
- Some women painted their hair with horizontal stripes.
- Some women dyed their center part with a bright color.
- Navajo and Pueblo women typically wore their hair tied at the nape of the neck in a twist style known as a chongo. Others cut their hair to the shoulders in a blunt cut, often with bangs.
- Unmarried Hopi women were renowned for their unique hairstyle of elaborate squash blossom or butterfly whorls worn at their ears (the same style to be mimicked and made famous by Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in 1977s Star Wars movie). This style was achieved by the girl’s mother winding her hair around a curved wood frame and then removing the frame after securing the hair in place. Once a woman married, she no longer wore this style.
- Seminole women from the Lower Creeks of Georgia and Florida wore a complex hairstyle, with their hair fanned into a disk over a tilted frame which remained in place under the hair.
- Women from the Creek and Chickasaw tribes wore their hair in topknots.
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