'Barometers' of Fashion: Chinese Women's Hairstyles Change; Reflect Altering Trends Over Past 60 Years

  • December 14, 2011
  • By Gu Wentong
  • Editor: Sun Xi
  • Change Text Size: A  A  A

During the past 60-plus years, great changes have occurred in Chinese women's lives, and those changes have been suitably illustrated by the changes in Chinese women's hairstyles. During the early years of New China (founded on October 1, 1949), women had few hairstyle options. Nowadays, Chinese women can choose whatever styles they like, and many women opt for fashionable hairstyles that are consistent with dos worn by women in other countries. The changes in Chinese women's hairstyles have reflected China's rapid economic development, the marked improvements in people's lives and the changes in people's ideas during the past six decades.

The wedding photo of a couple during the 1960s. [chinanews.com]

The wedding photo of a couple during the 1960s. [chinanews.com]


1950s-1960s: 'Simplicity Is Beauty'

During the 1950s and 1960s, most young Chinese women wore their hair in pigtails shaped like fried dough twists. Fan Yunling, 74, an elderly woman from North China's Hebei Province, cherishes the memories of her pigtails.

"I have been 'in love' with pigtails since I was a young girl," says Fan. "I remember how delighted I was when I looked at myself in the mirror: A girl full of youthful vigor, with jet-black pigtails, tied with a red string or silk ribbon, hanging down to her shoulders."

Fan always recalls her youth and her pigtails, not only because she considers the pigtails beautiful, but because she misses the warm, delightful feeling when Zhu Xing, her mother, helped plait her hair. "Although I grew into a big girl, much taller than my mom, she adored me and often helped comb my hair and put it into pigtails," says the elderly woman.

"I really enjoyed such moments when mom's fingers touched my hair so gently that it was like a caress … Interesting enough, in those days many of my friends said my pigtails were full of wisdom, as each time I touched them with my fingers, a brilliant idea occurred to me."

When Fan notices a woman wearing the pigtails, she cannot help but recall her wonderful, worry-free youthful days. She is overjoyed when she sees film stars and fashion models wear pigtails. "You can call me a fashion leader, as I wore the pigtails five decades ago," Fan jokes.

From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, pigtails gradually gave way to short hair, in the style of Liu Hulan, the young woman revolutionary (1932–1947) who sacrificed her life for the cause of liberating China. "In those days," Fan says, "you could see female students, women workers and soldiers almost everywhere, and they wore neatly cut short hair … covered their ears. The women looked vigorous and resolute … To follow the fashion, I had my hair cut. However, deep in my heart, I missed my pigtails."

Zhang Mengyao, 15, Fan's granddaughter, cannot understand why young women in her grandma's youthful days liked such simple, monotonous hairstyles. The elderly woman has explained to her granddaughter: "At that time, we tended to believe 'simplicity was beauty;' moreover, we had neither time nor spare money to beautify our hair."

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  • 'Barometers' of Fashion: Chinese Women's Hairstyles Change; Reflect Altering Trends Over Past 60 Years2011-12-14   Editor: Sun Xi

    During the past 60-plus years, great changes have occurred in Chinese women's lives, and those changes have been suitably illustrated by the changes in Chinese women's hairstyles. During the early years of New China (founded on October 1, 1949), women had few hairstyle options. Nowadays, Chinese women can choose whatever styles they like, and many women opt for fashionable hairstyles that are consistent with dos worn by women in other countries. The changes in Chinese women's hairstyles have reflected China's rapid economic development, the marked improvements in people's lives and the changes in people's ideas during the past six decades.

    The wedding photo of a couple during the 1960s. [chinanews.com]

    The wedding photo of a couple during the 1960s. [chinanews.com]


    1950s-1960s: 'Simplicity Is Beauty'

    During the 1950s and 1960s, most young Chinese women wore their hair in pigtails shaped like fried dough twists. Fan Yunling, 74, an elderly woman from North China's Hebei Province, cherishes the memories of her pigtails.

    "I have been 'in love' with pigtails since I was a young girl," says Fan. "I remember how delighted I was when I looked at myself in the mirror: A girl full of youthful vigor, with jet-black pigtails, tied with a red string or silk ribbon, hanging down to her shoulders."

    Fan always recalls her youth and her pigtails, not only because she considers the pigtails beautiful, but because she misses the warm, delightful feeling when Zhu Xing, her mother, helped plait her hair. "Although I grew into a big girl, much taller than my mom, she adored me and often helped comb my hair and put it into pigtails," says the elderly woman.

    "I really enjoyed such moments when mom's fingers touched my hair so gently that it was like a caress … Interesting enough, in those days many of my friends said my pigtails were full of wisdom, as each time I touched them with my fingers, a brilliant idea occurred to me."

    When Fan notices a woman wearing the pigtails, she cannot help but recall her wonderful, worry-free youthful days. She is overjoyed when she sees film stars and fashion models wear pigtails. "You can call me a fashion leader, as I wore the pigtails five decades ago," Fan jokes.

    From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, pigtails gradually gave way to short hair, in the style of Liu Hulan, the young woman revolutionary (1932–1947) who sacrificed her life for the cause of liberating China. "In those days," Fan says, "you could see female students, women workers and soldiers almost everywhere, and they wore neatly cut short hair … covered their ears. The women looked vigorous and resolute … To follow the fashion, I had my hair cut. However, deep in my heart, I missed my pigtails."

    Zhang Mengyao, 15, Fan's granddaughter, cannot understand why young women in her grandma's youthful days liked such simple, monotonous hairstyles. The elderly woman has explained to her granddaughter: "At that time, we tended to believe 'simplicity was beauty;' moreover, we had neither time nor spare money to beautify our hair."

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