I Have to Wash My Hair

A friend of the Dickie family enjoys a nice summer day, with her long hair pinned up.

At the turn of the 20th century, women had long hair. They pinned it up to keep it tidy. Young girls might have worn it in braids. One thing was for certain, they only washed it once a week.

Dickies From Gunton: Canadian Brothers in Two World Wars fondly remembered their mother’s hair care routine. Every night, she would brush it out, counting 100 strokes. Then she would pin it up again. When it was time to wash her hair, she did so by leaning over the washtub and scrubbing her head with soap, rinsing and wrapping it in a towel until she could comb it out to ensure no tangles, and let it dry.

It was a big job. No wonder women would say they were staying home to wash their hair. On the other hand, men kept their hair short and had no problem washing it or not while they bathed, slicking it down with a bit of Brylcreem and going on their way.

Percy’s new wife had a stylish 1920s short bob but as a married woman, she would grow out her hair and maintain a similar routine of daily brushing and weekly washing. To pin it up, she would use bobby pins and a hairnet and some hairspray that came in a can.

By the 1950s, his daughters cut their long hair off and opted for short styles that could easily be washed and set once a week either at home or by their hairdresser. They could sleep with a scarf over it, and shower with a shower cap, so not to disturb the style.

Some women had permanents, to burn a slight wave into their hair and keep it more manageable. And then, by the early 1970s, came the wigs.

While today, a woman might wear a wig to replace the hair she no longer has, at one time, a wig was a stylish item that women could just slip on over their own hair for a different look, and a reprieve from washing and setting. Eaton’s had a wig shop. Even today, some women do opt for the style a wig can create for them.

To the boys, the styles they knew and the care women took with their hair in their time were strange enough. The big teased hair and messy styles of ensuing years, as well as the most recent long hair with various colours and extensions would definitely have baffled them. Not to mention the variations in men’s styles over the years from Elvis pompadours to rocker shags, mullets, Mohawks, big hair, long hair, frosted highlights, and more.

Although he was balding, it’s hard to say if Percy would have been confident enough to shave off what remained of his hair in later years, as many men do today.