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The 1880’s Woman and Her Hair Woes

Chas Eisenmann, a well-known photographer based in New York City during the late 19th century, captured a stunning image of a woman experiencing a particularly bad hair day. The photograph, taken at 229 Bowery, showcases a woman with disheveled hair, looking visibly frustrated with her unruly locks. This image offers a glimpse into the challenges that women faced when it came to maintaining their hair during this era.

The Struggle of Haircare in the 1880’s

During the 1880s, women’s hairstyles were intricate and elaborate, often requiring hours of styling and maintenance. From tightly curled ringlets to towering updos, achieving the desired look was no easy feat. Women would use a variety of tools and products, such as hot irons, curling tongs, and hairpins, to create and maintain their hairstyles.

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  • Elaborate hairstyles
  • Hours of styling and maintenance
  • Use of hot irons, curling tongs, and hairpins

The Impact of Weather on Hair

One of the biggest challenges faced by women in the 1880s was the impact of weather on their hair. Humidity, rain, and wind could easily ruin a carefully styled hairstyle, causing frizz, flattening curls, or creating a tangled mess. This meant that women had to be constantly vigilant and prepared to touch up their hair throughout the day.

  • Humidity, rain, and wind
  • Ruining carefully styled hairstyles
  • Constant touch-ups required

The Role of Haircare Products

Despite the challenges they faced, women in the 1880s had access to a variety of haircare products to help them maintain their hairstyles. These products included pomades, oils, and hair tonics, which were used to add shine, hold curls, and tame frizz. However, the effectiveness of these products was limited compared to modern haircare products.

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  • Pomades, oils, and hair tonics
  • Adding shine, holding curls, and taming frizz
  • Limited effectiveness compared to modern products

The Evolution of Haircare Practices

Over time, advancements in haircare technology and practices have made it easier for women to maintain their hair. The invention of electric curling irons, hair dryers, and styling products has revolutionized the way women style and care for their hair. Today, women have a wide range of options available to them, making it easier to achieve the perfect hairstyle.

  • Advancements in haircare technology
  • Invention of electric curling irons and hair dryers
  • Wide range of styling products available


Chas Eisenmann’s photograph of a woman with a bad hair day serves as a reminder of the challenges that women faced when it came to maintaining their hairstyles in the 1880s. From elaborate updos to the impact of weather, women had to navigate a complex landscape of haircare practices to achieve the desired look. While the tools and products available to women today have made the process easier, the struggles of the past serve as a testament to the enduring importance of hair in women’s lives.

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