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History of the ponytail

The chin-skimming bob may well be dubbed the cut of the year, but there’s one thing it’s not good for – being made into a classic ponytail, and boy are we a fan of the elastic-wrapped, ‘get-this-hair-out-my-face-style. And we’re not alone. French Vogue declared the high ponytail to be the look of fall 2018 and the ponytail hashtag on Instagram brings up 2.4 million hits. From humble beginnings to runway favourite, here’s a short history of the up-do favourite…

Manchu ponytail

Pre 17th Century: Manchu people

Think 70-year-old biker dude – semi-balding, with what’s left scrapped back into a scraggly ponytail. You’d be forgiven for thinking he was refusing to surrender to the natural ageing process, but in fact he could’ve been inspired by the pre-17th Century Manchu people of Northeast China? They grew their hair on the top of their heads long (and often braided), while the front was shaved. A sort of reverse rocker, if you will.

18th Century ponytail

Pre 18th Century: The male tail

In the 18th century it was compulsory for European soldiers to wear their hair in a ponytail. It was a style considered to be the epitome of ‘establishment.’ French soldiers were required to wear their hair in a ‘queue’ (meaning tail) no longer than eight inches, while British soldiers wore their long hair pulled back into ponytails, often greased or tarred and secured with a ribbon. The British Army was ordered to cut off it’s queues in 1800, when regulations changed and short hair was deemed smarter. 

Fifties actress Sandra Dee
I Dream of Jeanie
Barbara Eden in I Dream of Jeanie

Early 20th Century: Girls, girls, girls

When it came to up dos in this era, the poor ponytail was regarded as the chignon’s informal, lazy little sister – I mean, we can all relate to that right?! It was also a style reserved for young girls rather than grown women. Only really in the fifties did ladies begin whipping their elastics out thanks to the arrival of the Barbie Doll and the likes fifties’ actress Sandra Dee – so the style still maintained its girly connotations. That was until the sixties when popular show ‘I Dream of Jeanie’ catapulted the ponytail to the top of the head and Bridgette Bardot followed suit, sporting a high ponytail and making it cool.

Madonna in the eighties

1990: The power pony

If anyone could transform the trusty ponytail overnight it had to be pop queen Madonna. Her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour saw her sporting a clip-on platinum plaited pony that became as legendary as the conical bra she wore it with. The pony soon became the epitome of female empowerment and in 2014  the clip-on auctioned for £12,000.

Vicky Pollard
Matt Lucas as Vicky Pollard with Kate Moss

2013: The Pollard pony

As quickly as the ponytail rose to fame, it came crashing down again, as a high, scrapped back version of the style became coined the Croydon Face Lift. Following this, TV show Little Britain squeezed any last remaining poshness out of the pony, with Matt Lucas’s character Vicky Pollard becoming synonymous with a tracksuit-wearing teen delinquent. Not exactly the pony’s finest hour.

Hair by Sylvestre Finold


For 2019, the once traditional schoolgirl style is getting chicer by the minute thanks to some clever styling from hairdressing’s creme de la creme. Today’s ponytails are piled high in a don’t-mess-with-me-I’m-busy kinda way one minute and then styled low with a cute ribbon the next. Needless to say, the humble ponytail is here to stay. Hallelujah! Here’s our pic of the best…

For more on the latest hair trends click HERE.

Credit: Images courtesy of Instagram and Pinterest



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