The “wearing of long hair”

The wearing of long hair was a burning theme of address in the early Puritan pulpit.


The clergy prescribed that the hair should by no means lie over the band or doublet collar, but might grow a little below the ear in winter for warmth.

So enormous was the offence that on May 10, 1649, Governor Endicott, Deputy Governor Dudley and seven of the Assistants declared their “dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, as against a thing uncivil and unmanly, whereby men doe deforme themselves, and offend sober and modest men, and doe corrupt good manners.”

In our neighbor town of Newbury, the clerical wig was so much an affront that, in 1752, Richard Bartlett was taken to task for refusing to commune with the church because the pastor wore a wig, and because the church justified him in it, and also for that “he sticks not from time to time to assert with the greatest assurance that all who wear wigs, unless they repent of that particular sin before they die, will certainly be dammed, which we judge to be a piece of uncharitable and sinful rashness.”

wigWomen, too, were given to marvellous coiffures. Cotton Mather apostrophized the erring sex in 1683, “Will not the haughty daughters of Zion refrain their pride in apparel ? Will they lay out their hair, and wear their false locks, their borders and towers like comets about their heads?”

As the 17th Century waned, the offence of wearing long hair paled into insignificance beside the unspeakable sin of wearing wigs. Public sentiment was strong against the fashion, and the General Court in 1675, condemned “the practise of men’s wearing their own or other’s hair made into periwigs.”

But the battle was already lost. In 1722, here in Ipswich on North Main Street, Patrick Farrin, chirurgeon, boldly hung out his sign, “Periwig-maker” and the gentlemen of Ipswich could have their wigs and keep them curled, powdered and frizzled as fashion required.

The Ebenezer Stanwood house is on North Main St. across from the lower North Green.

The Ebenezer Stanwood house is on North Main St. across from the lower North Green.

Ebenezer Stanwood listed his profession as “peruke-maker” and built his home at the lower end of North Main St. in 1747, next to the John Appleton house. Both houses still stand and Stanwood’s home was recently renovated.

Source: The Early Homes of the Puritans” by Thomas Franklin Waters

Categories: Stories

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