Ancient Mayan culture still exists today, but it is a far cry from the powerful, ancient Mayan culture of 300 B.C. Although most of the original customs of their reign have become extinct, present-day excavations and scientific digs can lead archaeologists to strong, researched theories and conclusions about how they lived. Often thought of as a unified society, the Mayans actually were a group of about twenty, culturally similar, autonomous states.
Modern Mayan Hairstyles
Every village in the Mayan culture has a different style. Some are typically Western, while others are traditionally authentic. The Western hairstyles can vary greatly.
In Chiapas, the southernmost state in Mexico and home to the Mayan ruins, the traditional women tend to wear their hair long. Women typically had long, thick black hair, but recent intermarriages with different races have introduced several different hair colors. Women normally wear it down or in braids. During special occasions, women will wear their hair up high in ponytails. The traditional men wear it short in this region.
In the Lacandón region of Chiapas, home to the indigenous Lacandón people, the men have long hair. The Northern Lacandón men cut bangs straight across their forehead to differentiate themselves from the Southern Lacandón men.
Ancient Mayan Hairstyles of the Elite
In ancient times of 300 B.C., the Mayans were at the height of their power, and their hairstyles denoted their social rank. The elite, rich and noble men and women of the day styled their hair to show off their pointed heads that were created at childhood. The Mayans considered a flattened forehead and semi-crossed eyes to be beautiful because it resembled an ear of corn—the material from which they believed all mankind was created. They would bind a newborn’s head between two wooden boards for days at a time in order to achieve this pointy effect and high standard of beauty.
The women of high stature gathered their thick, black hair into high, flowing ponytails to emphasize their foreheads. On special occurrences, the women would braid their ponytails and adorn their hair with ornaments and ribbons.
The men grew their hair long as well, but would burn the hair on their forehead to recede the hair line even further.This method accentuated their elongated profiles. They tied their hair back into one or many, tiny, bundled ponytails. Sometimes they decorated their hair with headdresses that represented snakes, jaguars, or birds made from animal skin, jade, feathers, and teeth in order to convey their wealth.
Ancient Mayan Hairstyles of the Warriors
The Mayans were originally thought to be a peaceful people, but more research shows that they were indeed aggressive, warlike, and even vicious when attempting to conquer another kingdom. The warriors’ hairstyles were designed to inspire their comrades and petrify their enemies. Young male warriors would wear a burst of hair to the left. After their first capture, the hair would be moved to the right. Great warriors displayed their stature with tassels in the hair.
Ancient Mayan Hairstyles of Common Men
Common men and slaves of ancient Mayan culture drew attention away from their hair in order to signify their inferior status. They cut their hair on their forehead and cut it short in the back.
References and ResourcesFashion Encyclopedia - "Headwear of the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas"
Authentic Maya - "Maya Warfare"
Travel Yucatan - "Mayan Fashion Sensibilities"