Mid-Victorian Barbering

For general discussions on the British Army of the Victorian era or specific regiments.

Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Judy O'Grady » 15 Aug 2015 05:20

Has anyone come across any info on barbering in mid-Victorian British stations in India? For example, were there rules governing hair length, beards, and moustaches? Would there have been a regimental or station barber or would haircutting be done by anyone who happened to have a pair of scissors? Would an entire regiment have depended on finding local barbers near each station? I've studied a few pictures from this era showing soldiers from other ranks who look neatly groomed despite being in remote locations and have yet to discover anything on this subject.
I am optimistic that one of the VWF members will have some info to share on this subject.
Thanks,
Judy O'Grady
Judy O'Grady
New Member
 
Posts: 37
Joined: 23 Dec 2014 06:39

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Frogsmile » 15 Aug 2015 08:10

Just as a start point Judy barbering was connected with shaving and both tasks were generally carried out by Indian servants when the battalions were in cantonment. Each soldier had a few Rupees deducted from his pay to cover the services provided (including laundry by the dhobi-wallah) and shaving was done while the soldiers were still asleep. On campaign there was less urgency but again barbering was usually carried out by camp followers or sometimes by a soldier who had been a barber in civilian life before enlistment.
User avatar
Frogsmile
Forum Fellow
 
Posts: 4613
Joined: 25 Jan 2011 20:17
Location: Wiltshire, England

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Maureene » 15 Aug 2015 11:37

I think barbers, or nappi wallahs, were very readily available in India, and frequently shaved men who were still asleep.

The photograph contained in this link is titled “Army officer being shaved during a train stop to the Himalayas, from Journal des Voyages (1908).
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/unt ... -down.html British Library Untold lives blog.

I have a vague recollection that during a certain period of time, men were required by Army Orders to have a moustache, but I cannot quote any references (and could be wrong)

Cheers
Maureen
Maureene
Forum Fellow
 
Posts: 761
Joined: 02 Aug 2011 07:33

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Frogsmile » 15 Aug 2015 15:47

Maureene wrote:I think barbers, or nappi wallahs, were very readily available in India, and frequently shaved men who were still asleep.

The photograph contained in this link is titled “Army officer being shaved during a train stop to the Himalayas, from Journal des Voyages (1908).
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/unt ... -down.html British Library Untold lives blog.

I have a vague recollection that during a certain period of time, men were required by Army Orders to have a moustache, but I cannot quote any references (and could be wrong)

Cheers
Maureen


I could not remember the term Napi-Wallah even though I had read of it before so it is good to see you bring it to the fore Maureen.
You are correct regarding the obligatory moustache, which was required throughout Victoria's reign and stipulated within both Queen's and King's Regulations for the Army until 1916, when the Military Service Act (conscription) led to its discontinuance as a requirement.
User avatar
Frogsmile
Forum Fellow
 
Posts: 4613
Joined: 25 Jan 2011 20:17
Location: Wiltshire, England

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby QSAMIKE » 15 Aug 2015 16:07

Just a little note of humor......

I have a QSA to a Trooper in the Imperial Yeomanry..... In his attestation papers he states his previous service as "Regimental Barber, North West Mounted Police......

Mike
Mike C.
Past - President Calgary Military Historical Society
Member OMRS 1591
QSAMIKE
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 549
Joined: 31 Aug 2008 01:44
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby rclpillinger » 15 Aug 2015 18:02

I think this picture from Grandfather's collection was taken in about 1886 or 1887. Either in York or Ireland, most probably the latter. I am guessing there are not many pictures of military barbers at their work; who would be interested? Only VWF folks I suppose, but it is these sort of photographs that make up how life really was and is.

Richard
Attachments
Barber.jpg
Barber.jpg (170.41 KiB) Viewed 1263 times
User avatar
rclpillinger
Senior Member
 
Posts: 263
Joined: 07 Sep 2012 20:07
Location: Fakenham, Norfolk

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby colsjt65 » 16 Aug 2015 21:30

but it is these sort of photographs that make up how life really was and is.

I particularly like this photo of British troops at Rangiriri in New Zealand shortly after the battle there on 20 November 1863. It shows men relaxing, in shirtsleeves, hands in pockets.

Album510p6n3- sm692.jpg
Album510p6n3- sm692.jpg (141.57 KiB) Viewed 1242 times


One detail I can see in the full size photo, in front of the [12-pdr Armstrong gun] artillery park, is what I am sure is a barber cutting hair with two men waiting and one man walking away rubbing the back of his head like he just got a hair cut.

Album510p6n3 - haircut.jpg
Album510p6n3 - haircut.jpg (159.92 KiB) Viewed 1242 times
User avatar
colsjt65
Senior Member
 
Posts: 280
Joined: 21 Jun 2011 04:46
Location: New Zealand

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Judy O'Grady » 19 Aug 2015 16:59

Once again I am amazed and appreciative of the response of other VWF members to a question I hae posted. As Richard so astutely observes, it is these small daily details that bring the past to life. The photos are terrific! The concept of shaving being done while men slept is certainly food for thought.

One of the difficulties I have in researching daily life in mid-Victorian stations in India, is separating the work required of wives on the strength from work done by local people (e.g., laundry, cleaning, sewing, etc.) General histories of army family life regularly make distinctions between the other ranks and officers. For example, certain officers would routinely engage a sargeant as a servant or wives would either be expected to clean the barracks as part of their keep or do laundry for a bit of extra pay. I think this is because the lives of the wives and children of officers are better preserved in letters and journals than the lives of the other ranks.

Many thanks to all who have contributed to this thread and to any others who would like to add tidbits discovered in additional sources.
Judy O' Grady
Judy O'Grady
New Member
 
Posts: 37
Joined: 23 Dec 2014 06:39

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Owen » 19 Aug 2015 17:37

Just sneaking in to the 1837 - 1902 mandate of this forum, and a bit before mid Victorian, is this 1837 circular from my collection of military ephemera - signed by the then Adjutant General, Lt General Sir John MacDonald, a known disciplinarian and veteran of the Peninsular Wars.....the King has had enough of long hair and whiskers!

Image

Owen
The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see (Sir Winston Churchill)
User avatar
Owen
New Member
 
Posts: 20
Joined: 10 Nov 2013 01:47
Location: Presently serving in the Middle East

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby colsjt65 » 19 Aug 2015 21:07

A book that I read quite a while ago, so I can't remember many details -

Loy Smith, George: VICTORIAN RSM, A: From India to the Crimea. First hand account by Regimental Sergeant Major of the 11th Hussars, covers Ireland, India and the Crimea. Author interviewed many of the survivors of the Light Brigade charge, b/w illust, maps. 1 vol, 245 pgs 1987 TUNBRIDGE WELLS, COSTELLO

There may be the type of details that you are looking for.
One thing that I remember that made an impression on me at the time, was his description of how the barracks were 'air conditioned' by having the wall on the prevailing wind side made of reeds, with servants throwing water over them.
User avatar
colsjt65
Senior Member
 
Posts: 280
Joined: 21 Jun 2011 04:46
Location: New Zealand

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby jf42 » 20 Aug 2015 10:09

Very good to see that record of the authorities' move to order the grooming of the troops, barely a month before the accession of 'Our dear Queen'. Those strictions against facial hair were relaxed in 1854 when the British expeditionary force sent to confront the Russians had arrived the eastern Mediterranean- as discussed here.
viewtopic.php?f=27&t=8809&p=41425&hilit=moustache#p41425

The circumstances of the Crimean campaign and the Indian Mutiny led to officers and men leaving off shaving entirely, ushering in a fashion for sporting a heavy full beard which tailed off over the next fiften years or so, with men who were young in the 1850s retaining their beards for much longer. Even Waterloo veterans were photographed wearing beards. Over subsequent decades, soldiers taking the field for extended periods in Africa and on the Northwest Frontier once again regularly sprouted a full set for the duration of the campaigns.

Initially, the fashion of retaining the full beard must to some extent have been a badge of honour, indicating membership of the community of men who had served in those campaigns, which became a fashion then affected by the wider male population, appropriating the exaggerated masculinity that the veterans' full beard betokened- or, thinking more generously, we might say it started as a gesture of solidarity.


It is interesting to reflect on the current fashion for heavy beards amongst younger men in the main, and beards worn by British soldiers in forward positions in Afghanistan who let their facial hair grow for a number of reasons. Almost certainly there was no conscious connection but, looking back, posterity may offer all sorts of theories.

What the connection was between the post-Crimea/Mutiny fashion and the regulation issued, I believe, in 1860 that required soldiers to leave their top lip unshaven, I am not sure. If the authorities had wanted to curtail the general hirsuteness they could have intervened more specifically. Indeed, by 1860, the fashion was coming in for shaving the chin and leaving the side whiskers supporting the moustaches on either flank, as it were, which persisted into the 1870s. That soldiers should have been required to wear at least, a moustache, may have been an attempt to create a degree of uniformity in the face of a general fashion too widespread to tackle head on. Of course, Horseguards could hardly legislate for those who were only able to produce a sheen of blonde fluff.

I shall be watching with interest to see whether in due course the current bearded fashion also evolves into 'Burnsides' and 'Dundreary' whiskers.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran member
 
Posts: 2175
Joined: 10 Mar 2011 15:12

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby Maureene » 20 Aug 2015 14:40

colsjt65 wrote:One thing that I remember that made an impression on me at the time, was his description of how the barracks were 'air conditioned' by having the wall on the prevailing wind side made of reeds, with servants throwing water over them.

Two links which give more details about tatties made from khus-khus grass
http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.c ... the-grass/
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2008/200808 ... /main1.htm

Cheers
Maureen
Maureene
Forum Fellow
 
Posts: 761
Joined: 02 Aug 2011 07:33

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby RobD » 20 Aug 2015 20:39

A big determinant of hair fashions, and hair length in the military, was the humble head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis. The head louse lays its egg (nit) on the shaft of the hair at its origin from the scalp. The egg hatches when the hair is about 1/4 inch long. Thus close-cropped hair was a public health intervention to keep head lice at bay.
And close-cropped hair became thus inextricably associated with the poor and "other ranks".
Officers sported longer hair as evidence of their cleanliness, the length of the hair being determined by the ability to succesfully pull a nit comb through the hair (in the days before conditioner).
In the 18th century, the problem was solved by wearing wigs (lice don't live on wigs), under which the hair was cropped.
User avatar
RobD
Participating Member
 
Posts: 158
Joined: 26 Nov 2014 15:28
Location: UK and South Africa

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby jf42 » 20 Aug 2015 23:02

Well, yes, but it seems few men had their heads cropped in the Crimea, for instance- if we can judge by Fenton's photographs.

It isn't quite true to say men had their heads shaved under wigs in the C18th. For instance, in the War of Independence period and thereafter, the fashion- requirement- was for shortish hair on the sides, a longer 'toupee' on the crown, and a queue of long hair growing from the occiput and neck that was combed out and dressed with grease before being folded in various ways and turned up. Latterly, it was bound tightly to form a Prussian-style pig tail hanging down the back. Remarkably, the process necessary to achieve the required style was regarded as contributing to mens' hygiene, the need to comb out every day being thought to be of benefit to the scalp and helping control vermim. Allegedly.

This fashion was deemed a priority to the extent that when Sir William Howe ordered the men of his army to cut their hair short in preparation for the oncoming campaign of 1777, a repetition of the measures he and his brother took in the Seven Year's War campaigns in America, circa 1758, word finally came back across the Atlantic that the King required the men to cease cutting their hair forthwith to allow a queue to be formed again. This was to achieve uniformity. Equally remarkable, it is said that when, in 1808 on the eve of a campaign in the West Indies, it was finally decided to do away with the queue throughout the army, some regiments complained; not least because some officers were particularly proud of their fine, luxuriant locks. From this response derived, we are told, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers' distinction of continuing to wear down their back the ribbons that had bound their queue above their collar.

Hard to imagine but vanity is a powerful force.
Last edited by jf42 on 30 Aug 2015 06:07, edited 4 times in total.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran member
 
Posts: 2175
Joined: 10 Mar 2011 15:12

Re: Mid-Victorian Barbering

Postby GrantRCanada » 22 Aug 2015 01:45

Again, not India .... but two contemporary photographs exist showing men having their hair cut during the 1885 North-West Rebellion in Canada. Aside from the North-West Mounted Police and some local Provisional levies, the troops involved in this campaign were all mobilized Militia from Eastern Canada, some of them being "full-time" soldiers in Canada's very small "Permanent Militia" force, however.

This first photograph is one of many taken during the campaign by Captain James Peters of 'A' Battery, Regiment of Canadian Artillery (part of the Permanent Militia), who was a keen photographer. (A portion of another thread here on VWF deals with Capt. Peters - http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=150&start=45 ....)

Peters had a penchant for assigning somewhat tongue-in-cheek captions to his photographs, this one having been labelled "Scalping" -
Image

Detail .... it seems evident from the broad dark stripe on the trousers and the lack of white piping on the tunics that these are artillerymen from Peters' own unit -
Image

The other photograph is one of a series taken during the campaign by a professional photographer Oliver B Buell ("Prof. Buell") of Montreal (formerly New York) -
Image

Detail .... I am unsure why this officer is wearing his cap during the haircut: perhaps it is merely a "trim" -
Image
User avatar
GrantRCanada
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 799
Joined: 18 Feb 2008 06:00
Location: Medicine Hat, Alberta , Canada

Next

Return to The Army

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest