The Quiff and the Anastole

Alexander the Great, young conquering king of Greek Macedonia from the 4th century BCE, was often depicted with his hair in a unique but peculiar hairstyle. This hairstyle was called an anastole in Greek. An anastole always involved a dramatic upswing of hair above the middle of the forehead. To his anastole, Alexander added a wreath-like effect to his visage by combing his thick locks in curls around his face. Alexander is credited for having made this hairstyle popular throughout the ancient world.

Alexander’s vanity is shown to us so clearly in his choice of hairstyle. His vanity and pride are left glaring in the open for all to see. His ego and pride come screaming out to us from the ancient statues and mosaics, his hair like a Macedonian fascinator hat, similar to the ludicrous hats worn by the royal family and their guests at certain formal ceremonial occasions. The fascinator hat is very similar to the anastole in that it is just as frivolous and serves no useful function other than decoration and vanity. It reveals much about its wearer. With this level of vanity, no wonder Alexander had the royal confidence to conquer the entire known world!

I’m sure Alexander would have gained even more confidence if he had had a grand fascinator hat to go with his dramatic anastolic upsweep. Perhaps we should be thankful on behalf of the peoples of the ancient world that he did not have access to this confidence-building millinery fashion.

In English, we use the word “quiff” to describe this ancient hairstyle. After having laid dormant for several millennia following Alexander’s untimely demise, the hairstyle surged back into fashion again only in the 19th century. At that time, it often involved a hairstyle with a lock of hair plastered down on the forehead. But it could just as well involve many other varieties of inventive upsweeps of the hair just over the forehead, as shown below.

This timeless hairstyle had another resurgence of popularity with rockabilly music in the 1950’s, where a dollop of gel or grease was often used to style a forelock longer than the rest of the hair. The hair was often combed upwards and back or left to hang over the forehead. One of the most famous partisans of the quiff was the one and only Elvis Presley. But this hairstyle was also popular throughout the 50's and 60's, surfacing as the "Teddy Boy" hairstyle.

More recently, in the 1990’s, quiffs were doffed by partisans of the British “Teddy Boy” movement and individuals within the punk community. One might even say that the punk mohawk style of hair is a derivative of the old anastole.

Even today, some that want to make themselves look edgy, artsy, and hyper-stylish might choose such a hairstyle.

It is good to know that Alexander’s ancient hairstyle continues to make fashion headlines even today!

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