Traditional Hair Styles Ancient and Modern

Photo - Theing Htun

As Myanmar is an ancient country with a long history, it has enormous heritage—both tangible and intangible. Hair knotting is one of our ancient traditional practices.

 ‘Hair designer’ is not a new term in Myanmar. According to Yarzathu Phwar stone inscriptions, the Bagan era saw a popularity of hair designers who specialized in knotting hair in various styles. They are called it oh pwe the. They used hair pins, clips and other accessories as well as jewelry and flowers in hair styles.

In ancient times hairstyles were a sign of rank or wealth, quite different to hairstyles today. Women knotted their hair depending on rank or social class such as royalty, a dancer, or ordinary person.

Men also followed styles depending on their rank or occupation whether they were entertainers, high ranking officers or ordinary people, according to the Bagan Archeological Museum. Moreover, you can find traditional hairstyles that vary depending on the ranks or social classes in wall paintings in pagodas in Bagan.

Hair styling has existed here since the Pyuu era and further developed during the Bagan era until Inwa, Yadanarbon, and Mandalay. But they vanished along with modernization. Many ancient poets wrote about hairstyles – from the poet U Kyaw to the court poet Yaway Shin Htwe, who served as a Lady-in-waiting in the era of Taungoo Dynasty and wrote about 55 Bagan hair styles in her works.

The museum in Bagan displays 55 women’s hairstyles and 5 men’s from the time between the Bagan and Inwa eras as well as some hairstyles from the Konbaung era.   
In an ever-changing fashion industry of new modern styles, some designers these days actually compete in competitions modeling traditional hairstyles and fashions of the Bagan era.

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Theingi Htun is a journalist who worked for two years at Yangon Times Journal and Flower News. She also worked for two years at Democracy Today News as Senior Journalist. She wrote many articles about culture, the travel sector and lifestyle stories too. Now she is working at My Magical Myanmar as a travel writer and social media executive."


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