What Is a “Hedgehog” Hairstyle *Really*?

A lady sporting the hedgehog hairstyle – 1775-78. Gallerie des Modes, MFA.org 44.1344

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all 18th century historic costumers, when we first start, quickly come into contact with the amusingly-named “hedgehog” hairstyle. And oh boy do we love our hedgehogs – the frizzed toupee and ponytail back are so easy to quickly create and embody the 1780s perfectly. I think we all love saying the name too…hedgehog. Hedgehog. It’s just so darn whimsical.

But did you know the hedgehog, or “herisson,” hairstyle, is older and more specific than just the frizzed ‘do? There are distinct characteristics, so let’s take a look at the ole primary sources…

The top two coiffures in this Gallerie des Modes plates are both “herisson” – note the ribbons and the spiky ends. 1776, MFA.org, 44.1235 

In this 1776 plate the upper left is the hedgehog. Even more noticeable are the spiked-up end at the top, corralled by the ribbon. Gallerie des Modes, MFA.org, 44.1243.

Another 1778 plate – the hedgehog is the lower left image – the hair is swept up and back and allowed to sortof fall over the back. It’s kept in place by the ribbon, kindof like a headband that keeps the hair back. The hair would have to be cut to this specific length. Gallerie des Modes, 1778. MFA.org. 44.1249. 

The term “herisson” appears in Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Francaise between 1776 and 1785 and appears to be identified by the ends of the hair standing straight up atop the coiffure, encircled by a ribbon or band of some sort.

This combo appears on late 1770s very high sloped styles as well as 1780s frizzed or craped styles. The band is sometimes shown as a ribbon, but could also be pearls, or a string of flowers. For men no ribbon or band is worn, but the hair appears to be cut short-ish at the crown or toupee and creates the “spiky” appearance rather than being swept back smoothly into the chignon.

This lovely plate shows a couple Calches and Therese style hoods, and in the upper right the herisson hairstyle is mentioned. You can see the ribbon band, quite low on the coiffure, and indication of the end of the hair fuzzy at the top. Gallerie des Modes, 1776. MFA.org 44.1265.

The lower right shows the hedgehog perfectly for 1776 – the hair sticks straight up on a donut-like cushion, and the ribbon is woven through it. Gallerie des Modes, 1776. MFA.org. 44.1291.

The upper right corner hedgehog style is banded with pearls and decorated with feathers and flowers in this 1776 plate. Gallerie des Modes, MFA.org, 44.1292.  

One could even purchase a “bonnet a l’Herisson” to simply place atop one’s hairstyle for added oomph. Literally a cap made of hair. WINNING! (this is my favorite thing ever I neeeeed to make one!)

Look at this madness! The lower left is titled “Bonnet a l’Herisson” – bonnet is the French word for cap. This is literally a hair cap. Just pop it on top and you instantly have a hedgehog! 1776, Gallerie des Modes. MFA.org. 44.1263

To achieve the “herisson” style today, it’s so easy! Just pin a ribbon around the upper portion of your 1770s or 1780s hairstyle and let the ends be fluffy, even spiky uppy. Insta-hedgehog cuteness, and a fun little talking point for reenactments and presentations.

Here’s a little live demo I did trying out a 1770s herisson hairstyle –

Hallmarks of the Hedgehog/Herisson Hairstyle –

  • c. 1776 – 1785
  • Some sort of ribbon or band tied around the hair
  • Ends sticking up or left fluffy – straight, curled, or craped.

As we turn the 1780s, the hairstyles are getting fluffier but still have the ski-slop shape. The hedgehog in this plate is in the upper right. Gallerie des Modes. 1780. MFA.org. 44.1459. 

Here is a later hedgehog from 1781 – the hairstyle is very craped and quite high. The ribbons still band around the top. Gallerie des Modes, 1781. MFA.org. 44.1510.
Here is the latest of the plates – 1785. The second from the left in the top row is labeled “Coeffure en Herisson” and has the ribbon ringing the top. It’s fun to read the rest of the names of these hairstyles, too, because it shows the incredible diversity of romantic labels used for what we might assume is all the same hairstyle. Gallerie des Modes, 1785. MFA.org. 44.1609. 

It’s easy to use the Gallerie des Modes plates because they are clearly labeled with names. We’re not so lucky with portraits, of course, and often English fashion plates don’t have names for things either. Now that you know the characteristic of the herisson/hedgehog hairstyle, though, you may start to identify it in portraits or prints. It’s like a history treasure hunt!

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