Headwear of Oceania

Little information about the traditional hairstyles of the peoples of Oceania exists. Descriptions from early explorers and early photographs show that most women of Oceania wore their hair long and that men were clean-shaven. No history of the specific styles worn by either men or women has been recorded. However, the decorations added to the hair were quite beautiful. Carved combs, feathers, and flowers were known to decorate the hair of some groups. In Polynesia feathered headdresses were a sign of nobility, and in the Philippines flowers were worn behind the ears of men who had participated in a battle. For everyday protection from the sun, some people also wore wide-brimmed hats woven out of grasses.

Native women of Samoa, an island in the southern Pacific Ocean that is part of Oceania. Oceanic women often wore their hair long and decorated it with items from nature, such as flowers and feathers. Reproduced by permission of © .

After the introduction of Christianity and Islam on the islands between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries, some men and women began to cover their hair with head cloths to show their obedience to their religion. Rectangular fabrics were wrapped around the head into turbans. These head cloths were decorated with woven patterns or with added details of embroidery or beaded accents. The hairstyles and headwear worn in Oceania now frequently follow the trends set in the Western world.


Gröning, Karl. Body Decoration: A World Survey of Body Art. New York: Vendome Press, 1998.

Paastor-Roces, Marian. Sinaunang Habi: Philippine Ancestral Weave. Quezon City, Philippines: Nikki Coseteng, 1991.

Pendergrast, Mick. Te Aho Tapu: The Sacred Thread. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1987.

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