What is a Widow’s Peak?

A widow’s peak is a distinctive hairline formation that has been accompanied with superstitionsince at least the 1800s, according to etymologists.

 A woman who has this feature has a V-shaped point at her hairline the descends into the forehead. The same feature on men is properly called a widower’s peak, although some people still refer to it as a widow’s peak. When a woman who has this feature stands in front of a mirror and pulls her hair away from her forehead, she will clearly have a “V” of hair above her forehead.

Origins of the Name

There are several explanations for the origins of the term “widow’s peak,” which emerged around the 1830s. Some people believe that the term reflects a superstition that women who have this physical feature outlive their husbands. This superstition might be linked to the fact that as a person ages, his or her hairline often recedes, making an unusual hairline more prominent or creating the hint of a peak in a woman who does not actually have one.

Another explanation for the origin of the phrase suggests that it might be related to the mourning caps worn as early as the 1500s. A mourning cap, also called a Mary Stuart Cap, is a cap that features a very distinctive triangular fold of cloth in the middle of the forehead, creating a sort of artificial widow’s peak. People who believe this explanation for the origins of the phrase suggest that people connected the physical feature with the headgear.

Despite the superstition, a widow’s widower’s peak is no prediction of how long a spouse will live. It simply is a dominant genetic trait that can be seen in people of all ages and from all backgrounds around the world. In fact, some people find this hairline aesthetically pleasing, and they might choose to style their hair in a way which emphasizes this genetic feature.

Appropriate Hairstyles

There are certain hairstyles that can help accentuate or conceal a widow’s or widower’s peak. To de-emphasize this type of hairline, the hair can be parted on the side, avoiding straight-cut or center-parted hair. Layered styles that bring the hair forward across the forehead, framing the face can help conceal a widow’s peak. Spiky bangs also can do this, and strategic highlights can be good.

To highlight a widow’s peak, evenly cut, shoulder-length hair and no part can be worn. A stylist will know which hairstyles go best with a particular face shape.

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