Victorian London - Publications - Humour - Punch - Porter's Knot


There is no task that, the male mind is more inclined to shrink from than that of pointing out a folly or a fault in Lovely Woman. But, at, whatever risk of losing his character for gallantry, Mr. Punch at times is forced to do himself a violence by hinting that his darlings are making themselves ludicrous by the follies which Le Follet persuades them to adopt. With Crinoliue he felt it was his duty to contend, as it proved a public nuisance and encroached on public thorough fares, besides encroachmg also upon many a private purse. And against the growing taste for finery and flummery Mr. Punch has often had the courage to inveigh, because beauty in plain clothes is more pleasing to his eye than beauty decked by vanity and adorned with doubtful taste.
    The question how far Lovely Woman is gifted with the right, to disfigure and deform herself, is one which, a debating Club may argue as they please, but on which all minds of sense will certainly agree. From the times of ancient Britonesses who dyed their hair sky blue, the ladies have been ever grave offenders in this way, and their coiffure has been commonly the bead and front of their offending. Never say dye (at any rate with blue) may nowadays perhaps be an accepted maxim; but scarcely less ridiculous than this old English fashion is the modern mode of gathering the hair into a hump, and wearing it a la porter's knot upon the neck. Sometimes this absurd protuberance is of most monstrous size, being swelled out with thin hair from other heads and tails, if it be true that use is made of equine caudal cuttings.  This not merely hides the beauty of the back part of the neck (and of all the charms of woman there are few which equal that), but it gives the head a most unnatural appearance, and makes it look considerably too big for the body. Ladies with short necks are especially disfigured by the porter's knot coiffure, for the hair hump makes it difficult, to see at a back view that they have any neck at all; and one imagines them descended from the race that SHAKSPEARE speaks of, the men whose heads are said to grow beneath their shoulders.
    Another disadvantage in the porter's knot coiffure is the fact that it is calculated to collect the dust; and a net is sometimes worn which increases this collection, although it is believed to be a guard against it. Whether ladies wear these nets in the hope of catching husbands with them, Mr. Punch has neither means nor wish to ascertain; nor whether men in general approve of all the beads and bangles and make-believe half-sovereigns with which these nets are often woven and weighed down. Ladies are in general a race moutonniere, and when once a step is taken in the matter of the fashions, the whole flock blindly follow without thinking if it suits them. Making a hair poultice at the back part of thin neck is not to Mr. Punch a capillary attraction; and although some eyes may view it as "a trifle light as hair," he thinks it gives the head a very heavy look.

Punch, June 29, 1861