Women spend a great deal of time, money, and attention making their hair as
attractive as possible. While this energy is often spent in order to make a woman feel
more confident, it also serves to make a woman more attractive to men. Fashion and
beauty magazines offer tips and advice on how women can make their hair as appealing
as possible to men. While all men vary in preferences, the majority of men report
preferring long hair on women. "I think men like it because it's more feminine,"
explains one college student. "I love to run my fingers through my girlfriend's hair."
Hairstyle preferences are often thought to be a result of cultural norms and expectations. According to this theory, men's preference for long hair is due to the fact that
long hair requires substantial commitment of money, time, and daily care. Such factors
would indicate that a woman has a good financial status, self-respect, and concern for
her overall health and well being. Men may find longer-haired women more attractive
because these characteristics are desirable qualities in a partner.
However, this preference for long hair goes beyond social or
cultural expectations for women's beauty. Research has
demonstrated that there is an evolutionary reason for men to
prefer long hair to short hair on women. According to
evolutionary theory, features considered attractive by the
opposite sex serve as indicators of reproductive fitness.
Experiments and observations have demonstrated that a
woman's hair plays a major role in how men rate a woman's
attractiveness. The quality and length of hair serves as a
marker of genetic strength and overall health. Several studies have demonstrated that
men find women with medium-length to long hair more attractive than shorter haired
counterparts. Men also rate longer haired women as healthier and fitter than shorterhaired women.
In one study published in the research journal Human Nature, researchers found that
women who had originally been rated by a test group as being less attractive were rated
far more highly when shown with a longer hairstyle. The experimenters concluded that
longer hairstyles increase women's attractiveness in part because longer hair helps to
disguise less desirable features. Long hair tends to make the jaw line slimmer and less
prominent and draws attention away from undefined cheekbones. Also, as described by
many men, long hair also contributes to a more feminine and youthful appearance.
Of course, men are not ruled by evolutionary biases and many men report preferring
short hair to long hair. Shorter hair that is healthy and lustrous is better than having
long hair that is damaged and unkempt. Whatever the length, maintaining your hair's
healthy appearance is the best way to ensure your partner or potential partner's will
appreciate the beauty of your hair.
In the past, women were often expected to cut their hair short once they reached a
certain age. A woman over 40 is often pressured by female friends to get a shorter
haircut that is considered more "appropriate" for her age. Given the preponderance of
data indicating that men prefer longer hair, why do women feel this pressure to go
shorter? It is possible that since these women already have a partner and children,
they feel less pressure to maintain a hairstyle that is considered indicative ofreproductive health.
However, recent changes in cultural norms have led to an increase in long hair amongst
women over age 40. An important factor is that many women are marrying later in life
and waiting until they are older to have children. Fashion magazines have become more
inclusive and less concerned with perpetuating age stereotypes. Several magazines
geared towards middle-aged women, such as O and More, show a diverse range of
models, including older women with long hair. The popular television show "Desperate
Housewives" boasts a number of over-40 women, all who have long hair.
Fashion's current emphasis on ultra-feminine styles is also believed to contribute to this
increase in hair length. By seeing longer-haired women reflected in popular culture,
women feel less pressure to follow old-fashioned expectations of what is considered age appropriate.
Despite these changes, many women prefer shorter hair and often have good reasons
to choose a shorter style. Numerous women experience hair loss or thinning as they
age, and a shorter hairstyle is often more flattering and helps hair look healthier and
fuller. Whatever length you choose, keeping your hair healthy and well cared for will
ensure that men find your hair attractive. While men may report preferring long hair,
it takes more than long locks to make a great relationship.