Hair Length and Gender
The length of hair is more than fashion trends. It has cultural, social and religious relevance. In the western world today, the old standard of women wearing longer hair while men commonly wear theirs short has been changing as it has so often throughout history.
Every era and culture exhibits its own flavor of clothing and of hairstyles. These reflect much about a society. In our age hair has more and more become an expression of self than of adhering to the unwritten rules of class, profession and even gender as it was in the past. After the birth of the short bob in the 1920s short hair for women became a sign of liberation and slowly entered mainstream.
There are many studies that try to analyze what attracts us to the other gender. The majority of men say that they prefer long hair on women. Depending on the study a whooping 60 to 70 percent of men say that they are attracted by long hair. At the same time most women prefer their guy to be clean cut and proper and the numbers are opposite. To understand how these specific tastes came about a look into history and the story of long hair may shed some light. All this cannot be separated from the history of the military.
In the Roman army men were supposed to wear their hair at a length between about one to two inches. Reasons for this were mostly practical, relating to hygiene, wearing helmets and not offering the opponent anything to grab on during combat. The long haired warriors still existed in other cultures, but it was the first regulation cut introduced by Roman barbers around 300 B.C. that left its mark and continued throughout the times of the empire. Over time there were ups and downs in hair length for military men and especially after WWI it has become an unshakeable standard for soldiers to have short hair.
The world of business adopted short haircuts for men. These may have more variations than the buzz cut, but are still very limited in their expression, even today. With the dawning of the 20th century gone were the days of men with elaborate locks, ponytails and more or less controlled manes. Short hair for both women and men became the follicle based equivalent of the business suit with shirt and tie. A symbol of competence, control and power. Long hair thus symbolizes a free spirit and refusal to adapt to conventions.
Long hair for men has become more and more socially acceptable, but the old stigma is still attached to it. Men with long hair have difficulties to find respect in the professional world or even to find employment. Charles M. a respected news anchor from a local television station in the mid-west has his own challenges with it. While watching him present the daily morning news to the public no one has any idea that the well shaven and short haired front does not show a long ponytail in the back, which he diligently rolls up to a little and well hidden bun in his nape. Once the camera is off, the hair falls again. With his little trick he is a great example that the length of hair and professional skills and performance have absolutely no connection, but that the rules of society dictate a look whether it makes sense or not.
The infamous mullet is not necessarily the most attractive hairstyle, but works for many as a walk between the lines. A short front and long back tries to apeace the inner yearning for self expression and at the same time showing some acceptance of the rather limiting and uniform norm.
As it has been for centuries long hair for men is still attributed to artists, poets, musicians, spiritual seekers and revolutionaries. The theory that the more organized and restrictive a society is, the more it demands uniformity and shortness of hair for its men has quite some merit.