The debate over whether men should wear long hair seems to be one that will never end. On one side there are conservatives who believe that long hair is the domain of women and that men are interfering with the status quo. On the other side are the liberals who believe that it is only fair for women to let men keep their hair long as a sign of equality which they advocate so much about.
Long hair together with other exclusive feminine characteristics like such as breasts is what distinguishes men from women. This differentiation is biological and sociological. It is biological as women’s’ hair grows faster than men’s due to the hormone estrogen. Women also grow their hair because they know its attractiveness. A counter example can be given to clarify the social aspect. A woman with rather short hair-cut will resemble a boy regardless of other feminine features. This is because of the traditional association of women with long hair and boys with short hair. Before Britney Spears shaved her head, she was considered hot. Afterwards, due to the social stigma, she was rightfully but unfortunately labeled weird and her bald head was not attractive but was equivalent to that of some heavy metal rocker. Longer hair thus is a social symbol of feminine beauty, which all males are entranced by. Short hair is associated with discipline and a militaristic attitude and since Greek and Roman times men have had to shave their heads before battle. Female expressivity is directly tied to hair length. Lastly, there is some indefinable quality about hair in general that makes longer equal to better.
This research paper sought to get the views of both men and women on men with long hair. It was specific to find out if this hair makes men more masculine and handsome. It also sought to find out if long hair is a sign of beauty and femininity in women.
Hair is highly valued as a sign of masculinity. It is taken to be an index of male virility and a traditional sign of power and youth. Hair signals man in his uncivilized, natural wild state which can be translated to being sexual and primal. Apart from hair being a powerful symbol, it has been easily manipulated now and throughout history. Men went to jail in the early to mid 1800s for growing beards. It was hard to find a general without a beard during the civil war era. This fashion was replaced by militant clean shaving at the end of the century. Hair has also been used to protest. In England for instance, short hair was worn by the antimonarchists to protest the long flowing locks that got approval from the monarchy. (Chapkis 1971, pg 67)
Some people feel that having long hair for a man is indicative of setting one apart from an existing social order through rebellion. Others feel hair is a concrete reflection of males’ roles in the society. For instance, in the 1960s rebellious boys grew beards and wore their hair long to make a statement. The generation that followed was of clean shavers. The punks spiked their hair, dyed it fluorescent greens and pinks, and shaved it in Mohawk designs. This was an attempt and a disguised threat to defy the existing order. Most men fear losing hair. Women on the other hand accept baldness. Both women and men today prefer men who are clean-shaven. Interestingly, two of the main secondary sex characteristics are body hair and facial hair. These tell apart men from women. (Synott 1987, pg 383)
Entirely contradicting conclusions on the attractiveness of bearded men was reached by studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. Bearded men are usually regarded as more masculine, courageous, dominant, confident and looking older. However some women find them sexually unappealing and associate them with being dirty. Fashion and individual preferences determine whether someone likes beards or not as they have no basis in evolutionary history. (Sutherland 1999, pg 347)
It is considered masculine for men to have on their arms, faces, chests and legs in western modern societies. However, relatively speaking, hair growing on the top of the head is generally kept short. On the same point, with the exception of hair on the knuckle, it is equally considered feminine for women not to have hair on their bodies. They are expected to have a lot of hair on the heads. This is a development that is fairly recent. Men had long beards and hair before the First World War. Men were forced to routinely cut their hair to a severely short length by an order given during the trench welfare between 1914 and 1918 as they were exposed to flea and lice infestation. This shorter style became the norm and has not gone away since. (Stevenson 2001, pg 45)
Any hairstyle which is relatively long is known as long hair. The constitution of long hair changes within cultures or from culture to culture. For instance a man with chin length hair would be said to have long hair while a woman with the same would be said to have short hair. According to scientists, long hair plays big in natural selection in any animal species. This is because health is signaled by the length of the hair. It is also seen in a sexual light by Freudian psychoanalysts as a representation of the id’s release from the super ego suppression. (Stevenson 1999, pg 340)
The signal is reversed among women. Short hair signals rebellion from culture while long hair represents an acceptance of it. In western cultures, long hair is accepted as a female characteristic traditionally. Women right’s activists and feminists have long debated whether to call for short hair as a stereotype opposition or advocate long hair as a solely feminine trait. Asian cultures see long, unkempt hair in a woman as a sign of recent sexual behavior or sexual intent. This is because their hair is usually tied up. (Brown Miller 1986, pg 74)
Long hair on men in the 1960s was worn as a protest, political or countercultural symbol. This cultural symbol extended to several countries in the West, Western Europe, Australia and South Africa. Specific long hairstyles such as dreadlocks have been part of Counterculture movements seeking to define other alternative lifestyles. They have used specific long hairstyles such as dreadlocks. The view of hair as a solitary signal of political or radical culture identity in the 1980s was parodied and countered in films such as Rambo and many other militaristic media heroes. The then contemporary view of what was masculine was challenged by this. Longer hairstyles remain popular today among heavy metal enthusiasts. (Weltz, 2001 pg 675)
Compared to men, women often have a stronger inclination towards long hair than men do. Some feminists have declared long hair as irrefutably feminine while others argue for shorter hair. Other scholars have also remarked on how, without hair or long hair, a woman cannot be a woman. Often, men and women will protest the social system by adopting the hair length considered acceptable in the other sex; men growing their hair long, and women cutting it short, again pointing to the strong trend of long hair being a female commodity. Since short hair is frequently considered masculine, working women sometimes face a challenge in balancing between having hair long enough to appear a woman, but short enough to fit into the male-oriented business world. (Kumar 2002, pg 263)
Hair also has social implications. It helps us determine age, economic, intellectual and marital status, as well as religious affiliations. Hairstyles can signify conformity, for example to army regulations, monastic celibacy, or any group-determined aesthetic. There are basically three fundamental human values beauty (aesthetics), truth (logic), and goodness (ethics). The quest for beauty has deep psychological roots in human beings and is as necessary to them as any other quest. It has endowed our lives with an enjoyable depth without which it would be dull and drab. Our quest for beauty is as old as human civilization and there was never a time when humans have been without it. Our persistent experimentation with beauty has resulted in the creation of various forms of art including a mixture of art and science. (Stevenson 2001, pg 47)
In Rapunzel’s Daughters, Rose Weltz addresses a broad audience on the subject of women’s hair. But every woman has a hair history that “reflects internal struggles and external pressures. Weitz’s book combines her own experiences and informal conversations with interviews with 74 women of different ages, sexual orientations, ethnicities and class backgrounds. The result is an engaging account of how women feel about their hair, how their feelings have changed over time, and more generally, how their hair has shaped their sense of self. Many sports women maintain docile feminine beauty regimes, like wearing make-up and long hair to avoid being labeled butch or lesbian. (Weltz 2001, pg 680)
The historians studying the private history of the middle ages stress the importance of physical appearance in the culture of the time. This attitude had its reflection in the literature, especially in the romance. People were judged by their appearance and status and was clearly indicated by their clothes, and physical appearance, firstly the face and their hair, and secondly the shape of the body. The question of hair is particularly significant. Hair was an important element of a person’s self image. When scrutinizing somebody’s physical appearance primarily the hair was taken into consideration. Its purpose was to manifest, the angelic quality of a lady and her utmost attractiveness combined with innocence. Hair is another highly valued masculine sign post. It is a traditional sign of youth and power, an index of male virility. (Stevenson 1999, pg 346)
There were several heroes in ancient Greece who kept their hair long. These included Zeus, Hector, Achilles, and Poseidon. In battles, both Trojan and Greek and soldiers are said to have kept their hair long. These warriors considered long hair to be a sign of aristocracy. They combed it in the open in order to show off. They left their hair long in the back and cut the front short during battle. This was to keep their enemies from holding it as it was now out of reach. The Greek switched to shorter hairstyles in the sixth century. Women in the Greek culture continued keeping their hair long. They took it to signify freedom, wealth, health and good behavior. On the other hand, it was a sign of false pride in this time for men. In Roman culture, women valued long hair especially the center part. Men’s hair was shorter than women’s. Greece, long hair in men was also associated with philosophers who were viewed to be too busy with their learning to even find time for their hair. In Rome province however, the more popular hairstyle was the shorter one. When the Gaul was conquered by Julius Caesar, he ordered their hair to be cut short as he favored long hair. (Chapkis, 1986, pg85-86)
Shorter hair often signified peasantry and servitude in the European Middle Ages. On the other hand, long hair was associated with freemen, such as the Merovingian and Germanic Goths. Long-haired men of non-Germanic cultures such as Byzantines were viewed as barbarians. English colonists in Ireland were considered to be giving in to the Irish life and rejecting their role as English subjects if they wore their hair long in the back. Irishmen in turn, scolded people of their culture who copied the English men by cutting their hair. A true English man would be judged by the hair length in this period
Many American Indian men wore long hair before their culture was influenced by the arrival of Western people. Males said to be handsome in Cherokee legends were described to have long hair almost reaching the ground. As much as they faced opposition, men and women of these cultures struggled to maintain their tradition. To have short hair or these cultures means giving in to western influences. Native long-haired men were seen as rebels to the civilized society by early American settlers. Trappers and mountain men who adopted the native customs were considered immoral because of keeping their hair long. Native Americans have felt less pressure to have short hair since the cultural movements of the sixties and seventies. Different movements have been defending their rights to practice their culture. Many states have loosened regulations in prison by letting Native Americans in incarceration to wear their hair long.
Women with long hair were highly valued in the culture of West Africans. Long thick hair was seen as a sign of strength, health, and capability to bear many children. Women who were considered too young for marriage would shave a portion of their heads in keeping with this general theme.
In Polynesia during the historic times, the head hair of both sexes was allowed to grow long with males gathering theirs into a topknot when activity was required. In some places however male wore their hair short and female wore theirs long, in other places, the reverse took place. The variations did not end there. In Samoa, for example men’s long hair was tied in a knot called fonga and worn usually a little to the right side of the crown. Some men never cut their hair, others did it up in two horns, still others arranged the crown in fantastic ways, as one half shaved the other long, or the front shaved and the back long, or in a series of shaved strips, with long hair between. In times of war, finger bones or other trophies of slain enemies were attached to the hair. Hair styling was not limited to males. In Samoa, for example, virginal females had their leads shaved in the middle from front to back; allowing the hair on both sides to grow long and older women used lime in order to dye their cropped black hair to a favored brown.
The western reader might find the above to be primitively bizarre but we should consider the parallels in our own society, such as periodic changes in women’s hairstyles based on current fashion and differences in men’s e.g. flowing locks, crew cuts, skin leads, Mohawk cuts etc that are based not only on currency of fashion but serve to identify a person’s occupation or social class or political views. In addition most people valued sweet smelling bodies and hair, and endeavored to attain them by pomading the hair and rubbing the body with flow-scented or when available sandal wood scented coconut oil.
What count as markers of sex category depend heavily on cultural circumstances and thus vary widely across time, place and social group. For example, long hair on men became more common among some segments of American society during the 1960s that it had been previously. Since many men on college campuses during that time had long hair, this attribute was not a reliable marker of sex category in those settings in the way that it had been in the 1950s. Matters of appropriate hair length for women and men as well as views about appropriate clothing or decoration are clearly governed by social norms rather than biological or genetic factors. That these and other related characteristics are used to assign a person to a sex category underscores the idea that assignment to sex categories relies heavily on social criteria. More over, as the hair length example shows, social understandings about gender also enter into these judgments.
Freudians and some psychologists argue that long hair represents aggression and that cutting hair is equal to castration. For both men and women, hair is considered to be a potent emblem of sexuality. Historically, women married to adulterous men would have their hair cut off if they threatened to reveal their secret as this was seen as a violation of the husband’s role.
Famous long haired men include Rene’ Descartes, Giacomo Cusanora, Oliver Cromwell and George Washington. In some cultures profuse chest hair on men is a symbol of virility and masculinity; other societies display a hairless body as a sign of youthfulness. Hair has had social and sexual significance in a number of societies, as a sign of masculinity in men, and femininity in women when in the “right” place and as a sign of effeminacy in men and unfemininity in women when in the “wrong” place. (Chapkis 1971, pg 70)
The short hair of the 1920s was a shock to nearly everyone who was older than twenty five. For centuries, women had been encouraged to keep their hair long and then wear it in a variety of ways. Long hair was associated with femininity, beauty, and the hair was considered a woman’s crowning glory. When women began bobbing their hair in the 1920s, older women were appalled. Many of the bobs were very straight lined and severe, often looking just like the hair cut of a man; but near the end of the decade, more women began introducing wares back into their hair, and allowing it grow below their ears. Therefore for long hair goes beyond social or cultural expectations for women’s beauty. research has shown that there is an evolutionary reason for men to prefer long hair to short hair on women. According to evolutionary theory, indicators of reproductive fitness are the features considered attractive by the opposite sex. (Synott 1987, pg 383)
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 as and fitter than shorter haired women.
“The hair” said Martin Luther, is the richest ornament of women.” To shave one’s head, therefore, is to display an aggressive bucking convention. Women’s relationship with their hair is a subject explored by Desmond Morris in the Naked woman, in which he proposes that women’s penchant for long hair might be a remnant from the age when we were aquatic apes, and our ling locks gave our babies something to hang on to. In more modern times, Morris argue, women have styled their hair to reflect their self-images-short hair suggesting an assertiveness and competence and long tangled hair implying certain wantonness.
Long hair is also a symbol of status, evidence of “wealth and leisure”. Sociologist C.R Hallpike equates cutting the hair with social control and equates long hair with being outside society. In medieval Europe, married women only were their hair down in the privacy of their homes when they were with their husbands. Women like long hair because they can style it in many more ways than short hair. Long hair is also noted as being more feminine than short hair due to the media. If we look at Disney characters we see examples of what children grow up to think is the norm
Big hair in past history has always been popular. John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and James Brown is known for the hairs the Beatles wore their hair long, men in New Guinea build large ways when counting women. Past history European males in the 18th century wore big wigs.
Research sample and methodology
15 women and 15 men aged between 19 and 34 years were interviewed through the administration of a questionnaire. Each of them was asked to answer all the questions in the questionnaire to the best of their ability. The age group of the informants was chosen not accidentally various research shows how sensitive the teenagers are to their appearance. This paper will present some ideas that came from discussing the interviews in relation to already existing theoretical and research framework.
The sample also integrated women with short hair. This is because their viewpoint is important to the research based on the assumption that long hair is ideal for women. Men with long hair were also included. This was done to get their view. It was very important to know their attitudes towards themselves and how other people view them both men and women. The questionnaire included a question asking the men if they felt that having long hair made them more handsome and masculine. Women were asked if they would be attracted to or find men with long hair handsome or masculine. Indeed, the research went ahead to establish if they would be keen on dating a man who had long hair and if so the reasons they would have.
Young people were also included in the research sample. These were done with the assumption that they were more informed and were aware of the modern trends in hair styles. It was also important to get their radical views on long hair on both women and men. The age range was chosen because of the popular view that it is at this time that the hair is most vibrant and grows more.
Respondents from diverse professions were also questioned. Different professions take long hair differently and this affects their perceptions on the same. A lawyer, a doctor and a performing artist were interviewed and it was interesting to get their view on men with long hair and also women with short hair. The data was then analyzed and summarized find a conclusion was reached upon.
Graph showing female respondents attitudes towards men with long hair
Majority of women aged in the age range19-24 (80%) do not think it is wrong for men to grow their hair long. They feel that the world is liberated and even male people should be allowed to do as they wish with their bodies. They equate a man growing long hair to a woman growing short hair. They see it as a sign of independence and optimal expression of power.
60% of most women did not have a problem with men growing long hair as long as those men did not come from their family or are not related to them in any way. They respect the right to utilize and individual bodies the way the individual wishes but admitted that it would be strange or uncomfortable for a man they felt close to growing their hair long.
As the age bracket progresses, the attitude changes to the negative. Women aged between 30 and 34 years have a low opinion of men growing their hair long. They almost hate men with long hair claiming that they are giving women unfair competition for no reason. It is their view that men should stick to having their hair short as having long hair does not make masculine or handsome in any way.
Graphic showing men’s views on men with long hair
From the graph, it can deduced that generally men’s view on their fellow men is negative compared to men. Only the young men in the age range (19-24) appear to have an accommodative attitude towards men with long hair. Interestingly even these men feel it is only okay for men in the music and entertainment industry to grow their hair long.
Older men do not advocate for men to grow their hair long and only 20% of them approve of the idea. The people who approve this in the age bracket (29-34) all have long hair so it would be understandable why they agree with the notion.
Graph showing female respondents’ attitudes towards women with long hair.
Female respondents within the age range 19-24 had diverse views on women with long hair. Some felt that it is a personal choice. It takes an individual determine whether the hair would be short or long and the society should not be determinant. Some explained that women should not give in and agree for the length of hair to be the determining factor of femininity and beauty.
In contrast female respondents aged between 25-29, confessed that indeed other people’s judgments is what drove most of them to grow their hair long. Most of them claimed that in the course of their dating, they realized that men liked long hair on women. They further claimed that when they were finally settling down (getting married) their husbands used their long hair as one of the determining factor to get married or not.
Women aged between 30-34 were the most liberal surprisingly. They are career women and for them women with long hair cannot be taken seriously. Most felt that short hair was a statement of seriousness and independence. They also claimed that as a woman grows older, the hair thins and this is why they should start keeping it short. They also believed that men who used hair as a judging factor of femininity and beauty were being backward, unfair and stereotypical. They believe a woman should be judged by her handwork and character and not the length of the hair.
Graph showing male respondent’s attitudes towards women with long hair.
Male respondents aged between 19-24 did not seem to care or were not bothered by the length of women’s hair. They appear to be more liberal. According to them, the beauty and femininity of a woman or someone they would take as a girlfriend was not determined by how long the hair was. Rather they believe that the beauty and femininity of a woman is determined by her character or what most of them called inner beauty.
For male respondents between the ages 25 and 29, they felt that to a large extent a woman with long hair would be attractive to them. Hair is the first thing that strikes them when they see a woman and it is a great determinant of whether they go ahead and date that woman.
Men within the range of 30-34 years were the most conservative. Most of them 80% confirmed that their wives/girlfriends had long hair and it was what drew them to the women. They further said that they would be very uncomfortable with a woman with short hair. Some claimed that if their wives or girlfriends were to shave their heads, they would appear to them as different people.
Results and discussion
One respondent had a very interesting view which was shared by almost all respondents. According to her hair is central to every woman’s identity, regardless of class, ethnicity or race, sexual orientation, or age. From the woman who cuts her hair after a divorce (in the fashion of “I m gonna wash that man right outta my hair”) to the lesbian with an attitude who shaves her head, women are obsessed with their hair and go to great lengths to tame, curl, dye style, or remove it. Changing a hairstyle is a way to mark a life transition or to make a statement about wanting to change. The respondent states that, “there were things in my life I could not change after divorce and for some reason it was real important for me to change something. So I got my hair cut”. For her, this made a big statement.
Another respondent also contributed a lot to the research. She highlighted various instances showing how a “woman’s hair is linked to her femininity and beauty. She gave the example of an undergraduate student who perfects the hair flip in order to catch a guy’s eye or the migrant woman who gets up early every morning so that she can fix her daughter’s hair before going into the fields. She also gave the example of the business woman who manipulates her hair to meet the demands of her career (not too cute too sexy, too severe or too dated).
Respondent 3, a male hair dresser also gave useful insight. He provided myriad instances of how women can laugh at their “hair problems” and their everyday struggles to make the best of a bad hair day. He provides examples of his clients who use hair as part of their rebellion against the traditional norms or heterosexual femininity. He indicated that they do so at their own peril, saying that these clients are forced to leave behind not only social approval from men, employers, families and others, but also many personal pleasures of hair. He described the sensual pleasures of having one’s hair washed, the comforts of a women only space, the intimacy of conversations, and even the occasional flirtations with a hairdresser.
Such differences make all the difference in understanding what hair means to different women in different contexts. Most respondents contented that facial hair (beard or moustache) is thought to enhance masculine beauty in western culture. While the American Indians consider facial vulgar, they appreciate long hair for men.
Another respondent still noted that there was an ancient association between hair and status. He gave the example of classical Rome and Greece where the supernatural power was symbolized by hair. The rulers distinguished themselves by wearing flowing and abundant locks. This kind of symbolism continued operating in the middle ages. Chieftains and long-halved kings disgraced criminals and political rivals by shaving their heads or cropping their hair. The ability to grow long hair is a useful indicator of youth and good health. Since women do not bald and can generally grow longer hair than men, most cultures associate longer hair with femininity.
Some respondents felt that men and women are supposed to wear their hair differently. Being uncovered is as shameful for a woman as cutting or shaving her hair. Long hair is a woman’s glory. Some respondents felt that it should be acceptable within society for a man to wear his hair in whatever way allow him to express his own personal choice and in a style that suits him. The reason why long hair has not increased in popularity may be complex, but in part it is due to anti-long hair on men feeling in society, particularly in business, but also in society in general. With the exception of certain vocations such as rock stars, fashion models and artists, long hair on men is disapproved. Even in society many men and women generally disapprove of long hair on men. It is as though it is a symbol of something that is not right in with society, perhaps a link with the hippy era. Despite this more and more men seem to be growing their hair and it seems as though this time this trend is here to stay. The stereotype image of men with long hair is certainly of an unkempt, scruffy look. For long hair on men to become acceptable in society these barriers and stereotypes need to be broken down.
Health appearance plays a part in physical attraction. Women with long hair are often thought to appear more beautiful. This is because the ability to grow healthy looking and long hair is an indication of an individual’s continuous health. The debate over hair symbolism is both complex and ancient and applies to both politics and gender. This has been well demonstrated by the hippies, punks and skins among others.
Individual and group identity is powerfully symbolized by hair. It is powerful because it is extremely personal. As much as it is personal it is also more public than private. Furthermore, hair symbolism is usually not imposed but voluntary. Hair is singularly apt to symbolize differentiations and changes in group and individual identities because of its malleability in various ways. In the USA, the hair industry is worth $2.5 billion and this shows the immense social significance of hair in economics.
Hair is one of the most important ways humans have of both presenting themselves and judging one another socially, being one of the parts of the body which is easy to manipulate. Throughout many cultures, hair is seen as representing sexual control over one-self those having long hair having less control than those having shorter or no hair. Also, having short cut hair, is often viewed as being under society’s control while having long hair signifies being outside of the system of society specific long hairstyles such as dreadlocks have been part of canter culture movement seeking to define other alternative cultures and life styles.
Asian cultures as a whole tend to view long hair as a sign of youth and femininity. Usually, long hair is hidden in turbans or tied up in public, as long hair is associated with private life and sexuality. Asian cultures see long unkempt hair in woman as a sign of sexual intent or a recent sexual encounter, as usually their hair is tied up.
Some feel women hide behind their long flowing hair thinking it’s what makes them beautiful. In the end you confidence and your soul is what make you beautiful. Women know how much men love their hair, and so when they cut it off they are effectively cutting men off, from their beauty, from their attractiveness to them, from their love. It’s a clear gesture showing defiance, despair or dissatisfaction. This is because hair represents femininity and beauty for almost every woman and therefore what she thinks if herself. The famous actress Nicole Kidman cut all her hair off and announced divorce a month later. Jennifer Aniston shaved off her famous after her wedding to Brad Pitt. She later claimed that she was under a lot of stress during the first days of her marriage.
Almost all women have the ability to grow long, feminine beautiful hair, something that is not only rewarded and encouraged as a sexual sensual, beautiful thing by men but also something that does not require genetic good luck or unreasonable effort to attain with one simple swirl of a woman’s shiny locks, she can feel attractive, sexy, playful, young and vibrant. In recent times, women have styled their hair to reflect their self-image, with long hair suggesting certain availability. Obsession with hair and image only seems to be associated with western culture where apparently there is nothing more pressing to worry about. A lot of women in sub-Saharan Africa keep their hair really short-it’s neat and practical and it certainly does obscure their femininity. A woman without hair is like a picture without a frame. It just looks odd, and detracts from the overall beauty of the face.
Long hair on women is still accepted as an accoutrement of beauty but it no longer defines either femininity or beauty. Hair length, like skirt length has become a matter of personal preference, utility and in some cases a sign of indifference to binding standards of what actually defines beauty versus social cultural dictates.
In many eras’ hair length in itself has been a sign of feminine beauty. Norman women added false hair to thicken and lengthen the plaits which often hung to their knees. Victorian ladies rarely cut their hair which again grew to great lengths even how there is an annual ‘long and lovely’ competition in which beauty is judged by hair alone. Women’s long hair has been treated in a dichotomous fashion. A woman’s long hair, pinned up neatly and covered was seen as indicative of virtue, which literally distinguished her from loose (haired) women as well as from men. A short hair for women had previously been perceived as deviant, punitive, or a self-inflicted denial of sexuality, the women who did cut their hair were making a significant cultural statement. They rejected the burdensome and time consuming bother of long hair which for centuries had been a primary signifier of both sexual difference and gentility in favor of short hair.
The Times under the heading ‘Even Barbers rebel at shearing women’, suggested that short hair for women sounded the end of Romance, History, Literature and poetry; that poets would no longer talk of fair tresses but of sharing and that literature would have to be rewritten (The New York Times, 16.3.16:13:3). Short hair is the mark of conventional manliness; long hair of freakishness and femininity. Disrespect of long hair in man was due to that shifting from the standards of magical to worldly success by which the magical and mysterious became the foolish and weak-minded. The tradition of the long-haired poet had survived into modern times, though long hair in a man has become a sign of effeminacy through the association of short hair with the specifically manly qualities.
The current conventional form is for men to have their hair short. Thanks to Bradpitt, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas and Viggo Mortensen, long hair is back in fashion. Across North America and beyond, men are starting to grow their hair long again something which has not happened in abundance since the 60s and 70s. There was a brief bout of long hair popularly during the 1980s and 90s, but it was washed out with “anti-hippie” sentiment from conservative squares. Long hair for men is what short hair is to women, a choice of lifestyle. Some women prefer to have short hair or even share their head. Some people associate men with long hair as unclean or dirty.
The fact is that there are many ways a man can have long hair and still be very masculine and look very much like a man. And there are many ways that a woman can wear short hair that you would never see on a man. A common stereotype of homosexual men is that they are effeminate with exaggerated feminine traits. Femininity in men, as masculinity in women is often considered to be negative due to its contradiction of traditional roles. In reality, gay men, like all men, range from very feminine to very masculine.
From the research, it is still clear that the debate on men having long hair and its significance is far from over. However, it is clear that this is a matter of choice of the individual and the society should respect that choice however bad they think it is or however opposed they may be to it. This is as long as it does not hinder them in carrying out their daily lives.