Thoughts about long hair

An interesting digression in the comments of Dalrock’s “Rolling back the odometer” post discussed toying-with-hair as something women do to indicate their interest in nearby males. It reminded me of a post topic on the Long Hair Community forums about hair length and professionalism – which boiled down to “it depends,” as one would expect. Of course there are jobs that require long hair to be kept restrained for safety or health reasons, and people with sufficient social standing at work can get away with personal presentation choices that others wouldn’t be able to pull off.

It’s also interesting because many people with really long hair – past bra-strap length (though not all are women!) – keep their hair up, or at least braided, as a measure to protect their hair from wear-and-tear and tangles. I do the same – at just about hip-length, if I leave my hair down, it’s going to tangle, get into everything, and generally be in the way. Maybe if I had a nine-to-five desk job I’d be able to get away with just brushing it out and leaving it down all day, but that’s definitely not how my life goes! For a while I’d just Dutch braid and leave my braid-tail dangling, but over the course of the day my braid would become “fuzzy” as the ends escaped. Since it takes quite a bit of convincing for me to use more than a bit of hairspray on my hair on a regular basis, I’ve taken to braided buns, instead. (My hair laughs at regular twist-up buns. The Vortex bun works, though.)

And in college when I was dating my future husband, my hair was extremely short. I don’t mean pixie, I mean old-lady short. As in, maybe three inches of length before I got a trim. So I couldn’t flip my hair at him (didn’t have any) and I was married to him by the time it got long enough to flip at anybody. Then… I started twirling my hair as a fidget while I was reading, or otherwise sitting around.

So now I’m wondering if I’ve developed some other kind of unconscious hair-related IOI that compensates for the fact that my hair is up all the time, and the “play with hair” behavior is a fidget that happens when I’m alone more often than when I’m in company. I don’t think the bobby-pin-check counts, that’s more me worried that my hair is about to stage a great escape from its confinement! Maybe this counts: I’ve been practicing braiding my hair to the side, to frame my face, and every day I put it up this way I basically shove my head in J’s direction and ask “How does my hair look?” Last night I finally got a very confused question from him – “Have you been making subtle changes to that hairstyle? Because I can’t tell the difference and I’ve already told you I like how it looks!” At which I laughed, and said that yes, there were subtle differences, but that I wasn’t looking for a detailed critique from him, just repeated validation. Silly man, he thinks saying it once is enough! (I’m highly amused. We covered that in premarital counseling, years ago, but in the context of saying “I love you” more often. LOL)

So yes, very interesting discussion. I tend to keep my hair up, not just for convenience, but because I do want to have a more “professional” presentation – when working, I go for a fairly “casual Friday” outfit, but I put my hair up fairly severely to weight the style more towards “businesslike,” especially since a particularly attractive appearance isn’t a primary function of my work the way it is for people like sales representatives, and remaining absolutely non-flirtatious IS a primary requirement. (Personal opinion: educators who sexually abuse their students should be executed. Pour encourager les autres. Only a parent’s abuse would be a worse betrayal of trust.) So I’m inclined to think that “hair up, always” is a good idea, given mine is so long that if I were to leave it down, I’d essentially be forced to handle it just to keep it out of my way.

I do want to figure out some form of half-up ‘do, though, for times when I’m dressing up not-for-work. Possibly with curls, although how I would manage those I don’t know, since I don’t own a curling iron and wouldn’t want to fry my hair learning to use it properly!

It’s interesting that hairstyles have historically been more rigid (though the “hair is always covered rule” can be easily chalked up to “people didn’t have shampoo, didn’t bathe all that often, and life was really freaking dirty when you heated things by burning stuff – sign me up for bonnets, too!) – nowadays, there’s no hard-and-fast rules about “married women wear their hair like this,” etc. in mainstream American culture. The only one that seems to still have hold – and even then, it’s only very very common in some areas, and not as common in others – is that older women will wear their hair extremely short and curled. And I don’t believe that’s a carryover trend from earlier centuries, either, as I’m given to understand that pre-1900s longer hair was the norm for pretty much all women, even grandmothers!


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2 Responses to Thoughts about long hair

  1. moniqueb88 says:

    Never gave hair and professionalism much of a thought. Well I always have my hair up at work and I work in a kitchen so yeah. Wondered though a long time ago why new anchors always keep their hair about shoulder length or shorter…

    • pancakeloach says:

      “TV hair” would make an interesting study, particularly cross-referencing intended audiences vs. what’s popular among the TV personalities’ peers. How much of their hair is a deliberate choice to appeal to their audience and how much is social signaling to their coworkers? How Hollywood affects popular hairstyles would also be interesting – I figure a lot of actresses are willing to cut their hair extremely short in part because they have staff on hand to style their hair during production (and can easily pay for hairstyling for everyday purposes) and if they want long hair for any particular role, they can easily get professional extensions that perfectly match. The short hair, for them, is very practical – take the show Once Upon a Time, for example. Ginnifer Goodwin’s character “Mary Margaret” has an extremely short hairstyle – there’s no faking that! But during the “Snow White” parts of the storyline, she has long princess-hair. But I don’t know a lot of women with extremely short hair who would bother with getting a wig for times when they want long hair. Not many people outside of showbiz have that kind of flexibility! So I’m always a little confused by women who get their hair cut very short to copy a famous actress – actresses can get away with “fad” hairstyles easily and just let it grow out a tiny bit and then start wearing extensions all the time, but regular women who cut their hair short are going to have to wait for years before they could possibly go back to a longer hairstyle, unless they want to go to the fuss and bother of getting extensions and caring for them!

      I wonder what the actual distribution of long vs. short hair is in the TV/movie industry. 😀

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