Sep 15, 2010
Friends, I know I'm not going to show up on anyone's best tressed lists anymore. Those days are long gone and I'm OK with it. Hey, I'm over 40!
My identical cousin Cathy, in contrast, has beautiful hair: thick, dark and luxurious as spun polyester:
But I was thinking over the weekend as we attached her extensions for our latest photoshoot, is there a point in one's life where long hair is no longer flattering?
Does it have anything to do with age, or has it more to do with the image a person projects (consciously or not).
I'm not a fashion historian and I know very little about hair culture among people of color so I'm going to narrow my focus to so-called "white" folks though I think some of what I'm going to say applies to many races.
My basic understanding is that throughout most of history adult women kept their hair long but tied it back so that it wouldn't get in the way of their work. They let down their hair only in the privacy of their bedroom, and seeing a woman's hair free and flowing was the privilege of a husband, which is still true among many traditional religious groups today.
Things changed in the Teens and Twenties as many western women gained political rights and began to work more outside the home, in part due to modern inventions like the sewing machine.
In the WWI era, dancer Irene Castle bobbed her hair and started a fashion craze:
A bit later, actress Louise Brooks personified the modern Twenties flapper look, which was undeniably boyish.
Urban women were still keeping their hair short over the next few decades, usually curled or set.
In part this was due to the popularity of hats, which needed to fit snugly on the head. Long hair was a look reserved for the young. At least in Hollywood, long hair rarely appeared straight, nearly always in waves.
Any actress "of a certain age" (over 30 or so) kept her hair short.
Short hair for everyone came back into vogue in the early Fifties. If you watch MGM musicals, you'll notice that around 1950 every MGM actress had her hair cut short, from Judy Garland to Esther Williams. I remember reading somewhere that Mary Martin, who had to "Wash That Man Right Out of [her] Hair" eight times a week onstage in South Pacific helped to establish that fashion fad.
Big change occurred in the late Sixties, as a new generation of women (and men) rebelled against the old fashion rules. Long straight hair took the country by storm.
Today, no surprise, we see a little of everything: short hair, long hair, up-dos, perms, weaves, etc.
But do we still hold to the idea that long hair is for the young and shorter hair for the old(er)? There's a lot of this sort of thing online, where the rules about hair length and age get debated endlessly (primarily among women).
I would argue that with few exceptions, our society still views older women with long hair as a little...eccentric.
And lest you think this applies solely to women...
Wise and worldly readers, your thoughts:
Does a woman (or man) look better with short hair after a certain age or does age have nothing to do with it? Is long hair on a woman too maidenly to look right on, say, a septuagenarian like Mamie van Doren?
Is it all just years of conditioning (no pun intended) that makes us associate long hair with youth?
Is this a fashion "rule" you subscribe to? If not, why not?
Let your voice be "haired!"
NOTE: New comments are always welcome and will be read.