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Sep 15, 2010

Is Your Hair Too Long?

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.


  1. I think one of the main reasons older women tend to have shorter hair is that with age, hair becomes more fragile and thin (even on women!) and it tends to look unkempt or unhealthy if they leave it long. I think if a woman feels that her hair is still looking healthy, then keep it long! But if it's not, or if she doesn't want to put the time into making it look nice and cared-for, then chop chop. Young women can get away with much more, because they're young...hence long hair works well on them.

  2. I'm working with a makeover client right now who is in her 40s and INCREDIBLY petite. She's worn her gorgeous, curly locks long - down to her waist - for years. But since her goal was to look more "grown-up," we decided to chop her hair and it made a huge, huge difference. She looks sophisticated and chic and is extremely happy with the change.

    That said, I think choices about hair length are extremely personal - both in the sense that they are sensitive emotional issues, and in the sense that they cannot be generalized. So I'd NEVER say that women of a certain age shouldn't wear their hair long. To Plummy's point, hair texture and strength changes with age so some decisions about style/length may be more pragmatic than aesthetic ... nevertheless, I intend to be one of those 80-year-old women with a long, silver braid and convention be damned. ;)

  3. I was about to say what plummy said (it also applies to the formerly-long-haired men of my acquaintance, most of whom have now shorn less because of job requirements than because of receding hairlines).

    I am one of those people "blessed" with fine, straight hair that won't grow past my shoulders without looking like junk, so short, spiky haircuts it is for me. (Curls also don't work, by the way) As a result, I have a lot of long-hair envy and mourn every time one of my long-haired friends and relations chops theirs off. I have struggled a bit with feeling "feminine" while having short hair, especially when I was younger. I definitely think we're lucky in this day and age to have so much choice in our hairstyle. I think the only historical hairstyle I could pull off with any kind of credibility would be a 20s bob, and even that would be a lot of work.

    I seem to recall reading a study somewhere noting the high percentage of women who cut their hair short within a year of first having children, too (presumably because it's faster/easier to take care of or just less likely to get yanked on). Which might contribute to the long-hair-for-youth thing, as well.

  4. Longer hair tends 'draw a person down' as well, making them look shorter, and therefore heavier. I think a lot of people cut it as they get older to avoid this. (My mother did.)
    I am a long time 'short haired' girl. My hair is thin and fine and looks dumb long, even when it is longer I think it looks better put up. I've never had it much past my shoulders and I don't think it looks good. It also grows INCREDIBLY slow so I'll probably stick with my chic short locks for a while.

  5. I am 42, wear long-ish hair, naturally curly. I tried the short hair about 10 years ago, it was awful for me, harder to style, took twice as long to tame the hair. My hair curls better with length, the part near the roots is straighter, so the short hair did not curl well, just waved intermittently, so I had to manipulate it alot. My older relatives and in-laws aubscribe to the short hair thing, but I do not. It's what looks good on you and if you are comfortable fixing it. I wear it pinned back alot with barrettes, color it occasionally to cover gray. BTW, when I cut it back then, all of the above mentioned relatives loved it :) and my husband hated it - he prefers long hair on me.

  6. I too have fine hair, but keep it shoulder-length so that I can do things with it. I have had short hair in the past, but I find it a bit depressing having the same look day in, day out, having the same style in the gym as at dinner. Putting up my hair for a party, say, is all part of the 'getting ready' ritual which is often more enjoyable than the actual evening.

    I don't think women over 40 should necessarily cut their hair, but not everyone can look like Demi Moore, and personally I can think of nothing more awful than looking 18 from the back and every day of 48 from the front.

  7. ah! such a sensitive subject for me! I am 36 and in the last few years a lot of my friends have gotten married (we're all between 30-35) and THEY ALL CHOPPED OFF THEIR HAIR!! I find it so depressing and joke about the old lady hair dos - mid-length and boring. Next thing, we'll all have my mother and grandmother's short-and-permed hairstyle.

    Full disclosure, I did it too.

    I got married myself in June, and had long hair that I was growing, growing, growing (you know, so I could ride to the wedding on a graceful steed, long red locks streaming behind me) in actuality, unless I spent a lot of time and product every day, I looked, well, unfortunate. Frazzled. Bedraggled. And more often than not, I'd end up coiling my hair into two goth-lolita meets princess-leia lumps on the side of my head. I have naturally curly hair and the only way it looks good long is if I straighten and goo it to death. A few months before the wedding I decided that looking nice is preferable to aiming for the long-haired dream and went back to what I think is the most flattering style for me - the ubiquitus bob-with-bangs. Hello Anna, I stole your haircut. Gimme your sunglasses.

    I wish more women would keep their hair long. I hate that old-lady-cut-it-off thing! Everyone else, though. For me, it was just very, very necessary.

  8. I agree with the "hair is more fine/sparse/fragile" for women as they age. Shorter is easier to make it look fuller IMO. I don't think that long straight hair is flattering on older people, because of the "drawing down" effect mentioned by Greener Linen. And as skin coloring changes as we age, so does the hair style that goes with it. For those not blessed with dramatic gray or silver hair (you know who you are), I personally don't find long, stringy, unkempt gray hair as flattering. And yes, I'm probably biased, I'm a short haired girl from way back. I cut my long, wavy blonde locks the day after my senior HS picture was taken (in 1974-quelle shocking) and never looked back. :-)

  9. I have long hair which I just cut a bit shorter (8 inches!) to get healthy looking again.

    Generally I wear it up/back - and cover it with *something* however small and ornamental. The up/back is for flattery and practicality and the covering is for religious reasons.

    But I LOVE my long hair! I never intend to cut it off... in fact, if I can keep it properly healthy looking, I intend to not only get it back to its former hip-length glory, but eventually even longer than that. (There is a "terminal length" issue for everyone).

    And yes, I'm short and plump and over 35... so? I like it. :)

  10. Long for me is just past the shoulders. My hair takes forever to dry and I don't want to spend an hour every morning styling my hair. But, I will never have short hair - it just doesn't suit me. Shoulder-length is longish but still bouncy and easy to fix.

    I think hair length depends completely on the person. The other day I met a Seminole woman in her 50s who had the most gorgeous silver hair halfway down her back. It was so thick and beautiful that I had to compliment her on it. She told me that people are always commenting on her hair. This look was perfect for her but I can see how aging it might be on someone else.

    Bottom line, stay true to yourself and don't keep long hair just for the sake of it. I am so glad the days of fashion being dictated to us are over!

  11. My stylist and I have debated this and he has won me over. I always thought that at a certain point my long locks would have to go. BUT his point is that it has more to do with thickness, hair health, and the right shaping than just simply the length of the hair. The other point he is fond of making is that curly hair hides a multitude of sins - split ends, greys, long gaps between haircuts (Really, he says that to scold me). Anyway, he says I will be keeping my long hair for quite some time and looking youthful with it that way. So, who am I to argue?

  12. For me, hair length is completely related to my total lack of hair styling chops with long hair. Whenever I have had long hair, it has ended up being screwed up on top or at the back of my head with a zillion pins in it, giving me a look of a crazed librarian. My hair is also pretty coarse and curly, so I now tend to keep it just short enough so that I have lots of curls on my head and that is neat and fun.

  13. I have tons of thick wavy hair and had it long when I was younger and found I just kept it tied up somehow. Then I decided what was the point of that? So boring to have ponytail all the time. I love my hair short, it's easier to care for, it's cheeky! I say do whatever you want. Short hair doesn't have to be boring or OLD looking. I think it is more "old" looking to always have the same look, never updating your look, your makeup, your clothes, etc...

  14. Keeping hair length is a personal thing and I don't care who says what about hair and age I do what make me feel good. As much as many older women would look gorgeous with a cropped do they may not want it. As for women of colour, I've noticed that for a long time we have been obsessed with the length that white women have instead of embracing our "kinkyness/curls"(I did too as a teenager) but as I got older I realised that our hair has a lot of body and it's not bad at all.

    I had nice thick hair and then my mom got it processed when I went into high school, since then my hair thinned, broke and was never the same. When I left I decided no more chemicals and cut if right off and went into dreads, The dreads served me for eight years until 3 months ago i decided it was time for change again and chopped it clean off. Sure I look my mom when she was in her late 30's even though I'm in my mid 20's but I love it.

    I know people who will not part with their long hair or whatever length hair they have and the men play a part as well. Not wanting their wives/girlfriend's to go short; not even a chin length bob short. I have even had male friends tell me they don't like to see women with boyish hair cuts like hair looks like this

  15. This is something that I've wondered about lately too. I have long hair right now and I do love it and I find that I can pull it off because I'm young. But most of the older women that I associate with have short hair and most of them look great with short hair. In fact the older women I work with who try to keep a little length on their hair actually tend to look older because of this and because of the way they've chosen to style it. I think that short hair looks very chic. I love how easy short hair is to take care of. But then I love the sexiness of long hair and the myriad of updos and such you can do with it.

  16. Funny you should mention this, Peter, as I just had my shoulder-length hair cut into a chin-length bob that everyone loves (including me). I've had hair of every length from I-can-sit-on-it to pixie; any length has its pros and cons. My hair is thick, coarse, wavy, and now graying, which is making it even more unmanageable.

    Solange, your short 'do is very chic. My son's elementary school principal wore her hair like that and was a real knockout. She had a beautiful head (inside and out!)

  17. My hair is going seriously grey (and I am 39) with a white streak at the front. I gave up dying it and love the effect I have now. But I seriously could not grow it long now - it needs to be short and chic for me to pull off the grey without looking like a crazy cat lady, I think.

  18. Plummy's right; some hair gets much, much thinner with age, which makes both short cuts and the fluffy curled look useful for hiding naked scalp. We may THINK we want to keep long hair forever, but our scalps may have other plans.

    I completely agree with Mary; no haircut makes a woman look instantly old, makeup and style makes worlds of difference. To some people, cutting off long hair symbolizes 'giving up,' and to others it signifies rebelliousness. Variables galore!

    I've had a trillion short haircuts. I notice that almost no man liked my various bobs and pixie cuts, but a number of men LOVED my buzz cut--- and wished their girlfriends had one. Go figure!

  19. Everybody said the things I was thinking: wearing your hair shorter as you get older is often a matter of practicality, because your responsibilities, your style aesthetic, and the physical nature of your hair mature over time. Mine is no exception.

    But this post struck a nerve.

    For me, "shorter" is much longer than most people my age. Right now it is down to my mid back, which is the longest I've worn it in a while, only because I am so bad at getting myself to the salon. I've had some sort of Rapunzel complex my entire life which has loosened it's hold somewhat since childhood but still lurks around in the back of my mind. When you spend your formative years having people ooh and aah over your thick red hair (and not your neon freckles or your awkwardness or your weird personality; imagine that), it is very tempting to cling to it. My long Titian hair is what makes me pretty, right??? Everybody said so...

    Recently I wasted a whole day trying celebrity haircuts on a photo of me. Conclusion? The short hair made me terrible. I looked very serious and middle-aged (to be fair, I am 40, which IS middle-aged) and FAKE, somehow. Trying too hard. All the hairstyles I liked were basically my current hairstyle, plus or minus a couple inches and maybe a long sideswept bang.

    Every 5 years or so I forget I hate short hair on me, and over the years I have had 4 or 5 cuts above my shoulders. They have all been failures. The short styles have taken WAY more time energy than longer hair. With hair past my shoulders, I can style if I want, but I can also just brush it and let it dry naturally, and the weight pulls it into reasonably organized soft waves. My hair, when shorter, MUST be styled. My hair is very stubborn. It wants to be what it is. It takes a long time to dry, and it laughs at any styling product beyond leave-in conditioner. One stylist called my hair "resistant" (I told you lady, I DON'T straighten my hair! I don't have 2 hours a day!). I had visions that it would just dry into a sassy wavy bob, like Vintage Vixen's, but NO! I look like I just woke up after passing out on the couch. I look like Little Orphan Annie, or - HORRORS! - Bozo. The. Clown. There it is; my darkest fear come true.

    Aaand, we've circled back to childhood again, where I endured lots of comparisons to hay-chewin' cowgirls and that irritating orphan and her ill-timed feature film (To-Maura! To-Maura! I love ya! To-Maura!) I'd rather be Rapunzel, even if I'm a bit eccentric for it.

    Whew. Thanks for the therapy, Peter! :D

  20. Good question. I have been wondering about this myself for a long time. I am your age but been told that I look a lot younger, as much as 15 years or more. I am 5 ft 3, 116 lbs and have long wavy hair. My husband hates it when I cut my hair short. I agree with him I look better with long hair but think my hair should be more age appropriate. I tend to cut my hair short when I am stressed out but then totally regret it because I feel like Samson in the bible.

    I think all the older women in the photos you showed with long hair doesn't look good with the exception of Cher. Cher just won't be Cher without her long hair. I don't think biological age matters. It is how old a person looks that matters. Personally, I think people who looks old or have wrinkles tend to look scary when they have very long hair. They look much more distinguished when they tie or pin their hair up.


  21. I have long hair (about 4" below the shoulder) at the age of 59. It's still mostly brown, but I don't think I could abide cutting it even if it were gray. I suppose I'm still reacting to the hair styles of my mother and her generation, who all had short hair.

    By the way, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that older women with short white hair are called Q-Tips. :-)

  22. As an older woman, way past "of a certain age" I have long hair--but I wear it up in a twist. The best of both choices. I also wear bangs -horrors, at my age! But I have always worn bangs and wouldn't recognize myself in the mirror if I didn't have them. Long hair is nicely versatile, especially in the summer.

  23. I wrote a long note about this, but my browser crashed and now it's gone.

    Short version: The appropriate length of one's hair is dependent on one's personality, taste, and what one has to work with.

  24. I don't think long hair is only for the youthful anymore. At least I hope not because I'm over 30 and my head would look like a big bowling ball if I had a short 'do. I think Mamie's problem isn't so much her hair as her bosoms almost hanging out of her top. But that's a whole other topic!

  25. Maybe we'll tackle Mamie tomorrow! ;)

  26. The shortest my hair has been since junior high was at my shoulders. After the 80's perm fad I needed to cut off all the damage. My longest was probably when my second child was 2 and it was past my derriere. I have cut it off twice for donations in the last 3 years.

    I think as long as it is healthy then it doesn't matter the age. When it starts looking bad, then it's time to chop it off.

  27. Long hair can work for anyone, there are no rules anymore. Any hairstyle looks better when it's healthy, taken-care-of, and worn with confidence! I wear mine medium-length because I'm trying to grow it long, but not to try and look younger, I already look young! More because my hair has natural curl and wave and likes to stick out strange directions if there's not enough weighing it down...
    It's like letting your greys show - some people would say it's a total NO and a sign of letting yourself go.. while other women wear it confidently. It's all in how you present yourself. I bet Mamie would still give off that "overdone" vibe with a shorter haircut as well :)

  28. Long hair can be a security blanket for women: we know the hair is attractive and fear how we'd look with a short cut. If long hair is feminine then short hair must not be--that's the implied message.

    I've noticed a cultural aspect in hair length between urban and suburban women. I moved from the suburbs where my short hair (Rosemary's Baby-short) was stared at, to the city where it's the norm. Many women in their 20s and 30s differentiate themselves from the masses and express their maturity by having shorter hair.

    Personally, once I cut my hair short I could never return to high maintenance long hair. My mom misses my pretty hair but I like it short and it suits me.

  29. Whoa ... I'm afraid I found it hard to focus on the question after seeing Mamie's cleavage heaving through that keyhole top. Uuuggghhh.

    Much like hemlines (and keyhole tops), I suspect its not the length but the style, that helps one carry it off into old age.

  30. Ladies, and Gentlemen, can we please use a little common sense here? Please? The problem, as I see it, is there is so much emotional baggage tied up in hair, that people cannot see what their hair really looks like. Long straggles that have not been cut in years so you can read the paper through the bottom 8 inches? Enough said!

  31. Keyhole? That's more like a barn door!

    AuntieShel, I hope you're not referring to Cathy's tresses. Those were just extensions, Cathy goes to the salon monthly! ;)

  32. Barn door! That is very funny. I don't know about other women, but about the time I hit 40, my thick, long and curly hair became fine and frizzy and started to lighten up from a deep brown to a mousy beige. I cut my hair to shoulder length and then at about 42 cut into in a Mia Farrow (from the Rosemary's Baby days) pixie cut. I have it cut every 4 weeks or so and coloured every second cut. It's very easy maintenance now and always looks good, even after gym.

  33. Strange timing as Tuesday night I had my waist length hair cut to my shoulder blades! I'm 47 and it's thick and curly. It was not the 'getting older so it must be cut' thing, it was 'I'm feeling cranky, want a change and am fed up with looking after it' thing.
    Doubtless I'll grow it again as (mostly) I like it long and it suits me that way.

    I think it's up to the individual though - it's your hair, wear it as you want and sod anyone who tries to tell you differently. I also find it interesting that more judgement/opinion is passed on women with long hair than is passed on those with short styles? Especially as we get older.

  34. Maybe I'm just weird. At 52, my hair is still in great condition. I have a little bit of gray mixed in, but other than that, it's the same as it's always been. I've had every kind of hair style, but look best with a simple cut just above my shoulders.
    I think the only people who look really bad in long hair are the guys who are mostly bald. Trim it all short when you get to that point!

  35. About a year ago I was at the salon getting my long hair colored darker than my hair stylist wanted to color it. The whole time I was getting shampooed, two other stylists in the salon talked loudly to each other about how long hair drags a woman's face down and how it should be cut short after 40 and how awful long hair looks on women after a certain age, etc.

    I am 46 and I have seen pictures of myself with "softer" hair colors and shorter cuts. And I look OLD in those pictures.

    I'm keeping my hair long and dark and curly as long as I possibly can.


  36. I have medium length hair, I'm 40 and I look like some kind of a weird tiny headed creature when my hair is super short.

    I like Cathy's extensions - they are playful and fun. Where can I get some! I want to try uber long hair like Demi Moore!

    I also like Cathy in short hair.

    But I pretty much agree with everyone else - hair length should be dependant on how it looks on you.

    And Cathy is lucky in this respect - both lengths look good on her!

  37. I have had short, spiky hair since I was fifteen. Sometimes I feel out of place, as almost every young woman I know has long hair. But then I remind myself that I love this cut because it's different! I love my short hair. :D

  38. I think hair length is so personal. I've just turned 30 and have waist length hair. It's fine and straight and I sometimes think I should cut it a little shorter, but for now I would definately keep it more than shoulder length. I've had a bob years ago and it looked bad. It had no volume and combined with my glasses made me look like a librarian in worst way. I know two ladies over 50 with great long grey hair and would like to look like them in 20 years time. However, there's not only the hair strength issue which could throw a spanner in the works... there's also the fact that they were naturally dark haired and went grey in impressive streaks, ending up with a silver colour. I'm strawberry blonde and expect that over time, my colour will just slowly drain out, leaving a salt-and-pepper tone, like my mother has now. And I do think colouring is much harder to get away with in long hair, without looking fake.

  39. Length - long is easier for me, pull it back in a barrette or into a ponytail. My hair is thick, though not as thick as it used to be (I'm 45). The white hairs that are mixing in are coarser, and give it even more body than before. A bit of gel and I get almost bride of Frankenstein waves at each temple. (-: Color - I used to streak with blond, and now I don't have to - nature is streaking it for me! Silver has always looked better with my skin than gold, anyway.

  40. Hmmmm. Mamie was an eyeful. Quite a finale to your post. Uh, no need to revisit it tomorrow. I agree with most that style rules exist to be broken -- some older women can carry off long hair . . . I have a medium length -- above the shoulder cut, though I've been all over the place lengthwise over the years. I don't think I'll be going long again -- it really doesn't suit me. I do think that sometimes long hair on older women does them the disservice of illustrating that "lamb dressed as mutton" phrase the Brits are fond of. And yet my MIL has really long wavy silver hair at 75 that she wears braided and in a bun. She was a hippy, living in Greenwich Village in its heydey, and has great boho style -- I'm sure she'd be jealous of your rope sandals, Peter. I hope she never cuts it.

  41. I've had long, short and in between. The real me has long hair and that's where I'm going now. Like 'anonymous' I want it long enough to twist and pin. It suits me, its versatile and I think age appropriate. I did however have a horrid time growing it out from gamine-short to the bob I have now as any number of hairdressers would not listen to me and kept trying to give me old lady haircuts.
    Oh yeah - that's another reason to have shoulder length hair - avoiding hairdressers!

  42. OH Mamie! before I get corrected I see I inverted the phrase -- it should be "mutton dressed as lamb".

  43. I think it's MEN who have a serious problem with longer hair as they age. As most of them lose vast quantities of it by the time they reach 40. Few people find the old-hippie bald pate/ponytail mix attractive. On the other hand, the profusion of shaved heads these days is just as tiresome, not all those guys are as cool as they'd like.

    But even women can have problems with thinning hair as they age, and many of them dye their hair as it grays, which screws up the texture horribly. So for practical reasons one may fall back on shorter hair. Also, most middle-aged women are busy, sometime very busy :-). Short hair requires more frequent cuts, but it means much less maintenance on a daily basis, so it can be more practical from that point of view.

    On the other hand, Mamie Van Doren is right to do everything possible to distract the eye from that cleavage :-(.

  44. I find that generally speaking, EVERYONE looks better with medium-short hair, but NOT the "mancuts" that we still see on some women stuck in the 80s/90s (yes, I am talking about my mother!) Long hair tends to make ones face look even droopier and up close you'll find it is usually gross looking - split ends, snarls, general fried-ness and whatnot.

  45. I am a little late but this is a subject that has intrigued me for years. Until some years ago, I had not realised that long hair could really be associated with youth. I know that you have written your post about mainly white pholks but I would like to bring in this perspective from another culture. I am from South Asia and for a long time, I had thought that the opposite was true. Long hair, plaited or tied in a bun, were associated with elderly women and younger women could do all sorts of things (keeping their long hair untied, cutting them short, having a fun trendy hair-do,...). In many ways this is still the traditional view, here in South Asia. However, things are changing a bit now, and I am seeing a number of relatively older women keep their hair short the way a number of women tend to do it in the North America, Europe, Australia, etc (like you, I do not know enough about other societies to compare with them). This, I believe, is the effect of global cultures coming closer and taking form each other.

    So far, the explanation I have come up with is the following. After a certain age, women everywhere face the same problem, thinning, less supple hair. The solutions different cultures have chosen are however different. In south Asia, older women tie their hair so that it looks neat, clean and graceful and in the culture described through most of the posts here, women tend to keep them short so that it looks neat, clean and graceful. Younger women in both places can pretty much get away with anything. For me this is fascinating because we start with the same problem, find two opposite solutions, yet arrive at the same result: a neat and graceful look for elderly women. It also makes me feel positive because this means that the messages that we keep hearing (long hair does not look good on elderly women in the western world or short hair does not look good on elderly women in this part of the world) are probably too limiting. What matters is probably not whether it is long or short but that it is styled in a way that makes it look neat and graceful (tied if it is long but thin and in an appropriate cut if it is short but thin). Oh and if neat and graceful is not your style than that should be equally acceptable. If you feel good another way then why should it matter?

    Oh and I realise that I have not talked at all about men, but I have not given the subject much thought and do not have much to say about it.

  46. Just an addendum to the "long straight hair in the 60s" observation that was made in the post: This hairstyle coincided with fashion trends in that it was a move away from glamour and looking overly "done" toward a more "natural" look.

  47. I find that my long hair is easier to care for than when it was short. It takes a bit longer to dry, but that can be fixed with a good towel turban that dries hair faster.

  48. I love long hair on an elderly woman; I think it looks very romantic and graceful. Of course if you don't like the look or if it's unflattering that's fine too, but I'd love to have long hair well into my old age! And it can always be twisted into a bun or braided.
    Also, I know a man in his 70's who wears his hear long, and he looks fantastic with it. All rules have exceptions.

  49. Get this...

    I've had the run of hair, from waist-length straight to shaved, and I got the most compliments after I was 30 with a short-short (wow, that's sexy!) cut. Now, I'm thinking and trying to grow it back out to see what it will do, but ...

    I just bought a convertible (car) and I think i'm going back to short. so much easier. and sexier.

    Maybe I was born with it.. maybe it's the red.



  50. Perhaps the association of hair length with age has something to do with this cultural myth of youth and natural beauty being intricately tied to one another. Long hair is seen as more natural, so it's associated with youth, whereas there's this assumption that older women always have to work harder to be considered beautiful, so short hair that is styled is considered an "older woman" look. Me, I think I'd rather wear it short when I'm young to look hip and sophisticated, and long when I'm old so I can hang it in front of my face and cackle out the window whenever kids come by trying to sell useless baubles for fundraisers. Uncharitable? Possibly. Fun? Definitely.

  51. Hey homeboy,

    Interesting topic. Most of my models with long hair are well below 30. However, I've had a few into their 40's with gorgeous long hair; a few with it down to their knees. My observation has been that the quality, shine and thickness of hair generally declines with age but there are exceptions! Everyone's genes are different. I worked with one woman who had thick, reddish-brown hair to her knees. She was 39, but from the back side she looked 19! She had the hair of a teenager. So, my opinion is that long hair looks great on mature women if their hair is suited to it.

  52. It is not coincidental that the vast majority of women who remain sultry after 40 are those wear their hair long to super long. I disagree with one person here, as I think that many short haircuts add instant age. Not always; there are exceptions, of course. But, when I haven't seen a woman in a while and she has grown out her hair in the intervening time, my eyes usually bulge! lol

  53. There are so many variables. I'm 39 and went from long curly hair to a straight bob with bangs in the last year. I'm in no hurry to go back, I love it short!

    One thing that hasn't really been touched on is that many women are advancing in their careers in their 30s and 40s. Long hair can certainly look professional if it's taken care of, but a crisp short cut add instant authority and sophistication.

    For me, my long hair had to go when I started to think "mall hair" when I looked in the mirror. It didn't feel interesting or fresh. I also realized it didn't look that different from my cut in high school, even though I had many different cuts and lengths in between.

    I think the trick is just to reinvent yourself occasionally. it's good to know what works, but also good to change it up a little (whether that's long or short). But there shouldn't be rules. Vive le difference!


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