The long, long history of long, long hair – Beautifaire

The long, long history of long, long hair – Beautifaire

Welcome to Beauty School, the corner of Dazed Beauty dedicated to learning. From guides to histories, that is where we make clear past subcultural movements and educate our readers on current trends and various goings-on.

We will’t escape long hair without delay. It has dominated the runways for the previous few seasons, from Collina Strada’s XXL braids and Blumarine’s dishevelled mermaid hair last yr, to the soaking wet styles this yr at Avavav in SS24. At Ashley Williams this season, too, models wore super long wigs in pinks, browns and platinum blondes that were part sleek, part unkempt cult hair. Within the celebrity world, Ice Spice traded her signature do for a long mane, while Kim Kardashian exchanged her fuck-ass bob for long tresses. But perhaps most interestingly, at a time when the reclamation of girlhood and femininity is on the forefront of culture (Sofia Coppola, Lana del Rey), fashion (Sandy Liang and Elena Velex) and sweetness (coquette hair and strawberry make-up), long hair plays a posh role.

From Rapunzel to Cher, cults to beauty pageant queens and hippies, long hair has an extended history in beauty and culture. Many mythical characters and legends are related to long hair, which regularly becomes a logo of femininity and purity – figures like Mary Magdalene, Botticelli’s Venus and Lady Godiva, for instance, use their long hair for modesty. Longer hair has long stood as an indication of status and knowledge – from the traditional Greeks to Germanic Goths and Merovingians and even the Egyptians, who were a number of the first to dive deeply into wig-making.

In Sikhism, the kesh practice involves allowing one’s hair to grow naturally out of respect for the perfection of Gods creation, while for Native Americans long hair is linked to strength, power, virility and pride across different tribes. In China, long hair dates back to the Han dynasty as a logo of wealth for men. Afterward within the Tang dynasty and into the Song dynasty, long hair became much more covetable, but for girls. “Within the seventeenth century, Louis XIV of France popularised a strong, dark, centre-parted curly periwig for men,” says Elizabeth L Block, an art historian and the writer of the forthcoming book Beyond Vanity: The History and Power of Hairdressing. “The key reason was to cover his bald spots, which on the time signified an absence of virility.”

Starting within the mid-1800s, long hair hit an all-time high for European women, in line with Block. Victorian women were expected to grow their hair so long as possible without cutting it, though it was scandalous to wear one’s hair down and expose it outside of the bedroom. It was also a direct correlation to class since poorer people often didn’t have the means to grow their hair long as a consequence of the maintenance. Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria’s trademark hair prolonged well past her waist, and she or he reportedly spent a full day every three weeks washing and drying her brown tresses. “Within the Victorian era, super long hair signified not only femininity, because it had since antiquity, but in addition superior health and hygiene,” says Block. “Short hair or baldness was related to illness, like tuberculosis. Extremely long hair could also communicate wealth. With a purpose to look after long tresses, a lady either needed a private maid, as did Empress Sisi, or a sufficient amount of leisure time.”

In white Western culture, most girls wore their hair long for much of history right up until World War I in line with Rachael Gibson of the Hair Historian Instagram account. “Long hair for girls is mostly regarded as symbolic of femininity, health and fertility, which in turn led to it becoming a standardised beauty ideal,” adds Gibson. “Nonetheless there are religious and cultural reasons beyond pure aesthetics which lead people to grow their hair so long as possible.” The identical is true for men. “Consider Sampson within the Bible, although society has gone forwards and backwards on the appropriateness of men’s hair depending on where you might be on this planet and at what time.”

Changing roles and freedoms for girls within the twentieth century allowed for more diversity in styling, for instance, the flappers and jazz age brought the bob – and shorter hair generally – front and centre. Long hair would make a giant comeback starting as early because the late Forties, nonetheless. While Victorians were using their very own contraptions to create longer, thicker hair, in 1949, Christina M Jenkins invented what’s the closest thing to what we all know today as hair extensions. She developed the “Hair-Weev” technique, sewing extensions into braided rows of hair. Jenkins applied for the patent in 1951 and it was granted in 1952.

Within the Nineteen Sixties, women began trading their beehives and flipped bobs for the bombshell-like, big puffy blowouts seen on women like Brigitte Bardot and Priscilla Presley. Raquel Welch and Jane Fonda wore their hair big and long, epitomising on-screen sex sirens in contrast to the little pixie cuts worn by Twiggy and the sharp and short cuts done by Vidal Sassoon. The social change and dynamic introduced a latest sort of expression of femininity that also reflected the male gaze and the heavy-handed objectification of all of it. 

Fast forward to the Nineteen Seventies when long hair became well related to the counterculture movement of the hippies and the rejection of societal conformity. People of all genders grew their hair out, while musicians from Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell and Cher became iconic from long flowing hair that was as far-off from the standard establishment as possible. While Joplin’s aesthetic symbolised freedom, Cher’s showed a special side – one which revolved around the full embodiment of glamour that was completely unapologetic. The long-lasting singer recently said she would never not have long hair: “I simply cannot imagine I will likely be 80 in some unspecified time in the future, ahead of I wish, and I’ll still be wearing my jeans, and I’ll still be wearing long hair, and I’ll still be doing the identical stuff I’ve all the time done.”

Then, within the late 80s and the 90s, icons like Diana Ross and Lisa Bonet wore long hair higher than anyone. Daryl Hannah – who starred as a mermaid within the 1984 movie Splash – wore long, loose mermaid hair on the Cannes Film Festival that can perpetually be remembered. And Naomi Campbell, who also made her debut within the Nineteen Eighties, has turn out to be perpetually known for her flowing hair.

Today, it’s a strong expression to have super, super long hair – with many individuals leaning into the look specifically for its versatility. “There are such a lot of things that I like about super long hair,” says Nafisah Carter, celebrity hair stylist and hair extension specialist. “I can wear my hair up or down and even in two braids if I need to. To me, long hair gives an illusion of accentuating curves in all the precise places. Who wouldn’t love that!”

And yet, even in modern times, it seems like there’s an interesting line between long hair for glamour’s sake and long hair that verges into religious imagery. Take, as an example, the Amish, who don’t imagine women should cut their hair. Or polygamous cults, with their endlessly long locks. The styling is inherently different than, say, a Kardashian. Perhaps essentially the most interesting thing about long hair is just how much it prevails across gender, culture and spirituality, but all for such vastly different reasons. It has its internalised meanings and it has its myths too. Is there another hairstyle that may claim as much?

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