A friend of mine recently donated her hair, and it got me thinking about long hair again. But since I’ve done the topic of caring for long hair before, I went online and poked around to see what I’d find about long hair in terms of history and culture and society. And I came up with some cool thoughts and facts.
It’s funny, what some people will consider long is really medium or short to others, depending on what the norm is where you live. A girl with hair to her shoulders has medium-short hair, but a guy with the same length will be perceived as having long hair. When you go to the hairdresser and look in the style books for ideas, or if you’re looking for wedding updos online, what one source categorizes as a style for short hair will be medium in another.
I was surprised to discover that physically, there’s a maximum length that hair can achieve: an average adult’s hair can’t really grow longer than 100 centimeters. Hair goes through a growth cycle, which ultimately ends in one falling out and a new one growing in its place. So your hair can only grow so long before it falls out naturally. Some people have longer growth cycles, enabling them to grow longer hair.
Biologically, long and lustrous hair can be taken as a sign that an individual is healthy; in that sense, humans may be naturally inclined to find long hair attractive. In many cultures that are divided by social class, hair length is a way to distinguish between groups. Slaves in some places were forced to wear short or shaved hairstyles, while upper classes (especially women) wore their hair much longer. A medieval noblewoman would have needed help to brush and style her waist-length hair; the average servant would not have had the time and the extra hands to do so, and might have worn a shorter style for convenience.
Starting in the 1960′s, long hair became popular among people in countercultures, like beatniks and hippies; it was a way of showing rebellion against the conservative styles that were popular until then. When you consider that military haircuts in particular are very short, it makes sense that antiwar protesters would grow their hair out to extremes!