Saturday, May 10, 2008

Crying Over Cut Hair.

“Jo, how could you, your one beauty!”

I've been meaning to compose a post about hair for a while now, and what better time to do it when I'm supposed to be writing a final exam paper on any number of British modernist authors.

First, my hair is kind of a big deal. I've always had a lot of it, even as a baby I had a ridiculous looking mass of dark, curly hair (the curls disappeared by the time I was 6, much to my disappointment) and except for a strange digression into a modified mushroom-cut, it's always been long. It has never actually made it to my waist, but for a long time my goal was my elbows, and I got it there in high school. I've just always had long hair, and it's something I've always been reasonably confident in.

That said, it's always sort of plagued me, the connection between femininity and hair. Especially long hair, although no one can deny some of the most feminine and lovely women have short hair. There is always that strange myth that men like long hair on women, the idea that a woman with short hair or a man with long hair are somehow tip-toeing into some strange region of questionable gender performance. I always remember a professor of mine thinking on the idea that when she was a student and when she began teaching closer to the 70s and thereabouts, she often had many more girls and young women in her classes who wore their hair short.

In From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers Maria Warner dedicates two entire chapters to hair (I'm kind of obsessed with fairy tales. I have piles and piles of books of fairy tale criticism, compilations, articles, and I've somehow managed to write tons of term papers on them).

“The language of the self would be stripped of one of it's richest resources without hair: and like language, or the faculty of laughter, or the use of tools, the dressing of hair in itself constitutes a mark of the human. In the quest for identity, both personal and in its larger relation to society, hair can help. The body reveals to us through hair the passage of time and the fluctuating claims of gender; strangers offer us a conspicuous glossary of clues in the way they do the hair on their head, for in societies all over the world, calling are declared through hairy signs: the monk's tonsure, the ringlets of the Hassidic scholar, the GI's crewcut, the sansculotte's freeflowing mane, the flowerchild's tangled curls, the veil” (Warner, 370).

There is something terribly personal about hair, which I suppose also explains the strange bond people feel towards their hair dressers (although as someone not really into sharing or being outgoing, I find the implied closeness of that relationship a little uncomfortable). But there is the romance in giving a lock of hair, the intense and slightly creepy bit about Victorian hair jewelry intwined with the process of mourning, how it's poetically dealt with in inmate terms. Then there is always the ideas of color, the implications of it if it's applied, general reactions to differing shades, what level of masculinity of femininity, youth and age, has to do with color and style. It's all part of that language, but all the same, I'm not quite sure what to do with it!

In any-case, since I'm not really sure what I'm talking about (the English major gives herself away), here are some examples of movies that always make me think it's a good idea to cut my hair (even though I know none of these cuts would suit me):

Juliette Binoche in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (another beautiful and heartbreaking movie that I almost can't deal with)

Audrey Tautou in Amelie (typical, I know, but come on, it's impossible not to!)

Saoirse Ronan and Keira Knightly in Atonement (a new example, but added to heartbreaking and beautiful movies I can't deal with, but it also made my want to chop my hair. My boyfriend thinks I identify too much with Briony because she's a strange little writer-child who wears a bobby-pin the way I always do and runs around stomping on leaves, which might be true, but whatever)

Diana Quick in Brideshead Revisited (I know you can't see her hair, but her hat is adorable, and I couldn't get a decent cap without it, and I didn't include enough of her in my Brideshead post anyway)


  1. I have to admit: I'm awfully envious of how long and straight your hair is. ;) lol. I've always wanted to cut mine all off, but I find myself again and again freaking out over the idea of loosing all of it (not like it would be permanent... but reason doesn't enter in here). Or remembering the horrendous bob I had in high school that just didn't work with my excessively thick, wavy hair. :p I secretly hope that when I go gray, my hair will go straight too so I can actually pull off shorter styles without looking like a poodle. ;)

    I tend to file my "pixie" hair and bob cut fantasies under the same header as dying my hair an insanely wild color (cherry red being my current fav). Something I dream about, admire on other women, but never quite have the guts to do. ;)

    Great insightful post too--love how you pulled some "solid research" into it. :D

  2. What a lovely post!
    Growing up my mom kept my hair long, until it reached below my butt, and when I cut it, to a pixie cut in High School, I didn't dare to go home for six months, for the fear of her wrath (I was living in another city). It's long now, but I often fantasize about cutting it, how light and free it would feel...

  3. I completely get what you´re saying- I have strong feelings about my hair because I think that the way you wear your hair affects the way you´re feeling and behaving a lot - which makes changes at the wrong time so
    I always had sort of middle length to long hair, but right now I am working on even more length ebcause this is just the way I feel these days: eating cake, reading poetry and wearing daisies in my hair.

    with your dark hair, I think such a shorter style would look very french and darling, although I really like the way you wear it now!

  4. I cut ten inches off of hair last year and it was so liberating. But now I miss long hair so much an am striving to grow it back. There is just something so nice about the weight of it, its movements when you turn your head--I really just love long hair.
    My sister once when through a cut like mine, but she had long, blonde, curly hair and the hairdresser refused to cut it all off in one sitting. She thought she would regret it. It took two sittings to convince the woman to chop it off and my sister never regretted it for a moment.
    I really adored this post.

  5. Hair is always an interesting issue for me as I have taken before that big leap that means cuting one's hair.

    I used to have long hair down to my waist, and it was considered by all my friends as my trademark.

    One day, without really giving it any previous thought, I cut my hair boy-short. I had only gone to the hairdresser to trim the ends, yet I ended braiding my hair, taking the scissors from the hairdresser's hands and cutting it off. It was one of the most liberating moments of my life, and I feel taking that step really determined who I was for the next couple of years.

    Strangely, it makes you feel close to other women who have done it, because, no matter how much things have changed in the last years, long hair will always be related with femeninity.

    Its been about four years since that happened and I'm now letting my hair grow back again.

    I want it really long once again... I guess I just like extremes.

  6. p.s. I don't think I ever felt more femenine than when I had my hair in a very pixie and short way.

    I also did the amelie haircut, but it was a nightmare to keep it as my hair is slightly wavy.

  7. I love my long curly hair, but have always been slightly envious of women with straight hair, simply for the reason that they could chop it off if they wanted. My hair would curl up and be completely out of control...and frizzy (not a good thing). I love short bobs and pixie cuts lately. Juliette Binoche and Audrey Tautou's hair are so lovely in those movies. :)

  8. thanks for posting this hiRes picture of Briony. I need to replicate her hair for an animated movie and this is the best reference yet!