Since the inception of human history, hair was a symbol of social status and an ever-changing human fashion. From the caveman to the Roman empire, through the Classic era to the 21st century – hair came in all shapes and forms.
We have an emotional connection to our hair, as is evident from the amount of time we spend taking care of it, stressing about it, worrying about losing it, coloring it, primping it, and fondling it absentmindedly. But the significance of a full head of hair is more than emotional. Men battling hair loss today are following the footsteps of many other men and women in history, and not surprisingly, almost every culture on Earth, past and present, attach at least some social significance to hair. Hair can symbolize strength, virility, affluence, and class. In many cases, a King could lose his kingdom by losing his hair, or even just going gray! The next stories spread throughout history and displays the importance of hair in the eyes of past rulers and long lost civilizations!
The story of Samson is perhaps the most famous in the bible when it comes to hair and its secret mystical powers. Because of his long hair, he was able to fend the attacks of the Philistines, protect the newly settled area, and be an all around hero to the Hebrews, who were having a hard time dealing with those pesky Philistines that did not take the Hebrew invasion very kindly! Samson, however, had one weakness, namely, the lovely Delilah. One night, after an ardent session of lovemaking, Samson fell into a deep sleep, and the Philistines entered his chamber and cut off his hair, and with it, his strength. Although Samson recovered his powers by intense prayer and piousness, but this story definitely warns us against cutting men’s hair, and links superhuman strength to long hair!
The Egyptian Pharaoh:
It is really hot in Egypt, and was very hot 4000 years ago, and even 5000 years ago. Egyptians mostly wore their head shaved, a practical way to deal with the extreme desert heat. The Pharaohs, however, when in ceremonial dress and demonstrating their power and wealth, wore elaborate wigs made of real human hair, dressed with oil, in locks, and braids. The Pharaoh’s son traditionally had one lock of hair uncut in the center of his head, which he would wear in a bun. No one else was allowed to wear their hair in this particular way, on pain of death!
Julius Caesar, perhaps the most famous Roman ever, was terrified of his hair loss. It is said that he was so embarrassed by his receding hairline that he introduced the fashion of a laurel crown to hide his high forehead… Caesar used to force his defeated enemies to shave their heads to their scalp. Perhaps he thought that if his enemies had even shorter hair than his, he would appear more powerful, as if conquering half of Europe was not enough!
Married/Unmarried Women in Imperial China:
Unmarried Chinese girls’ hair was usually worn long and braided while married women combed the hair back from the face and wound into a knot at the nape. The married or unmarried status of the girl could be signified by her hair, thus avoiding any unwanted advances on married women. Chinese girls’ hair heavily influenced their value in the marriage market. A girl without long, luxurious, very black hair was not considered as good marriage material as girls with.
Samurai would cut their hair when defeated in Medieval Japan. To this day, Sumo wrestlers have a “hair cutting” ceremony when they retire! In Japan, cutting hair was a symbol of defeat and lost of honor, very similar to the honorable Harakiri (ceremonial suicide practiced by the Japanese samurai when disgraced or under a death sentence). Women of samurai families used to cut their hair and even became nuns when she had to part her loved one, and to this day some Japanese girls cut their hair when they have had their heart broken!.
Louis the Fourteenth, King of France:
King Louis XIV, the Sun King, inventor of Ballet and Tennis, was also a particularly vain peacock of a King. When faced with the beginning of hair loss, the King began yet another fashion (in addition to silk vests and high heels for men) – the Male wig. Louis’ wings were so elaborate, that they were built on a wire frame, and more often than not, consisted of three heads of hair in one wig!
The Plains Indians:
Male warriors wore their hair long among the Plains Indians in Northern America. They decorated their hair with feathers and beads, and Chiefs wore large featherhead dresses with additional locks of hair and strings of beads hanging from them, which were considered to be highly impressive. Perhaps the most telling sign of the significance of the hair and scalp in their culture was scalping. It was a strong belief that if one took his enemy’s hair, one took his virility. An Indian warrior with the greatest number of scalps hanging from his wigwam was a very powerful man indeed!
The Rastafarian Dreadlocks:
Perhaps the most significant indicator of the Rastafarian social and religious movement is the dreadlocks, which became so popular to this day. The Rastafarian wear locks as an expression of inner spirituality.
Shaving off the Hair:
Most Monks of all religions, as well as Nuns of the Buddhist faith, shave their head as a symbol of releasing the vanities of the material life. The fact that the vanity involved in hair is so embedded in the human mind is definitely a factor in these vows. Simplicity means having no hair to be vain about, the Buddhist Monks and Nuns say. The unsaid current is, of course, how powerful and strong and beautiful our hair can make us feel, and how deeply we are attached to it.
There is probably a second, less verbalized reason for the Cowboy Hat then just sun protection. Cowboys, embodying the most masculine and virile male archetype, battled their hair loss magnificently. The most tough and hardened cowboys lined up to spend their hard earned money on worthless “Snake Oil”, hair growing tonics peddled by charlatan “Doctors” from the side shows and stages of the great wild west medicine shows. Cowboys also used the trick of rubbing grease into their hair, causing it to look thicker. While this was slightly effective, it was a very messy process.
So you see, being obsessed with your hair is a completely normal human emotion!