Long hair

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Long hair in weightlessness

Long hair describes a hairstyle of above average length. How the length of hair is defined and socially classified differs from culture to culture or even within individual cultures. For example, a woman with chin-length hair can be considered short-haired, while a man with the same hair length is called long-haired. Biologists attach importance to long hair in certain animal species (natural selection ), since hair length is often a sign of health. Psychoanalysts assign a depth psychological dimension to long hair.

Culturally, long men's hair often signals a distance from social norms and state orders. For women, on the other hand, in Western cultures, it is precisely their short hair that is a sign of social criticism.


Albert Anker , girl braiding her hair, 1887

Ethnologists suspect a physical ornament in the long hair, as it were a by-product of natural selection , as soon as the other body hair was evolutionarily lost. Another possible explanation is sexual selection , since long shiny hair is a visible characteristic of a healthy individual. For some groups, however, short hair is the essential trait sought after. According to certain psychoanalysts , long hair represents the superego ; consequently, they see haircutting as modified castration . Such scholars compare the haircut with ceremonial mutilation rituals such as circumcision or bloodletting etc. The hair is considered a phallic and sexual symbol, often also for sexual intercourse.

Cultural history

Hair is one of the most important types of human self-expression as well as of presenting and judging other people, as it is the part of the body that is also the easiest to shape. In many cultures, hair length is a measure of sexual self-control - long hair stood for a certain unrestrainedness compared to shorter or hairlessness. The cropped short was often seen as a representative or subordinate of a social system, while long hair marked a certain special role.


In Old Testament times , certain men were often given extended periods of time not to cut their hair to demonstrate their attachment to God. They were called Nazarites . The Samson example establishes a connection between physical strength and hair length. In other places the Bible shows the disdain for hairlessness, baldness or a clean shave.

However, according to the New Testament :

14  Doesn't nature itself teach you that it is a dishonor for a man to have long hair, 15  but an honor for a woman to have long hair? The hair is given to her as a veil. "

- 1 Corinthians 11 : 14-15  LUT

This statement refers to the time when people tried to distinguish themselves from the social-religious environment by hair length. Cropped hair and a clean-shaven face was a pagan tradition that came with Roman expansion.

Classical antiquity


Numerous heroes and gods of Greek mythology such as Zeus , Achilles , Hector and Poseidon had long hair. Both Greek and Trojan soldiers wore long hair in battle ( hoplites , Spartians ). Uncut hair was common to both Greek men and women since the 1st century BC. As a sign of freedom. Warriors saw it as a sign of nobility and wore it combed open. The men of Minoan Crete had long, falling hair. Around the 6th century BC The shorter hairstyle prevailed through the athletes. Women kept the long hair fashion, from which they promised freedom, health, wealth and also a good reputation. For men it was considered a sign of false pride.


Long hair played a central role for women in Roman times. Since the Augustan times, men's hair has been worn shorter than that of women: even if other cultures of that time, such as the Greeks in the East, valued long hair as a sign of the philosophers, hair was found to be a nuisance when studying. In the Roman province, the short haircut was common. When Julius Caesar conquered Gaul , where long hair was valued, he ordered a short cut for all soldiers. Later, long hair was considered a sign of the "barbarians" in men and was therefore avoided for a long time.

Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823-1903), girl with long hair.

Western culture until the early 20th century

With Teutons and Celts, long hair was also the norm for men and was considered an ideal that should also symbolize freedom and strength. These were also carefully cared for (e.g. with combs and butter) and sometimes worn artistically (e.g. Suebi knots ).

It was not just in the European Middle Ages that short hair was often characteristic of serfs and unfree peasants , while long hair, on the other hand, was attributed to the free, such as the Germanic Goths and Merovingians . Often, non-Germanic cultures like the Byzantines referred to them as "long-haired", barbarians , whose hairstyle they regarded as fixed. In Ireland , the English colonists wore their hair long on their backs, like the natives, and thus abandoned their role as English subjects . Conversely, the Irish reviled those who moved towards English culture as "short-haired" people. Hair length was a common way of recognizing a true Englishman.

Muslims in Christian regions were commanded to have short hair; sometimes longer hair was considered rebellious and barbaric. Long hair was common among European men in the 11th and 12th centuries, although mostly due to church orders, men had to wear shorter hair and women longer hair. The fashion was widespread, for example among monarchs who rejected the short haircut, which was soon imitated by the people. Wulfstan , a spiritual leader in England, feared long-haired people would fight like women and would be unfit to hold off a foreign invasion.

Knights and rulers shaved their hair on certain occasions as a sign of penance or lament; moreover, the squire's hair was generally shorter than that of a knight. On the occasion of the Mainz Court Conference in 1184 , the chronicler Ordericus Vitalis was quoted as saying about the prevailing preferences of knights and other young aristocrats, to have their hair long and their faces clean-shaven: “They are shaved on the front like thieves, and on the back they leave them Hair grows long, like prostitutes. "

In the case of married women, wearing long hair in public was frowned upon; this was reserved for the unmarried, but in times of mourning they were allowed to demonstrate their shock. At that time, long hair stood for youth and refinement. It was also a punishment for publicly cutting off the hair of another man, and reports are also known that during beheadings, care was taken not to stain the condemned person's hair with blood.

In England during the English Civil War from 1642 to 1651, hair length was a feature of the disputes between Cavaliers and Roundheads (Puritans). The Cavaliers had longer hair and were considered less religious, the Roundheads as immoral. The more pious roundheads wore short hair. In the centuries that followed, up to around the end of Napoleonic times, men in Europe wore long hair, but from the 18th century onwards it was mostly no longer open, but usually tied in a braid or ponytail (especially among soldiers , see Soldier Braid ).

From the middle of the 19th century, however, long hair was no longer considered fashionable for men in Europe ( Christianity played no role here). In the Weimar Republic , slightly longer hair was once again considered chic, which was combed back tightly with pomade . In the Third Reich , it was considered modern for men to wear the hair longer and the sides short, while the hair was combed back or parted to the side. In the Wehrmacht it was not only unusual to have hair that was too short (or even to shave your head completely), it was expressly prohibited. The hair there was mostly worn as an undercut , whereby the hair decree stipulated that the ears were exposed and the main hair had to be applied. Several of these cuts recently celebrated a rebirth as the “Hitler Youth Haircut”.

Sociopolitical significance since 1960

In the 1960s , long hair fashion, especially among men, spread rapidly as a political or countercultural symbol of protest in many western regions such as the USA, Western Europe, South Africa and Australia. Long hair and dreadlocks have since formed a part of subcultural movements, alternative cultures and lifestyles. An example of the generation conflict embodied by long hair was the incident in an English school in 1965. Three young people between the ages of 13 and 14 were excluded from classes and had to do detention until they had their long hair cut. The headmaster threatened to beat them if they walked into the classroom with their hair uncut. The students persisted for weeks, admitting only to have their hair cut when Mick Jagger , singer with the Rolling Stones , had his cut.

Long hair remained prevalent through the liberal decade of the 1970s and was further popularized by the disco style. In the 1970s, the popularity of reggae music and musician Bob Marley sparked interest in dreadlocks internationally. The philosophy of the Rastafari movement found multiple expression and echo in contemporary reggae, among left-wing youth of all ethnicities; especially and especially among African Americans and other blacks, but in subcultures also among whites.

The style of music of Glam Metal , popular since 1983 and originating from the USA, was also derisively referred to as "Hair Metal". Critics complained that the musicians were mainly defined by their long, teased hair, while their eccentric appearance was about looking like rock stars who would no longer be "normal people".


Federal Republic

Marianne Ernst is a German "long hair model". At the beginning of March 2016, her hair was 174 cm long.

In the course of this development, long-haired (or long-haired dachshund ) became a derogatory term coined in Germany in the 1960s by conservative and middle-class circles of the German population for young men who were close to the protest movement of the 60s .

Since the early sixties, the longer hairstyle among young men has increasingly developed into an expression of their own fashion as well as a means of demarcation from the older generation, who are perceived as conservative. While the Beatles drew attention to themselves in the early 1960s with their blown mushroom head hairstyle, over the course of the decade bourgeois tolerance was challenged with increasingly longer hairdresses.

Hair length as an expression of a non-conformist lifestyle reached its peak with the so-called hippies , who were concerned with the natural condition of long hair as well as with a protest attitude towards the state and society, especially with regard to the Vietnam War . Long hair has become a political symbol, compare the "Bed-in" by John Lennon and Yoko Ono or the musical Hair . In the young Federal Republic of Germany at the end of the 1960s, long hair was a feature of the revolting students . From the 1990s the dreadlocks brought from India became popular in the hippie and goatrance scene, the reggae scene in Germany also encountered an alternative cultural substrate and thus mingled with the hippie movement, the dreadlocks called "Jata" in India at the beginning of the 1970s Wandering monks there took over.

In 1971, the then Defense Minister Helmut Schmidt issued a hairnet decree that allowed Bundeswehr soldiers to wear long hair, but was withdrawn in 1972.

The adjective "long-haired" was often used adverbially , especially in the 1970s , and was supposed to evoke connotations such as bum , hippie , communist (see Cold War ), anarchist , demonstrator and RAF sympathizer .

Today, men with well-groomed long hair are largely socially accepted and are only occasionally exposed to prejudice or repression (e.g. at work). In addition to long hair as a fad and as an ideal of beauty, this is also worn as an expression of a lifestyle or as a feature of a youth or subculture, e.g. B. in the eco-movement , metal scene , in the black scene (for example as an undercut ) and occasionally in the Gothic culture (mainly worn in the 1990s with teasing or creped). As an expression of a (political) protest attitude, the long hair has largely lost its meaning.


The GDR saw a problem in the rise of long-haired fashion, which it devoted itself to in detail in studies and observations and ultimately tried to counteract it without success.

In 1966, for example, the Leipzig Central Institute for Youth Research carried out a so-called mushroom head study on behalf of the SED in order to examine the attitude of long-haired young people. The study by no means - as previously stated - revealed a lower level of intelligence, but a certain affinity of long-haired people to Western music.

In various places in the GDR, the FDJ and the People's Police carried out violent hair-cutting actions. In 1969, long-haired young people from Thuringia were forcibly taken to the hairdresser's by the police.

In 1972 the appearance of Ulrich Plenzdorf's play The New Sorrows of Young W. caused a sensation beyond the borders of the GDR. The tragic rebel Edgar W. saw his ideal of life in long hair and blue jeans.

In 1980, the band received Magdeburg television appearance ban, as the singer for the youth program around the hair did not want to get cut.

Other cultures


Africans in Africa
Ngbandi girls, Central Africa, 1905

In West African cultures, women with long hair were valued. Long, full hair was a sign of health, strength and childbearing potential. In this context, women who were too young to marry had an area of ​​their heads shaved to signal this. However, this tradition is not widespread in all African tribes, and short hair is also valued in many cases. Some people in Islamic countries in North Africa like Egypt see long hair as satanic and a sign of disbelief.

African American

When the African slaves in America were freed, they fought for a social status comparable to that of whites. Many former slaves saw their hairstyle as part of this struggle. Women in particular found themselves under the pressure to keep their hair long and straight like white women. However, during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s , African Americans like Malcolm X used hairstyles like the Afro look and dreadlocks to express their individuality and freedom and to return to their African roots. Social pressures forced these Americans (especially women) to wear long straight hair like whites. Even today, scholars emphasize that the pressure on blacks to wear long straight hair continues. Amelian Jones shows that children's dolls like Barbie increase this pressure, which you can see in the example of a new black Barbie with long hair. Blacks, she believes, should be able to style their hair without external pressure and "nuisance".


Islamic cultures make a clear distinction between the sexes. Women wear long hair while men are supposed to wear short hair. Early Muslim missionaries saw the short haircut “in the manner of the messenger of God [sc. Muhammad ] “an important part of their missionary work. Asking a man to shave his hair has often been tantamount to calling for his conversion. Therefore, in regions with Islamic influence, short hair was often seen as a sign of belonging to Islam. The Taliban see a Western influence in long hair, which is punished with imprisonment and a forced haircut. However, cutting hair in the state of consecration during a Hajj is prohibited.


The members of many Indian peoples wore long hair before Western influences penetrated their culture. (For example, Cherokee legends say of men that they wore "long hair almost to the ground.") Both men and women in these cultures have often fought to keep their traditions alive. Due to western influences, many have cut their hair. Early American settlers were long-haired, in some cases adopted aboriginal customs, and were considered immoral. They were often recognized by their long hair. Since the cultural civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, pressures on Indians to wear short hair have decreased. Many states have prison regulations that allow Indians to wear long hair while in custody, along with other cultural facilities. There was resistance to these changes, however, as long hair can serve as a drug stash and as a sign of gang membership.

Chinese male braid


Some Asian cultures generally see long hair as a sign of youth and femininity. They usually hide long hair in turban or pin it up in public as long hair is associated with private life and sexuality.

Ordinary Buddhists have long hair, while Buddhist monks have shaved heads.

As a symbol of religion and distance from worldliness, Sikhs let hair grow naturally without cutting it.

Main article: Chinese braid

Around the 17th century, Chinese men adopted a longer hairstyle, the so-called queue , actually a longer back braid . This fashion came to an end at the end of the 19th century with the immigration of the Chinese to America. The Americans judged them to be poor workers, as their long hair immediately reminded them of women. Both Islamic and Christian missionaries campaigned for a haircut for the Chinese in order to achieve their conversion, which only led to the hoped-for result in a small group. The time of the destruction of the four elders in 1964 quickly swept across traditional Chinese culture and led to clashes with the communist Red Guards . Everything western, including long hair, was banned. Also later, from October 1983 to February 1984, long hair was ridiculed as part of the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign .


Before outside influences such as Islam and Christianity intruded, long hair was valued in Southeast Asia and Indonesia well into the 17th century. The shorter haircut for men was enforced, also as a sign of bondage.


The short haircut of women in certain regions like Thailand is a cultural distinctiveness . It is associated with numerous mythological traditions; one depicts a king who found a long hair in his rice and in his anger commanded that all women should keep their hair short.

Traditional samurai hairstyle

In Japan , long hair was originally common among men among the nobility ( samurai ), ronin, or sumo fighters . Usually the hair was put up in a ponytail or worn as an artfully braided plait, sometimes with the hair clipped. With the opening of Japan to the west in the middle of the 19th century, this tradition came to an end. The government was rapidly modernizing society and long hair in men was considered a relic.

See also

Individual evidence

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  2. ^ A b E. R. Leach: Magical Hair. In: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. (July 1958) 88.2, pp. 147-164
  3. Further references to sexuality can be seen in the historical custom that adulterous men cut off their partner's hair when she threatened to reveal the secret and thus harm her husband's honor.
  4. ^ Anthony Synnott: Shame and Glory: a Sociology of Hair. In: The British Journal of Sociology. 1987-09 38.3, pp. 381-413.
  5. Numbers 6.18-19  EU
  6. Judges 13–16  EU
  7. Leviticus 21.5  EU , Judges 16.19  EU , 2 Samuel 10.4–5  EU , Isaiah 3.24  EU , Isaiah 22.12  EU
  8. M. Eleanor Irwin: Hyacinthine hair. In: Odyssey. 6.231. Phoenix. (Oct 1990) 44.3, pp. 205-218.
  9. ^ A b Frank W. Nicolson: Greek and Roman Barbers. In: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology. (1891 2) pp. 41-56.
  10. Elizabeth Bartman: Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment. In: American Journal of Archeology. (Jan. 2001) 105.1, pp. 1-25.
  11. ^ Joseph B. Felt: Customs of New England. Burt Franklin, 1967, ISBN 0-8337-1105-9 , p. 187.
  12. ^ Robert Bartlett: Symbolic Meanings of Hair in the Middle Ages. In: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. (1994) Vol. 4, pp. 43-60.
  13. Geo Epoche , edition 25, Kaiser - Ritter - Hanse: Deutschland im Mittelalter, 2007, page 53
  14. Margaret Maynard: Dress and Globalization. Manchester University Press, Manchester 2004, ISBN 0-7190-6389-2 , p. 104.
  15. No Lessons For Boys With Long Hair. In: The Times . April 19, 1965, p. 5. The headmaster defended himself against attacks by the parents with the words that this was an internal school matter ("This is an internal matter.")
  16. Hemchand Gossai, Nathaniel Samuel Murrell: religion, culture, and tradition in the Caribbean. St. Martin's Press, New York 2000, ISBN 0-312-23242-X , pp. 181-190.
  17. Chuck Klosterman: Fargo Rock City, Rockbuch-Verlag, 2007, p. 61
  18. Section in the article on John Lennon
  19. Mushroom Head Study I , II (online)
  20. See Ulrich Mählert, Gerd-Rüdiger Stephan: Blue shirts, red flags. The history of the Free German Youth. Opladen 1996, pp. 142f.
  21. ^ Walter Enkelmann: Die Haarschneideaktion 1969. In: Blätter zur Landeskunde. 10/2000.
  22. Michael Rauhut in: Berliner Zeitung. January 2, 2003.
  23. Ayana Byrd, Lori Tharps: Hair Story. St. Martin's Griffin, New York 2002, ISBN 0-312-28322-9 , pp. 2-5.
  24. Metin Heper, Ismet Inonu: the Making of a Turkish Statesman. Brill Academic Publishers, Boston 1998, ISBN 90-04-09919-0 , p. 153.
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  28. Suad Joseph, Afsaneh Najmabadi: Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, Body, Sexuality and Health. Volume 3, Brill Academic Publishers, Boston 2005, ISBN 90-04-12819-0 , p. 35.
  29. ^ Anthony Reid: Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450–1680. Yale University Press, New Haven 1988, ISBN 0-300-04750-9 , pp. 80-82.
  30. Ahmed Rashid: Taliban. IB Tauris, New York 2002, ISBN 1-86064-830-4 , p. 219.
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  34. Dominick Cavallo: A Fiction of the past. St. Martin's Press, New York 1999, ISBN 0-312-23501-1 , p. 90.
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