Would you believe one of the oldest and most practiced forms of body art is the altering of body hair? Tell me this, do you know of any animals that cut or color their hair because they want it to look different? A bit of hair or feather-plucking aside, humans are the only creature on the planet that deliberately change the appearance or presence of body and head hair. Anything from full-growth to complete depilitation and every combination in between is possible.
In the 1950s, it was estimated that about seven percent of women in the USA cosmetically colored their hair. Present industry estimates put the number of women in the USA who currently color their hair somewhere between 55 and 75 percent. The hush-hush attitude of the 50s, where hair coloring was a sworn-to-the-death secret between client and stylist, has been replaced with high-end celebrity stylists and a booming home product market. Teenagers worldwide have indulged in hair styling that reflects rebellion against the present status quo to such an extent that there is actually very little hair wise that shocks or offends anymore.
There is an isolated tribe in the Amazon jungle that paints their hair with colored mud and wears whisker-like piercings in their faces. They say their people were told to do this thousands of years ago by their gods, to make themselves different from the animals. Similar beliefs can be found in other cultures throughout the world. Looking again to the animal kingdom, it is easy to see another reason to dress and style the hair: courting plumage. Attracting the attentions of the opposite gender of one’s species has always remained a powerfully motivating factor.
Cultural styles and so-called “norms” can vary widely between societies as well as between smaller groups within the whole. Looking at US culture over the last several decades years, you can see many variations in popular hair culture. In the 1960s, there was a “hair revolution” with the wearing of long and somewhat ungroomed hair starting as a political statement and then becoming a popular fashion trend. Into the 1970s, this trend continued and incorporated influences from various ethnic hairstyles. The 1980s saw a surge in ultra short “New Wave” hairstyles, influenced by the world of music. The 1990s produced the Internet, and now anyone can and often does have a media image. Politicians and sports celebrities get makeovers from high-end stylists and hairdressers regularly.
Body hair also follows trends. Men’s facial hair has gone through every conceivable style trend over the centuries, from naturally grown out, to complex mustache and beard styling to shaved smooth. Modern feminists often complain that women are expected to be “hairless as a Barbie doll.” With the rise of physical culture and the ever present media image, it has become popular for both men and women to remove nearly all their body hair below the neck. Sometimes growing or retaining hair is believed to be more desirable, as in certain cultures or religions. In nearly all cultures that wore facial hair, a beard was one of the main distinguishing features separating the men from the boys.
Do you follow hair trends or do your own thing when it comes to your tresses? Do you enjoy hair styles from other countries or time periods? The pictures with this article show some of the different hair styles that I had from 1992-2002. How much does your own hair change over the course of a decade?