There are too many stigma attached to hair colour: blonde-haired women are dumb, brunettes are mature and redheads are fierce. All of these, however, are genetically determined traits. It can only speak for the physical, but it cannot determine anything else.
Perming can make someone look like a fictional character that walked from Hobbiton to Hamilton. While permanent hair straightening can make you look formal, there is more to understand about what the hair can show.
Natural hair colour may determine heritage and race, but hairstyle offers more challenge to judgment. It is within the control of a person and is therefore meaningful.
Hairstyle as Symbolic
The hair is symbolic to people, a valuable part of the body, literally on top. For younger people, it indicates who is a boy or girl. Boys have short hair and girls have long hair. It forms identity.
Some groups and religion even require women to cover their hair. It shows how significant the hair is for different cultures.
Women in history cut their hair short to disguise themselves as men. Some of them wanted to join their husbands or sons in the war, cutting their hair to look masculine. To offend their femininity, the punishment for French women who had sexual relationships with German soldiers was to shave their heads. And until now, the hair remains a symbol of femininity.
Hair also signifies liberation. Female communists soldiers in China had the same rights as men during the 1950s. They then cut their hair short, a breakaway from the traditional long hairstyle. The hairstyle got the label ‘Liberation Hairdo’. Both men and women now use their hair to express themselves.
Hairstyle and Lifestyle
Hairstyle serves practical purposes, too. You can trace the reason behind the “Military Cut” for men. In past wars wherein combat is closer without guns, long hair means easy death. They grab enemies’ hair and slit their throat. People in sports also have certain hairstyles that let them move easier.
Some people conform to a certain hairstyle to show their lifestyle. You can have an image of a rockstar and an office worker in your mind by associating hairstyle to each.
It is perhaps the most convenient, but powerful way to shape and reflect individual and group identity. It is a personal feature, but the public judges and acknowledges it.