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Hair language: playing with hair signals
If anyone thinks “well its just hair, it’s not really important!” think back to an instance when either yourself, your wife, your sister, someone you know, has come back from the hairdresser after a having a bad haircut, or colour that went wrong. It’s a real confidence destroyer - all you hear about for weeks.
As a hairstylist I have travelled around the world, and worked with people from all different cultures, with all kinds of hair types. But everywhere I’ve been, people react the same way. I become not only a stylist, but an advisor - a psychologist even. I have to make judgements about what style will suit them, based not only on their face shape, colouring and hair type, but also their personality, lifestyle and aspirations. This, in order to create something, they will be truly happy with. And when I get it right, you see an immediate change in that person, an instant confidence boost, and that for me is the best part of the job.
But why is it that hair is so important, so special?
Hair & Identity
Hair speaks. It tells those around us who we are: age; social status; cultural background; our lifestyle; our personality.
There are other things about our appearance people use to make their first impressions, but hair is the single most visible element of our body – our most dominant feature and the first detail we notice about someone from far away.
We can use our clothing to express who we are, but hair is an integral part of us; it belongs to us much more than any article of clothing. And therefore, is one of the most important things that makes up and determines our identity.
Hair is a part of our essential body structure, and the biologically determined structure of our hair: its natural colour and texture; tells people the story of our genetic heritage.
But there is no other part of our body that is as easily manipulated as our hair: it’s a flexible, shapeable and renewable material that we can treat as a changeable fashion accessory. So, we can change our naturally given colour and texture, and it is how we choose to change it - its length, shape, colour, texture, and style – that tells people much more about us. The hair statement we choose to make can be a powerful form of self-expression and plays a key role in self-definition.
In every culture – even the most primitive tribes – hair is modified, styled, cut, coloured, cared for, and decorated as an expression of identity.
Every society has its own rules and hair vocabulary: in the Rastafarian religion dreadlocks symbolize the Rasta’s refusal to depart from the ancient, natural way, and the artificiality of imposed modern living.
In some Berber societies only married women can put their hair in a particular kind of braid, signifying marriage. In our own culture certain styles such as ponytails are traditionally reserved for young girls and considered inappropriate for older women.
To remove individuality – for example in the army or some religious cults - it is often the case that the head is shaved as a way of helping to erase identity.
Whatever you decide to do with your hair, you’ll be making a statement about yourself. By wearing it long or short, cut according to a certain fashion, clean or dirty, covered, tied up, loose, dyed to a natural or unnatural colour, we communicate who we are.
Hair & Personality
German psychologist Prof. Reinhold Bergler conducted a major study on Hair Language. In his findings he recognized four main “communication” types of women in modern society, four certain personality types who wear and interact with their hair in a specific way.
- The Reserved Type: introvert; natural; cautious; not attention seeking; not fashion conscious; wears hair back; simple style.
- The Feminine Type: wants to be unforgettable; demanding; insecure; elegant; her hair accentuates her femininity; wants attention and recognition.
- The Empathic Type: reliable; sporty; well groomed; sometimes fashion conscious; rarely touches her hair; adapts to the situation; wants others to feel comfortable around her.
- The Individual Type: expressive; secure; ambitious; good communicator; very fashion conscious; adventurous with styles; wants to stand out as distinctive.
In my experience, while these specific types may be true in general, these days women have many roles, and as a reflection, they try out many different hairstyles throughout their lifetime.
Its often the case that during times of change – such as love affairs and their break-ups, jobs lost and found, changes in lifestyle or milestone birthdays that - people decide to change their hair with the intention (consciously or unconsciously) of changing the way others see them, perhaps wanting to be someone different than they were.
On the other end of the scale, sometimes hair can change in a way we would prefer it didn’t. For many men, one of the greatest fears is losing their hair, because something which was part of their identity for 40 or 50 years is drastically changed against their will.
A Mobile Identity
The way we adapt our hair statement from day to day - to meet the needs of different situations, and influencing the way others perceive us on more subtle level - is also an important aspect of hair language.
You can use your hair as an expression of your mood, but you can also use it as a way of influencing your mood. A sleek elegant style will probably make you feel sleeker and more elegant, and likewise, wear your hair in a crazy, funky style and you’ll most likely feel a bit crazier too. The way other people perceive you and react to you can be altered, which in turn makes you feel differently about yourself.
Hair & Emotions
In a much more dynamic way we also use our hair directly to communicate and to amplify our body language.
How we engage with our hair, and the hair of others, sends messages of our emotions: touching it, shaking it, using it to hide, or to draw attention, tying it back or letting it down.
See if you recognize these examples:
Love & tenderness: a comforting caress of the hair to show affection.
Shyness: using hair as a barrier to hide behind.
Attraction: displaying & stroking the hair as a metaphor for sexual contact.
Despair: “tearing your hair out”.
Nervousness: repeatedly touching the hair in short movements.
Only five percent of all the pictures that you see in glossy magazines show people touching their hair, because it has such strong erotic associations.
The Importance of Healthy Hair
So, hair language occurs on four levels:
- The message given by the biological nature of our hair;
- The choice we have made about its colour & shape;
- The way we decide to wear it from one day to the next;
- The movements and gestures that involve our hair from moment to moment.
On all these levels there are many reasons why healthy hair is so important.
Hair gives us an important clue as to the physical and psychological state of a person. Healthy hair says well being, it signals the individuals positive relationship with self and the world. Research has shown that people with healthy hair communicate better, that they are more successful in life.
Healthy, shiny hair is an indicator of our general good health,
which subconsciously equals fertility in the human mind, therefore increasing sexual attraction. It’s been proven that people with healthy hair seem to attract people from the opposite sex much easier.
When our hair is healthy, and shiny, the way we can use it to express our emotions becomes more dynamic, and therefore our ability to communicate is more effective.
Since early times women especially, have known that their hair can be used as a fashion statement, to attract attention and of course to improve their looks. The imperfections of a face can be minimised by beautiful hair, and the reverse is also true: dull, unhealthy-looking, unsuitable hair will diminish a beautiful face.
When we know our hair looks good, it increases inner confidence, helping us to “act” more confidently. As a result of healthy hair, we feel healthier, more alert, more vibrant. Apart from the impression our hair gives to others, if we feel good about our hair, then we feel good about ourselves. Nice to look at our Rescue Collection to maximize healthy hair.
Andy Uffels – Founder The Insiders