Encyclopedia > Social role of hair

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Social role of hair

Hair has great social significance in human beings. It grows on most areas of the human body, except for the palms of the hands and the feet, but hair is most noticeable in most people in a small number of areas that are most commonly trimmed, plucked, or shaved. These include the face, head, eyebrows[?], eyelashes[?], legs and armpits[?], as well as the pubic region.

This highly visible body hair is a notable secondary sex characteristic.

Hair has had social and sexual significance in a number of societies, as a sign of manliness in men, and femininity in women when in "right" place, and as a sign of effeminacy in men and unfemininity in women when in the "wrong" place. Where the right and wrong places are differs from one culture to another.

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Table of contents

Hair as indicator

  • healthy hair indicates health and youth
  • hair colour and texture can be a sign of ancestry
  • facial hair as sign of puberty
  • white hair as a sign of age, and hair dye
  • male pattern baldness as sign of age, the toupe[?], Rogaine[?]
  • hairstyle as indicator of group membership:
    • Beatle bowl cuts
    • Punk mohawks

Growing and removing

  • Romans, Greeks and shaving
  • Hair as item of female beauty
  • Hair length for men: Cavaliers and Roundheads, long hair in the 1960s, skinheads, mullets and other hairstyles, the uncut hair of Sikhs
  • Hair length for women: trends and fashions
  • hairy arms and legs, regional variations in hirsutism
  • depilation, eyebrow plucking etc.

Concealing and revealing

  • keeping women's hair hidden: headscarves, the hijab in Islam, head-shaving and wigs in ultra-orthodox Judaism etc.
  • keeping men's hair hidden: the turban
  • displaying women's hair: hair fashions in Western society
  • displaying men's hair: facial hair in Islam, ringlets in orthodox Judaism
  • hair ornaments
  • keeping pubic hair hidden or shaven

Hair, power, and status

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