Friday, June 27, 2008

Long Hair

Dr. Awesome,

Can real men have long hair?

Charles, Roanoke, VA


This is one of those questions that has different manswers in different cultures and in different times. And it brings to mind even more fundamental questions. Is there such a thing as a Real Man, which transcends time and context as an ontological category? If so, is it something we can know with any kind of epistemic certainty? And most importantly, are you impressed with all the big words I'm using? I have seven PhDs, so sometimes I like to show off.

Let's save the musings about metaphysics for another time. You asked if real men can have long hair, and before I can manswer you, we need to dust off our history books.

Of course we look throughout history and see tons of real men who had long hair. In the Bible, Samson was laying the smite down left and right on tons of Philistines because of his flowing locks. Jesus had a mane. All those dudes in the huge battle scenes in the movie Braveheart? Long hair. Same with all the US Founding Fathers, and pretty much every guy up until a couple of centuries ago. Unless you had taken some sort of religious vow, or you were keeping your hair short to give your opponent less to grab on to during battle, almost everybody had long hair.

What changed a few hundred years ago? A quick wikipedia search reveals that modern scissors were invented in 1761, which is about the time dudes started wearing their hair shorter. Before that the only way to get a haircut was to hold your long hair out and have another man hack at it with a sword or axe, sort of like William Tell with a blade. Haircuts were much more dangerous then, and therefore less popular. But once modern scissors came on the scene, men could start going to barber shops, where they could get haircuts while talking about sports and what was wrong with the country. A new age was born, enabling men to have shorter hair while griping about coaching changes they didn't approve of. It's hard to argue that society is not better off as a result of this.

So now we find ourselves in the modern age. It seems throughout history that hair has gotten progressively shorter as technology has advanced, and now we find ourselves in the 21st Century where most men wear their hair short. This is mostly out of comfort and convenience...shorter hair is cooler and easier to maintain, and real men are all about "lowest maintenance" and "least uncomfortable" when it comes to physical appearance. Think about it, when Jesus or William Wallace or John Hancock were strolling around, there wasn't even any deodorant, much less Vidal Sassoon. All they had were Old Spices which, at the time, weren't even old yet. In those days of yore you could roll out of your pine straw bed, toss on a loincloth, and go stalk a giraffe for lunch. Now, in a modern age where personal hygiene has evolved, ratty and frazzled with split ends is no longer preferred on a man. So when faced with either "salon silky smooth" versus "short hair that requires virtually zero maintenance," most men choose haircuts that are high and tight.

That said, there are a few reasons you could be a man and still have long hair. If you are a member of a motorcycle gang, a professional wrestler, an Army Ranger on assignment in a foreign land, someone who is going undercover for law enforcement purposes, or anyone else who could and would seek to cause me bodily harm, then feel free to rock your hair as long as you want. Also anyone in an 80s cover band needs long hair by default. And if your long hair is accompanied by a beard you've let go so long that your fork gets lost trying to find your mouth, then that's pretty grizzled and I salute you. These are about the only dudes with long hair that I look at and don't think "why?"

I mean, when a man keeps his hair long, he has to think about it as a woman thinks of hers. Is it fixed? Did I wash it? Which shampoo will leave my hair shiny, bouncy, and volumized, as well as invigorated with vitamins? When a man has long hair, he can't take the doors and top off his Jeep...the wind would blow his hair into a frazzled fro so big that it would be suitable for a thriving colony of rabbits. Bunnies are not manly, and having animals hop off your head is almost always unacceptable in social situations. Manly men do not think about their hair...they shampoo and rinse, MAYBE run a brush through it if really needs it, and then go about their business. Virtually zero maintenance, maximum comfort.

So there are huge disadvantages to having long hair. The only real advantage I can think of is that you don't have to get haircuts very often, but that's not a big deal. Going to the barber (NOT A STYLIST, A BARBER!!) is cool, or doing it yourself with a cheap pair of electric clippers from Walmart is even cooler. So the only disadvantage to short hair isn't really a big one. There are still many long-haired hold outs though, lots of guys who work in software, academics, what have you. I don't understand why they insist on keeping their hair this way...perhaps if any of you are out there with long hair curled around your ears like Princess Leia, you can share why you have resisted the modern era of Man and continue to rock your locks long and strong.

As for you, Charles, unless you are in one of those categories mentioned above (and if you are a professional wrestler, can you get me in touch with the Ultimate Warrior? That dude ruled), then don't be a volumizing salon man. Join the 21st Century, cut your hair.

Dr. Awesome


Gabe June 27, 2008 at 12:56 PM  

For real, the Ultimate Warrior did rule. Watch this video as proof,

Phoebe June 28, 2008 at 10:51 PM  

Dr. Awesome,

as a woman, I have struggled with whether or not to approve of men who have long hair. I have concluded that if a man is otherwise a hunk, he can get away with it. He must have a neck like a tree-trunk, and preferably a short beard. (think: the Lord of the Rings Numenorean warriors --Boromir and Aragorn in their best moments)

Any man who is shy of hunkhood can still be a manly and attractive speciman, but in today's world he can carry it off best with short hair. If he is young and boyish, he should definitely avoid long hair of any shaggyness! He is in danger of looking lissom and girlish, like an elf, or unkempt and hairy, like a wandering hobbit. One rule of thumb may be that if a young man is not yet capable of growing a beard, then he probably is not capable of carrying off long hair.

That's my womanly two cents.

Anonymous July 3, 2008 at 10:36 AM  

Dr. Awesome -

I currently have not shaved nor cut my hair in 6 years(including facial hair - I rock a pretty mean asymmetrical beard - think James Clark Maxwell, the later years). This is all because of making a pledge not to do so until the Cubs win the World Series (mind you - this was the year before the Bartman affair - and I had undying faith it would happen soon...luckily I only have a few more months to go).
Since you asked for reasons, I felt I would share mine.

Also, while not the ideal solution (especially for church), a backwards cap/ponytail solves most of the long-haired related issues you mentioned.

As this is my first post on here, let me also say that this site is fantastic.

-Brian Christy (Alison's younger brother)

Paul of the Great Plains July 10, 2008 at 1:01 AM  

Long hair is great. We all grow hair, uniquely, as nature intended, and it reaches a certain length and it stops. To selectively cut off any of it, in my opinion, always results in an "affected" appearance on any man. Who are we to think that we are superior to nature? You may argue that men shave off their hair because it's easier and more hassle free--convenience. I don't, however, see most of these men shaving off their eyebrows, chest hair, or arm hair. Instead, they target the hair on thier heads, upper lip, and lower face and neck. To me this seems arbitrary and says "fashion victim" all over it. What these men (most men) are really doing is trying to replicate what they see on the magazine cover--an affected version of a man that some layout editor has decided is "the way to look this season". After decades of having this drilled into their heads visually and in every other way, most men now feel obligated to selectively remove the "innappropriate" offending hairs that could, God forbid, deny them entry into the proper social circles or cost them a coveted date. Isn't it just a bit goofy (and whimpy) when a man cannot assert himself with all his own God-given natural endowments!
Myself, I let my hair grow, it stops when it reaches its natural length, and I'm proud I have it. If it gets in the way, nature takes care of that (I've had it cinged off many times blowing hot glass). I don't fault any man who shaves it off, but I would just like for them to stop and think about what they're doing and why. The fashion industry is a strong force, and has been now for centuries, and I find myself falling prey to it now and then. But guys, who makes your decisions, you or GQ?

Anonymous July 29, 2008 at 11:02 AM  

I have long hair and it doesn't require maintenance. I just shampoo and rinse like anyone with short hair. I know a few others with long hair who do the same. I don't know any guy with long hair who maintains it the way you described.

Anonymous July 29, 2008 at 11:15 AM  

I used to have a mane, and I did ride in the Jeep with the top down. To preserve my eyesight I put it up in a baseball cap.

I still cut it off and I don't miss it a bit.

Anonymous July 29, 2008 at 8:18 PM  

While I'm personally a "long hair", I don't even spend close to the amount of time and effort many men spend on their short hair. Ask yourself, how many men do you see with highlights, or better yet, the new feathered look that's so popular. I think the long hair is work line is a crock, we should really be looking to the "short hairs" for less manliness.

Dr Awesome July 29, 2008 at 9:09 PM  

I stand by my assertion that short hair requires less maintenance than long hair. When I get out of the shower, it takes me literally one second to dry my head. And I don't have to brush or comb it at all. You anonymous long hairs are telling me that drying your hair takes one second as well, and that you also never brush or comb it? I don't believe you. As for the short haired men spending too much time on their hair as well, having metros on my side of the debate doesn't validate your side. I'd say a guy with hair that shouldn't require maintenance who nevertheless puts a lot of time into it is a worse offense than anything we've discussed so far.

Anonymous July 31, 2008 at 11:01 PM  

my hair takes far longer than one second to dry, but why would I actually take the time to actually dry it? i just have damp hair for like 15 minutes in the morning. I don't know where u get the idea that men with long hair take care of it so much.

Anonymous August 14, 2008 at 4:16 PM  

As a fellow "Long Hair" I don't spend much time on my hair. It is in a braid that goes to the crack of my arse. But I also fit the motorcycle riding, butt kicking group you refered to. It may be rebellion, but at 6'2" 250 lbs not to many people give me flack for it. Women do like it when I let it down, they can't get enough running their fingers through it

Long Hair August 27, 2008 at 12:23 PM  

As a male with long hair, I spend much less on maintenance, spend perhaps 10 seconds drying it, and donate it to charity (think locks of love) when it reaches a certain length.

To assert that men are not manly because of the length of their hair is narrow minded. Since my hair grows extremely fast, I would have to get weekly haircuts to maintain the "manly" length. That is an hour a week (with travel) that I would be wasting compared with the minute a day it takes to pull and tie my hair back.

If one man is fine with long hair, we all are. If you have a problem with that, I'll kick your ass regardless of size.

Mark Mason October 30, 2008 at 3:45 PM  

Whoa there buddy! As entertaining as this blog was(very). I must disagree with it. I think that you're ascribing a narrow minded definition of what a man is. Women wear pants now, and men use hair products and moisturizers. Even men with short hair these days put stuff in their hair. If anything short hair now demands a surprising amount of work. To think that males must make his appearance and attire decision purely based upon function is ridiculous. Men have to maintain an attractive appearance just as much as a woman does. So I challenge you Dr. Awesome. To answer this question purely from a point of aesthetic view.

Anonymous June 8, 2009 at 5:08 PM  

I'm a man with long hair, and I do not have to worry about high maintenance as the article suggests. I take a shower every day like most guys, I use a handful of shampoo, work it into my hair, wash it out, and then simply towel dry it and go about my day. No conditioners, no combing or brushing. If anything, it's lower maintenance than short hair because I don't have to remember to go to the barber every week or two to keep it short.

Then again, I do have the beard to go along with it, so I guess I've got the grizzled look going... I too look down upon men who tirelessly style and worry about their hair.

jmeacham December 26, 2009 at 9:05 PM  

i have relatively long hair, almost long enough for a pony tail, and i dont plan on cutting it any time soon. i grew it out during my final season of college football, and have seen the attention i receive from ladies increase ten-fold. and yea maintenance is nothing. when i had a shaved head, yea it was shower and dry. but now i just shampoo rinse then push it out of my face and let it dry and it falls in an acceptable position.

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