The Importance of Hair

Hair is more than what grows your head


Hair can be used as a form of self-expression without verbally saying anything, a bold statement against social norms or a tribute to one’s culture.


Whether it is dyed, cut or curled, one of the most noticeable physical traits about a person is their hair. 


“[My hair] is something I feel will help represent my identity as well as fashion because I feel like hair and fashion come hand in hand and it’s like the first thing that people kind of see,” senior Vi Vuong said. “It means a lot to me. Over the years, I’ve grown to really like it and realize that it’s something that I can control versus like all things in my life that I can’t seem to control. I guess in that aspect hair does mean a lot to me.”


For many children, their hairstyle was decided by a caregiver growing up. While there could have been choices between which style, there’s typically more freedom that comes with being a teenager, as they can be free of expectations, unlike those imposed on other age groups.


“I was just tired of having my confidence come from my hair,” junior Bea Andrews said. “Whenever it wasn’t looking good, I didn’t feel as good about myself, and so I finally just said, ‘you know what, screw it like I’m just gonna buzz it all,’ and so I did. I like being able to have the originality of it to be able to constantly change the design if I want to.”


Hair also provides an outlet for creativity. It could become an activity with friends or just a destresser from everyday life.


“I just decided one day to bleach my hair and just dye it whatever colors I want,” senior Yerin Kang said. “It’s a way of expressing myself or when I’m stressed out, I just decide to cut some off, or whatever. So it’s like just a way for me to let out stress or to express the way I’m feeling right now.”


Historically, hair has always been an indicator of a person and what they stand for, like their social status or personal responsibility. These styles get passed down from generation to generation, and as with all things passed down, while the meaning might change, the significance does not.


“Braids have always been in Black culture,” sophomore Deirein Smith said. “These knotless box braids — like how I express myself and how I represent my culture, I get to participate in this bigger thing. You see another girl with her hair and y’all get to have this subconscious like ‘I see you, you see me.’”


Hair has a different significance to different cultures. For example, in Hinduism, there’s Tonsure, a rite of passage where after the last rites are completed by an immediate family member, male members of the family will shave their heads in bereavement. Or in Sikhism, all Sikhs must maintain uncut or untrimmed hair because it’s part of God’s creation and should remain unaltered.


“I think I always feel bad about cutting my hair because it’s very rare that I see South Asian girls with short hair like mine that are like my age,” senior Serena Azam said. “I learned about [tonsure] and I only learned about that because of my hair. I think [cutting my hair] really is a ‘just me’ decision, and I kind of had to accept that I could still be culturally connected despite not having the hair I have traditionally seen.”


Constantly needing to style your hair is time-consuming, but it is the expectation of our current culture of being dressed up every day. 


“Recently, I went natural for the first time in over a year and for this hairstyle I put the crystals to symbolize how I realized that I’m beautiful no matter how my hair is done or if I have makeup on or not,” sophomore class vice president Anahya Jean Philippe said. “But I still need to have my hair done, so I put in crystals and all these fun accessories to symbolize that.”


Stuti Bhattacharya writes about the politics of hair and the experience of having varying lengths of hair as a woman. Although rigid gender norms expect for men to have short hair and women to have longer hair, “it’s not our job to be a version of ourselves that society finds acceptable,” according to IDiva.


“Growing up my hair was decided by my mom,” Vuong said. “She would cut my hair and decide whether it was too long or if it’s too unkempt. She would cut it as a result. I kind of hated having short hair because of that and I would grow it out. Then I found some sort of comfort in a woman having short hair, because it breaks away from that ‘oh woman should have like feminine like a certain long and feminine hairstyle to be a woman.’”


Self-expression should be genderless, it should focus on what makes this individual happy rather than a role they must play, according to the Hair Lounge.


“Before I buzzed it I had long, curly hair down my shoulders, so it was not only like a cultural thing, but it was also like I guess an expression of masculinity and femininity,” senior Jacob Herron said.


Hair can mean everything or nothing to an individual — it is a medium for expression, to bond over and a conversation starter.


“My hair, to put it point blank, is to anyone who has tried to tell me that I can’t do something or that I shouldn’t do something,” Smith said. “It lets me express that I can do what I want. It’s like I said, it’s like my type of art form. And a dude having pink and brown braids is crazy, but I love going against the standards and the norms.”