Does Long Hair Still Mean Empowerment? – The History Of The “Long Hair Perception”

Long hairRemember the very first time when your mom felt that you had ‘come of age’, and she finally used the hot comb to straighten your natural locks?

This was like exploring brand new territory or completing your initiation into womanhood. That was much different from the days when we draped towels over our head, pretending it was free swinging hair.

With that fresh press, you simply couldn’t pass a shiny surface without checking yourself out; which warranted such comments from mom like, “don’t forget how to act now”, or “stop swinging your head or I’ll put the braids back in!”

I was nine when my mom did my first press and curl. When she showed me the final results – long black tresses that came to the middle of my back – I was in awe. In my mind I was thinking, “now why can’t I have hair like this all the time?”.

Needless to say, those awesome results floated away like dust in the wind. Halfway through the day my hair was back to defying gravity again. It started to frizz during second period, and by third period (I had gym) all bets were off.

It didn’t help my self esteem when a few of my teachers gave me the stank eye and some friends asked, “What happened to your hair?” And no, I didn’t even have hair ties at the time.

I don’t even think I was skilled enough back then to secure my hair in those little bong-bongs anyway. Seriously, I wish mom had given me some bobby pins and hair ties. I recall going into the bathroom and trying to “flatten my hair.”


Looking back, I can remember feeling embarrassed of my hair in its natural state; due to the fact that I was always told my hair was ‘bad’ or ‘nappy,’ or ‘You’re not going anywhere with me with your head looking like ‘that!’ I’m sure we’ve all been there.

What about more recent events in life when maybe your hairstylist suggested you trim ¼ of an inch off your completely dead ends; then you totally freak because it looks as though they took off 5 inches.

It could be because your perspective of measurement is distinctively different when dealing with hair length, or maybe your stylist is just plain scissor happy. Either way, there is definitely a long-lived obsession with long hair. But where did it come from?

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About Veronica


Owner of Black Dymond Naturals, embracing my natural coils. My natural hair journey started in December 2011 when I decided against perming my hair. In April 2012 I did the big chop and Black Dymond Naturals was born. I utilize my home made recipes to strengthen and nourish my natural hair.

About Veronica


Owner of Black Dymond Naturals, embracing my natural coils. My natural hair journey started in December 2011 when I decided against perming my hair. In April 2012 I did the big chop and Black Dymond Naturals was born. I utilize my home made recipes to strengthen and nourish my natural hair.

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Pam McLauren

No

Lauren Anderson

I think the history behind long hair is interesting but often I find myself thinking of cutting my hair when I wear it down

Trudy Proctor

Empowerment has nothing to do with your hair, skin color nor physical appearance..

Shana Smith

Well said.

Shana Smith

As black women we give hair way too much power. All the emphasis and energy that we put on hair. It’s just hair. What happened to I am not my hair?

Vivian N. Larsen

ALL females feel that way and it’s because beautiful hair is empowering because one’s hair is 80% one’s looks!

Have you seen how FEW looks good without hair.. VS how MANY looks amazing with beautiful long hair..

Shana Smith

Hair is 80% looks? Wow. So when cancer patients lose their hair they are basically screwed in the “looks” department by your standards. That’s sad. I’m happy your opinion is not a fact.

Tiffany Candiee'Tulips Roberts

Right !! #iamnotmyhair

La Toya Taylor

So true!Black women with short hair want long thick healthier hair.Sometimes they’re self-conscious about their short hair and get jealous when they see other women with that coarse pretty hair.What gets me is that some people will try to make you feel inferior or under the impression that if your hair is short you don’t look good and you have to do things to make it grow longer or else.Well hair is hair and you work with what you got geesh.

Bria Brown

black woman do feel more empowering by having long hair because they feel more confident I think. But ultimately hair should’nt make you feel more confident or empowered.

Vivian N. Larsen

ALL females feel that way and it’s because beautiful hair is empowering because one’s hair is 80% one’s looks!

Bria Brown

im pretty sure its not 80 percent.

Kristina Coleman

I like “my” long hair because that’s what I like on me. It has nothing to do with feeling empowered. Hair is hair, short or long. It’s strictly up to each individual.

Sagittarius Felisha

I concur. Love long hair..

Sagittarius Felisha

For those like me who grow long hair effortlessly without any expensive products, vitamins ect, it really isn’t a big deal I cut mine every year. Maybe it’s empowerment for those who rely on such expensive products to grow a few inches when they are not use to having length…. Genes determine hair length, long hair is definately in my family genes……

iammastar21
iammastar21

No terminal length how you take care of it hair routine and diet determines how long it grows . Almost all the woman in my family has long hair . I’m growing mines out because I cut it last year so it’s medium length . I know friends who have short hair and a family with long hair and I also know friends with long hair and family with short hair . So genes has nothing to do with hair length it only determines your texture and the thickness of your strands .

Chandra Houston

It’s hair and holds no power short or long

Tiela Lewis

This is a real question? I am more confident when my hair IS: done nicely, cut is tight. Be in long or short. I’ve had both ways. Short is easier for me. I do my own too. Confidence comes from within, your soul, spirit.

Margaret Graham

Very interesting article. I had to reflect on my own journey. When my relaxed hair was long the man I was with, who met me with long hair, said he usually only dates women with short hair. With weave, men always turned their heads. Now that I am transitioning and loving it. I am finding I’m more confident. My fiance who is white absolutely loves it, my coworkers like it. At my age i finally feel like I coming into my own…

Tiger Lilly

I thought long hair meant seductive, sensual and sexy back in the day or just feminine.

Faye Gavin

Empowerment comes from within. Color, hair nor size has anything to do with it. Self confidence is everything.

Movetta Newell

Different people use different things for empowerment, however I really can’t see the empowerment u get from ur LONG hair if its FAKE

Shanta Mitchell

Wait a minute, there actually exists people who view long hair as a sorce of “empowerment”?

LOL

Erra Johnson

This was my question.

Nichelle Eggleston

Never knew it meant anything but a preference to women!

I like both shirt and long whatever frames your face!

Andrea Tre

Hair doesn’t mean empowerment…..it’s attitude and how you see yourself.

Shavonne R. Boyd

Its called biology…longer hair is often associated with health and fertility, just like larger hips.. We are not so removed from nature as we would like to believe ..

Brittney Latoy Cruz

I LOVE long hair but I always get tons of compliments when ever I wear my hair short. I feel beautiful with long hair just like i feel sexy in heels. I’m not obsessed with it to the point I’m going crazy. There is nothing wrong with having a particular thing that makes you feel beautiful. But I’ve never seen white people get in groups and tell a white girl she’s not white enough bc her hair isn’t straight enough or bc it’s curly. I hate being told by my own people I’m not black bc i choose not to be natural its ridiculous and stupid. It’s freaking hair get over it! !!

Carmen Martinez

Buddhist monks shave their heads bald and they are very spiritual people. Full of knowledge and wisdom!

Gabrielle Pittman

I’ve had literally everything big fro, straight, Bob, pixie, now a twa. They’ve all satisfied my self esteem but do what makes you happy. Your hair is gorgeous and empowering and don’t let no one tell you different. These articles are clearly a lil delusional. Lol

Khanstantly LovingLife

Uh.. it’s not empowerment… but it is a change up. I never knew long hair meant something. :-/

Rosy Rose

Whatever floats your boat. I think a tight short cut in the work place hollers power.

MsCDwel
MsCDwel

I am natural now and decided to go short and I just adore it. Men being attracted to me in general has not changed, but what I have noticed is other races being attracted more and men with a more gentlemanly character.

MsCDwel
MsCDwel

I am natural now and decided to go short and I just adore it. Men being attracted to me in general has not changed, but what I have noticed is other races being attracted more and men with a more gentlemanly character.

Relaxed Thairapy

I feel confident and empowered with long or short hair.

Jay | Relaxed Thairapy

I feel confident and empowered with long or short hair.

Anonymous

Damm near everyone is wearing a long Wig or weave it’s toooooooo Dammmmmm hot for that shhhhhhhhhhhj

Anonymous

Wow I must be slow I didn’t know long hair meant that..

Anonymous

I didn’t know there was any symbolic meaning to long hair…just a person’s preference. Same thing with style, color, texture, etc. But I guess *shrugs* if y’all wanna make something outta nothing.