As I flipped through the latest images of Paris Fashion Week’s sartorial statements, I was struck by the shorn pink locks that Jared Leto debuted at Vogue’s 95th anniversary party. With a face like that his hairstyle can really do no harm. But when I got to the photo of him canoodling with Kanye, I suddenly mourned the soft beachy waves he had been so casually rocking for the last three years. Men with long hair have always had kind of exotic sex appeal that men with prim and proper cropped cuts just don’t. Why do you think all the Harlequin romance covers are adorned with Fabio lookalikes?
To find out, we turn to the biblical story of Samson, the judge over Israel, and his love Delilah. Although Samson trusted and adored Delilah she was secretly a spy for the Philistines sent to uncover his great strength and attempt to take him down. He confided in her that his Nazirite vow at birth (which consecrated him to God) would be broken if his hair was ever cut. As he peacefully slept on her lap, she summoned her co-conspirators and shaved the seven holy braids from his head, rendering him powerless. A man is only as strong as his last great look.
Throughout history and all around the world, men’s hair has gone through significant changes, with length often representing their status. Roman men, for example, originally wore both their hair and beards long until around 1 CE when short hair and close-shaved faces became a sign of strength and nobility. It is even rumoured that Caesar’s famous laurel crown was nothing but a gimmick to hide his thinning hair, the original baseball cap in dating site profile pics.
In India from 1700-1100BCE citizens would shave their heads leaving one long strand at the back or side for god to pull people into heaven. Later, men wore their hair long and often braid it, very much like our darling Jared circa 2014. Until 1922, when the Emperor chopped off his own ponytail in rebellion, it was mandatory for Chinese men to shave the front of their heads and tie their long hair back in silk laden braids. Japanese men also traditionally wore their front hair shaved but tied the long part up into a man-bun, now back in trend thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio.
Like Samson, Native American tribes have always believed that those with longer locks proved more powerful and wise. In the Middle Ages, Euro men introduced many trends in hair that are now commonly found on the male hipster of today: top knots, long hair with a middle part and of course, bushy beards. Back then, everyone with lower status than the king (so…EVERYONE) had to wear their hair shorter than his ‘do. The page-boy cut appeared in the 11th century, and never looked back; the rest is Beatles history.
These days long hair on men can signify a variety of things: the heart of an artist, rebellion against the status quo, rebellion against barbers, a desire to lead an unstructured life, sexual adventurousness, celibacy, or just because guys are lazy or broke. No matter what history has taught us, a man with long hair will probably piss your dad off, so he’ll always be popular with the ladies.