Greek and Roman men may have kept their hair and beards long, but their female counterparts wore their locks even longer. Sociologist Anthony Synnott has written that hair carries great social significance throughout history. In the past, long hair that was style meant someone had to help you to do it, which immediately communicated an elevated social status and conformity to social norms.
Here are some other moments when a haircut singularly changed society.
The United States Civil War
In 1866, Frank Moore published a book entitled the “Women of the War” with an entire chapter on the heroines of the North. The United States Civil War was supposed to be a man’s fight. The Union and Confederate armies did not welcome women into the field but, disguised as men, a rough estimate of 250 women marched on anyway. To do so, they assumed male identities and cut their hair short like their husbands and sons.
Battle of France
The liberation of France in 1944 was a joyous occasion but this great moment in French history also had a dark side. Punishment and shaming awaited the women accused of collaborating with the Germans perhaps through sexual relations. The crowd cheered as the long locks of women carrying their half-German infants were publicly shaved. Hair was the ultimate symbol of femininity back then, so this would have been a blow to the women.
Liberation of Chinese Women
Hair is associated with many traits society considers feminine. These qualities include vanity, spirituality and empowerment. Conservative and patriarchal China in the 1950s saw a radical movement that started with women donning their hair short as a way to reclaim their identity. For women, cutting the long locks symbolized taking control of their own lives.
A tool as simple as hair thinning scissors in New Zealand can do wonders for the face – make it appear smaller, thinner, more rounded, younger and so on. But more importantly, it can speak volumes about the spirit of the times.