Friday, 1 July 2011

Long hair on older women.

Hair length is an interesting thing, for women anyway because hair is more than just a matter of appearance . It says huge amounts about us, our class, aspirations, character and culture. It is so fundamental to our individuality that when people want to coerce women or force them to adhere to some extraneous norm the hair is the first thing attacked whether it is in the form or a headscarf, wimpole or in the shaved heads of prisoners. When French women were punished at the end of the Second World War for the crime of fraternisation their hair was hacked off.  Hair length matters.

I don’t know about you ladies out there but my life is a round of growing my hair then getting peeved with the maintenance and chopping it off. I suspect women have a default hairstyle and length. My default hairdo is a fringed bob a la Anna Wintour with the length stopping just about at the chin. Other than this I think I have had every colour and variation from peroxide blonde to jet black and waist length to ultrashort. In fact one of the best haircuts I ever had was basically a short back and sides with a floppy fringe...I always slip back to the bob though.

Grace and Anna both look great, hair wisse anyway, not too keen on the fur..

I didn’t really consider the length issue until I heard someone mention recently that long hair was only good on young people. At the moment the obsession is Kate Middleton’s high maintenance shiny mane. I have heard this a couple of times before but it confuses me. Surely the classic image of an elderly woman is of a bun, this requires long hair. Perhaps rather than being long hair it is a certain kind of long hair, the shiny glossy swishy mane. Hmmm, not sure about this, whilst hair changes as it gets older it may not lose this quality (see most of Asia) and some hair actually improves with age, thickening up.  I suspect if there is a prejudice that older women should chop their locks (the classy fringeless blonde short bob is the permed helmet of the present) because they should be more controlled, less sexy and more devoted to other things as they no longer need to attract men. When is that myth that women only dress for men going away?!


I’m a bit pissed off about this. Whilst older people are lectured about not becoming obese and society obsesses about youthfulness it doesn’t seem to like it if older women pull it off or ignore the new rules of ageing. So what if a woman looks a certain age from the back and you have to review your impression when she turns around? it is your preconception not hers. In fact I think these attitudes are old fashioned sexist claptrap and we shouldn't fall for it. Behind the idea of neat tidy asexual (and that is what mad long hair implies: sexy) helmety hair for older women is the idea that once they are post -menopausal they are past it, past attractiveness, past sensuality and that this is somehow inappropriate. It is not far from the attitudes that saw old women branded witches in the not too distant past. This is not a mutton dressed as lamb issue, it is about older women being curtailed and by all of us judged as nothing more than breeders, and in any case who says breeders don't have the right to have fun? Personally I'd rather be witchy and creep men out rather than simply being the 'good' woman. Funnily enough the disparaging comments about long hair on older women on-line are nearly all from women, who frankly need a big kick up their silly arses.

Another old lady with long hair...
Long hair does not have to be swishy and shiny. It can be grey and matt, it can be fuzzy curls. I quite like the Grace Coddingtons of this world, I think she looks magisterial, and yes just a touch witchy.  I think if older women want great long piles of mad hair it should be encouraged. I also rather like old women with short sharp sassy hair. One grandmother of my acquaintance has a short spiky hair cut inspired by Keifer Sutherland in the Lost Boys and it looks great. I loved the way Meryl Streeps short hair in the Devil wears Prada looked.  In age perhaps reaching over the sink and dealing with lots of hair becomes untenable but why not chop it off? I wish the blue rinse would come back into fashion too, women should have a laugh and pick hair they like and which makes them feel good whatever their age. 

Helen looks great but is she responsible for the default tasteful blonde elderly haircut? It's booorrinng!
My own hair is currently on the cusp of moving from shoulder length to long and is generally a mess! There is fun to be had with it however and the gripes of those who find long hair inappropriate would encourage me, if I were older to grow it even longer.  It certainly isn’t shiny, does not swish and has witchy tendencies. No doubt I will cut it off but out of boredom, not because as I approach middle age it is regarded as the property of youth. I think we can at least do what we want with our bloody hair as long as we manage to retain the stuff!

There was a good article about this in the New York Times last year but what do you think? Please comment, they are read by me and lots of others.


Unknown said...

Interesting post!

My mum has recently been agonising whether or not to chop off her own locks as she is now a granny and she doesn't want to look "silly" - her words, not mine. I've been desperately trying to persuade her not to as her hair is beautiful - waist length, perfectly waved, with a fondness for curling up into little ringlets at the ends. The fact that it is now streaked through with white just makes it look more interesting.

On me, long hair drags down my face and loses any body immediately. Perhaps ageing and coarsening would help it to thicken as you say.

mrs_sock said...

I'd be interested to see what people think. I have long hair (at 31) this is partly to do with the weight in the length stopping my hair from frizzing. My mum has shoulder length hair (52) and has to style it to death to stop the frizz. I feel that is my future! My nan also has shoulder length layered hair (76). She has hers permed (& highlighted) as although curly naturally she too has the frizz! I'm hoping to rock a blue rinse when I'm old as I can't see me as anything other than an eccentric old bat.

Mrs. Exeter said...

Another thought-provoking post! My own hair is fine & fragile and wont really grow, but I love long strong hair at any age, and your pics here are just beautiful. I like your thought that if someone has to revise their idea formed from a rear view it is their problem - quite so!

LollyWillowes said...

Well done you, I absolutely agree with every word.
Agonising over my own, since being sick for a long time it looks like sh*t, it's at my scapula area and used to be shiny and needed fifty six hair pins and a small bat to hold it up. A lot has fallen out, not patchy, just thinning and I get no help or interest from the quack. It really distresses me, I have a thing about my hair being long but recognise that it needs some sort of tidy up but it's a mental block. Nor do I trust hairdressers after some really bad experiences! Oh, to be able to get to Nina's hair parlour or somewhere like it. My local hairdressers are of the bleached to death, dead badger look on their own heads, complete with manky looking eye make up and chipped nail polish, I have no intentions of going near them.
I love, as does a friend of mine, the long grey, witchy hair thing. We both intended to have this as we aged, from when we were really quite young. Old ladies with marvellous buns and plaits around the head, bring it on.
To hell with the fashion pack and the sheep and age haters.
Sorry to bang on, I feel quite strongly about this and the nonsense spouted about it.

Anonymous said...

Wheeee!! Thanks so much for the affirmations. I'm just two months shy of 62, with mostly white waist-length hair. I'm loving the versatility of long hair. I can do so much more with long hair than with short hair. (I had a pixie for 30 years.) I encourage you to visit for lots of inspiration.

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Anonymous said...

Take every photo of a longer haired older woman and put short hair on them.. and they still look older. It does not change anything to make them look younger at all. Stay long..


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