Friday, April 6, 2012

Women with long hair and the men who love them

Yesterday, in a comment on a beauty blog (the post was about the recent Daily Mail article/trollfest where the average-looking woman claims women hate her because she's beautiful), I read an offhand reference to a "study" (there was no link or citation) that found women will encourage other women to do whatever men don't find attractive, to reduce competition. For example, most men like long hair on women, so women are always encouraging other women to cut their hair shorter.

I did a little Googling around and couldn't find the "study," which doesn't mean it doesn't exist (Google doesn't work anymore). But I did find a couple of blog posts by men who prefer long hair. One said that in the past, he has had crushes on women that were squelched overnight when the woman got a short haircut. Poof, attraction gone. Another wrote: "Even when an attractive woman can pull it off, she almost invariably looks even better with long hair."

I find all this rather interesting. Some related thoughts/anecdotes:
  • My boyfriend from the ages of 19-25 had long, curly hair. At one point, after we'd been dating for probably two and a half years or so, he decided to cut his hair off, like to normal guy length. Similar to the guy above, I was surprised to find I was instantly less attracted to him. More than that, he seemed suddenly unfamiliar, like he'd been replaced by a lookalike as in Atmospheric Disturbances. Clearly, my attraction to him was tied up in his being "weird," in looking unconventional, the way some men's attraction to a woman is tied up in her looking maximally feminine. (He eventually grew his hair back out.)
  • About a month ago I saw a woman with a cute pixie haircut in a museum and suddenly had an urge to cut my hair that way. It seemed really easy. Though we have a good friend with a pixie haircut that he has admired in the past, John didn't like that idea so much. I mentioned it to a few women and without exception, they encouraged me to do it (!).
  • If the theory is true, I don't think it's necessarily a conscious thing. Women might seek ways to reduce sexual competition without even being aware they're doing it. And as Dave Gottlieb pointed out, "there may be equilibriums that are better for all women if they can worry less about competing in attractiveness." In other words, it might be a net positive for everyone if some women have short hair. (And there are some men who like short hair.)
  • I also feel like there's some kind of vicarious pleasure derived from seeing women do things we're not brave enough to do ourselves. This could be genuine while still getting mixed up with the competition thing. For example, I encourage you to eat the cupcake because I'm not going to let myself do it, but I want someone to eat the cupcake. And hey, if you happen to get fat while doing so, that's no skin off of my nose ...
  • Sometimes you don't know you're jealous of someone until something bad happens to them. The schadenfreude tells you who you want to fail.
Also, Twitter is the best.


14 comments:

  1. I used to have long blonde hair that I thought was my key attractive feature.
    It might have been but my boyfriend is still with me after years of me having all kinds of short hair styles (some that I now look back on with "what was I thinking" shock).
    The thing is, it might have been my most attractive feature and I sometimes miss it, but I feel much better now with short hair.
    And all my firends always tell me when I consider growing it that I look better with short hair, i.e. that short hair suits me. If anything, I find it immensely practical for the kind of life I lead (I still remember the hassle long hair brings).
    On the plus side, guys never think I'm easy prey to their tactics, I somehow think men believe long hair equals easy pickings. Although that might be my misconceptions due to hearing all my life the Croatian variant of "long hair, short brains" (that's direct translation from Croatian, and my googling showed there is the same phrase in English. :)

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    1. Long hair short brains! I haven't heard that one, but I like it -- it's sort of the opposite of "Girls with glasses don't get passes"...

      I really like having a short bob (about chin length), which to me always looks both feminine and smart, but it's actually much more work than having longer hair.

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    2. There is an exact phase in Russian! What is interesting, it uses words forms that aren't contemporary. I'm not sure if that saying actually came from a century or more ago but it was definitely made to sound like a "folk wisdom".

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  2. I LOVE when M grows his hair out, but I'm partial to the dirty-hippy look on him (aka "Jesus). I think he can pull it off because he IS so masculine. I cry real tears when he comes home with a haircut.

    Likewise, I've been growing mine out longer and get all kinds of weird compliments on it from people who've never before seen me wear my hair down. "Ooooo, you should do that more often!" M likes it much better, but he has no idea why. I think it's because I look less matronly. Who knows.

    I could never do a pixie cut. My boobs are too big. I'm self-conscious about looking like a pinhead, proportionally.

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    1. There are two main things preventing me from chopping all my hair off: finding out I'm not as pretty as I think I am (what if my cheeks look huge(r)?), and it being more obvious when I have a zit.

      A couple of years ago I went like a year without cutting my hair and it got pretty straggly. Toward the end, and it may just be that it was summer so I was wearing less clothing, but I seemed to get a lot of attention from random men on the street or the train or whatever, and I think it had to be the long hair, because it sure wasn't my cleavage.

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    2. Also: I think a lot guys look better with long hair. Works along the exact same principle as for women: It makes them look prettier. I usually think feminizing touches are attractive (for example I love when men wear pastels).

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    3. I'm afraid to know what my hair would look like if I really let it grow—because the thing is, it doesn't grow down, it only grows out, like a gradually inflating balloon. (Plus, if it did manage to grow down, I wouldn't be able to wear a fedora without looking like Kid Rock. The horror.)

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  3. When I was little my mother had long hair. I loved it and wanted to have it as well but was given short haircuts because my hair wasn't that great.

    As I grew older and was allowed to make my own decisions about the length and style of my hair I immediately stopped cutting it and let it grow as long as it would.

    Since than, other than on a couple of occasions, I always had it long. I love long hair and usually I feel REALLY bad when somebody I know cuts her hair. So my friends know that it's useless to ask me whether they should do a haircut - my answer is always No :)

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    1. When I was in second grade, I saw a picture of a woman in a magazine with a really cute bob, sort of Dorothy Hamill-esque but longer. My mom cut my hair at the time, and I asked for that haircut. 20 minutes later, cue me crying inconsolably. Unsurprisingly I did not look like the model in the magazine. Instead I looked like an 8-year-old with tomboy hair.

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  4. She looks great:

    http://paintingdb.com/view/9651/

    So does she:

    http://i2.listal.com/image/426755/600full-charlotte-gainsbourg.jpg

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  5. This is an interesting topic. So, I'm a dude of, hmmm, let's say below average physical attractiveness. I've had long and short hair, and have found that I receive attention from fewer women when my hair is long. But, the attention I receive from the long hair lovin ladies is much more intense. Hence I find that more women prefer short hair on men, but those who like long hair really really like long hair. An intriguing tradeoff.

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    1. I bet that is true if you flip the genders, too -- men who like short hair really love short hair.

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    2. I would definitely buy that. My (rather obvious and uninteresting) hypothesis is that most people are drawn to those who comfortably fit the standard norms of attractiveness. Those, who for whatever reason, wish to challenge or are not otherwise convinced of these norms are presented with a smaller pool of potential mates and will more actively pursue those who meet the criteria. The moral of the story: Ugly people (like me) do your hair the opposite of the gender norm, you'll get laid more!!!

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    3. The folks behind the okcupid blog arrived at the same theory by looking over a bunch of profile data:

      http://blog.okcu

      "The more men disagree about a woman's looks, the more they like her."

      I really love this theory, and I think I fit into the camp where some men find me really unappealing and others find me really hot (I'm flat-chested and have a weird nose), making me "a good 7."

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