I am assuming that sometime before the year 2019, the world will finally know if Bruce Jenner is indeed transitioning to a woman. Before we hit that miraculous day that will, no doubt, alter the course of human history, let’s be serious for a moment and talk about the role of hair and gender. It is all over the headlines of those mindless magazines that (dis)grace our salons. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt wears tuxedos and short hair, and the world screams ‘boy!’ Aforementioned Bruce Jenner is growing his hair and nails out, and the speculation is that gender swapping must be inevitable.
As trends come and go, like braids or even large chunky blonde and brunette highlights (I heard these were coming back), the length of women’s hair remained the longer of the genders, until the Mod cut was seen on both Paul McCartney and Goldie Hawn. The lines continued to blur through the latter half of the 20th century thanks to the counter culture movement of the '60s. When grunge hit the scene, as well as Interview with the Vampire, long hair on men became more of the norm. But what are the rules now?
As a species, we have accepted the established boundaries of long hair for women, short hair for men. Women’s hair is styled more elaborately, unless we count the eras of the metro and lumbersexual. Hairstyles are signifiers of social class, age, marital status, racial identification, religious affiliation, and attitudes about gender. Rose Weitz’s book, Rapunzel’s Daughters, looks at how women wear their hair and what it says about them. We struggle with identity as we grow and age, and our hair often mirrors our journey.
I love the movement called genderfuck, as it blends the masculine and feminine. This is done sometimes through performing in drag but without the traditional wig or full makeup without padding. Androgyny is also an amazing aesthetic to explore. In David Bowie’s video of "We Are All Stars," the king of androgyny himself is featured with Tilda Swinton and Andrej Pejic. They go from short hair to long, long hair to short, sumptuous make-up to hard contours. These are the rules now--that there are no rules.
It’s going to be hard to change the mindset of the human culture as a whole. This is almost a plea as much as it is an article. For the man who sits in your chair with long hair who wants to keep it long, and to a girl who wants to shave her sides…our hair nowadays says less about gender and more about our individual stories. Maybe Bruce Jenner is growing his hair out to donate it to cancer patients. Maybe that girl just got out of a bad relationship and wants to rebel, just a little. I currently have discussions with my kindergartner about not calling dolls girl things and pirates boy things; just call them things.
Maybe someday in the future we will all be like THX-1138; all sexes with no hair at all. The future will be designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier and we will have fire-colored dreadlocks. The point is: don’t assume anymore with that guest in your chair. Be more than what we are. Be understanding, be compassionate, and be open.