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“Hair as a symbol of STRENGTH is found in w i d e l y separated cultures in all parts of the world” - Sarah Cheang

AUTHOR’S NOTE This is an exploration in purest sense of the word. Here I have attempted to give meaning to an object of my fascination in the hopes that this ‘map’ will both question and answer, visually and textually, concepts and theories regarding the meaning and significance of the mundane and often overlooked social and personal significance of hair. the publication was created and conceived with the help of well founded and pre-existing research which shaped and gave weight to the assertions I have made.


The initial indicator of identity, gender, and to an extent, the personality of a person is often the face. By association and proximity, it is natural that the next visual indicator of these traits would be hair. How hair has been treated and perceived has evolved dramatically, not only in a literal sense, but also as an archetype of human interaction. Certain ideas, concepts and social norms are theoretically ingrained into our functioning. These ‘pre-programmed’ functions can be as simple as a fear or aversion to heights as a small child, to the idea that a smile is a good thing, and a frown is a bad one. These simple archetypes shape and guide us towards more complex ideas and understandings in order to function as a concious and cohesive society.

T h i s publication will explore the function of h a i r as an archetype in the human scheme of perception and understanding through two primary metaphors. The first is the Medusa’s Head, which explores the power of a womens hair in terms of her sexual prowess and power. The second is the age old associations and pre-conceived notions associated with blonde hair, which I will broadly classify as the Falacy of the Gold Standard.

“The Sight of hair assumes a pivotal role in the circulation of sexual power through the aesthetic mechanisms of fetishistic disavowal.�Sarah Cheang

“Medusa’s symbolic hair offers consolation to the spectator: he is still in possession of a penis, and the stiffening reassures him of the fact”- Freud




along with their splendid heads of hair, possessed enormous physical strength, sexual prowess, and magical power all of which waned if the hair was cut off, like the power of the sun when its rays disapere over the horizon.�-Wendy Cooper

“This God, this sun, The separate rays of became visible...Like golden hair radiating dishevelment from a -Wendy

had shining locks in human

hair... hair of long head.� Cooper

The Gold Standard BLONDE stereotpyes as ingrained concepts of perception are likely the most prevelant of those associated with HAIR and personas

Such as, THE INNOCENT BLONDE as a symbol of EVERLASTING YOUTH However, there is an inherent irony in this association, as the B L O N D E N E S S is often Dangerously FABRICATED or MANIPULATED






Hair has functioned not only as our permanant accessory to fashion, but our permanant accesory through evolution and existance. One need only consider our roots, both in a literal and methaphoric sense, to be reminded of our primal ancestors and what is left of them both on our own bodies and within our societies and cultures. Understanding the function of hair within the context of generalized cultural understandings, and subjective personal conceptions is perhaps the most vital and operative observable connection that remains between the behaviors of modern humans, and those of early and ancient humans. Because hair has been integrated into our beings since our inception, it has grown and developed as an archetype of humanity itself as well as as an archetype of our fashions, mannerisms, cultures, and societies. As technology advances, alongside our understandings of the deep-seated psychological and biochemical reasonings behind our behaviours, the development of new metaphors and archetypes to aid in the understanding of our behaviours as a species has become increasingly scientific and far less concerned with the personal impact of, or the ability to sympathize with, the purely scientific nature of these new discoveries. As our minds and actions continue to be unlocked by science, the power of hair as a metaphor, or even an explanation, of perception and reaction has decreased significantly. However, this has opened the door to the more practical applications of our hair, and increased its value as an accessory to our personalities rather than the defining factor of them. As our perceptual knowledge and understanding of perceptions increases, the ability to fabricate and manipulate our personas through a maliable medium such as hair, is exploited . While our behaviours and reactions may become as easy to scientifically explain as the rain cycle, the reactions will remain, and our cultural and personal percptions will continue to be beguiled by devices as seemingly trivial and irrelevant as





“The world about us will change, our skills and technology continue to improve, but human nature changes little, and there seems no doubt that, as far into the future as we can see, man will go on responding to the fascination of hair and using its power, sexually and socially, as he has always done.�- Wendy Cooper

HAIR Banks, I. (2000) Hair Matters. New York: New York University Press. Biddle-Perry, G. and Cheang, S. (2008) Hair. London: Berg. Bryer, R. (2000) The History of Hair. London: Philip Wilson Publishers. Cooper, W. (1971) Hair. London: Aldus Books Limited. Iilyin, N. (2000) Blonde Like Me. New York: Touchstone. Weitz, R. (2004) Rapunzel’s Daughters. New York: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. IMAGES USED WITHIN EDITED PHOTOGRAPHY Unknown. (n.d.) Inland Taipan. [image online] Available at: most-venomous-land-snake-in-world.html [Accessed: 31/5/2013]. Unknown. (n.d.) Coral Snake. [image online] Available at: [Accessed: 31/5/2013]. Unknown. (n.d.) Black Rat Snake. [image online] Available at: modern/29431d1299766411t-pilot-lands-plane-rogue-snake-onehand-black-rat-snake.jpg [Accessed: 31/5/2013]. Unknown. (2013) Slithering Snake. [image online] Available at: snake_slither.JPG [Accessed: 31/5/2013]. Unknown. (2011) The Medusa, Bernini. [image online] Available at: [Accessed: 31/5/2013]. Unknown. (2013) The Gorgon and the Heroes. [image online] Available at: [Accessed: 31/5/2013]. Unknown. (2013) Apollo of Belevedere. [image online] Available at: of_Belvedere_Vatican_City.jpg [Accessed: 2/6/2013]. Unknown. (n.d.) Apollo, Belevedere. [image online] Available at: [Accessed: 2/6/2013]. Unknown. (n.d.) Belvedere Apollo. [image online] Available at: Belvedere_Apollo_Pio-Clementino_Inv1015_n5.jpg [Accessed: 2/6/2013].


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