Long hair
Long hair is a hairstyle
A hairstyle, hairdo, or haircut refers to the styling of hair, usually on the human head. The fashioning of hair can be considered an aspect of personal grooming, fashion, and cosmetics, although practical, cultural, and popular considerations also influence some hairstyles.-History of...

. Exactly what constitutes long hair
Hair is a filamentous biomaterial, that grows from follicles found in the dermis. Found exclusively in mammals, hair is one of the defining characteristics of the mammalian class....

 can change from culture to culture, or even within cultures. For example, a woman with chin-length hair in some cultures may be said to have short hair, while a man with the same length of hair in some of the same cultures would be said to have long hair.

Scientists view long hair as playing a large part in natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 among many species, since long, thick and healthy hair or fur
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

 is frequently a sign of fertility and youth. As hair grows slowly, long hair reveals several years of a person's health status and reproductive fitness. Hair length is significantly correlated with female attractiveness, as rated by men as well as women. Hair length and quality can act as a cue to especially a woman's youth and health, signifying reproductive potential. The prevalence of trichophilia
Trichophilia, hair partialism, or hair fetishism is a paraphilia in which one becomes sexually aroused by, or is extremely fond of, human hair; commonly head hair....

 (hair partialism or fetischism) is 7% in the population, and very long hair is a common subject of devotion in this group.

Ways of life often viewed as more rigid, such as soldiers and religious cultures, often have explicit rules regarding hair length. For example, Buddhist monks shave their heads as part of their order of worship. Even outside religious structures, cultures often associate male long hair with ways of life outside of what is culturally accepted. Subservient cultures, for example, are sometimes detected by their rulers through hair length, as was the case with the Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 under English rule and the Moors under Spanish rule
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

 in Medieval Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...


Again, though, there are exceptions to these rules, notably among the long-haired and religiously devoted Nazarites of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....

 being a famous example) and among the Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...


East Asian cultures have traditionally seen long, unkempt hair in a woman as a sign of sexual intent or a recent sexual encounter, as usually their hair is tied up in styles such as the ponytail, plait, or any bun.

Transferred meaning

The traditional connotation of "long hair" in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 meant, roughly, someone artistically knowledgeable or wise, an aesthete. As a descriptive term, it has been applied to Merovingians and classical music
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 enthusiasts, as well as hippies and aesthetes.

Hair lengths

Hair length is measured (in centimeters or inches) from the line of the scalp
The scalp is the anatomical area bordered by the face anteriorly and the neck to the sides and posteriorly.-Layers:It is usually described as having five layers, which can conveniently be remembered as a mnemonic:...

 on the forehead
For the Arsenal striker see GervinhoIn human anatomy, the forehead is the fore part of the head. It is, formally, an area of the head bounded by three features, two of the skull and one of the scalp. The top of the forehead is marked by the hairline, the edge of the area where hair on the scalp...

 up over the highest point of the skull to its termination. In cosmetology
Cosmetology is the study and application of beauty treatment. Branches of specialty including hairstyling, skin care, cosmetics, manicures/pedicures, and electrology....

, hair lengths longer than what is usually considered short are categorized according to the following:
  • Chin level is considered long for men in some cultures, but usually not for women.
  • Shoulder-length is hair reaching the shoulders
    Shoulders is drinking game that involves players competing in a fast paced game attempting to "count" to 21.-Game play:*The game begins with a player slapping his left/right shoulder, this starts the count at 1....

    ; hair usually takes about 2 years to reach this point.
  • Mid-back level is hair falling to the widest part of the chest
    The chest is a part of the anatomy of humans and various other animals. It is sometimes referred to as the thorax or the bosom.-Chest anatomy - Humans and other hominids:...

  • Waist-length hair falls to the smallest part of one's waist
    The waist is the part of the abdomen between the rib cage and hips. On proportionate people, the waist is the narrowest part of the torso....

    ; for most people approximately 80–90 cm (32–36 inches) long, and taking about 7 years to grow, including occasional trims.
  • Hip-length hair stretches to the hip.
  • Classic length extends to almost upper thigh-length, where the legs
    Human leg
    The human leg is the entire lower extremity or limb of the human body, including the foot, thigh and even the hip or gluteal region; however, the precise definition in human anatomy refers only to the section of the lower limb extending from the knee to the ankle.Legs are used for standing,...

     meet the buttocks
    The buttocks are two rounded portions of the anatomy, located on the posterior of the pelvic region of apes and humans, and many other bipeds or quadrupeds, and comprise a layer of fat superimposed on the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles. Physiologically, the buttocks enable weight to...

  • Thigh-length reaches to the thigh
    In humans the thigh is the area between the pelvis and the knee. Anatomically, it is part of the lower limb.The single bone in the thigh is called the femur...

  • Knee-length reaches to the knee
    The knee joint joins the thigh with the leg and consists of two articulations: one between the fibula and tibia, and one between the femur and patella. It is the largest joint in the human body and is very complicated. The knee is a mobile trocho-ginglymus , which permits flexion and extension as...

  • Ankle/floor length comes to the ankle
    The ankle joint is formed where the foot and the leg meet. The ankle, or talocrural joint, is a synovial hinge joint that connects the distal ends of the tibia and fibula in the lower limb with the proximal end of the talus bone in the foot...

     or beyond.

Maximum hair length

The maximum hair length that is possible to reach is about 15 cm for infants (below the age of 1), about 60 cm for children (below the age of 13), and generally 100 cm for adults. Documentation for decrease of the maximum length with age cannot be found in the literature. Some individuals can reach excessive lengths. Lengths greater than 150 cm are frequently observed in long hair contests. Xie Qiuping
Xie Qiuping
Xie Qiuping is a Chinese woman who holds the record for world's longest hair. On 8 May 2004, her hair was measured to be 5.627 meters . She began growing her hair to its current length in 1973 at the age of 13. She is the Guinness World Record holder for 2004.-References:** January 28, 2005 Reuters...

 had the longest documented hair in the world, measuring 5.627 m (18 ft 5.54 in) in May 2004.

The maximum terminal hair
Terminal hair
Terminal hairs are thick, long, and dark, as compared with vellus hair. During puberty, the increase in androgenic hormone levels causes vellus hair to be replaced with terminal hair in certain parts of the human body...

 length depends on the length of the anagen (period of hair growth) for the individual. Waist-length hair or longer is only possible to reach for people with long anagen. The anagen lasts between 2 and 7 years, for some individuals even longer, and follows by shorter catagen (transition) and telogen (resting) periods. Between 85% and 90% of the hair strains are in anagen.

Psychological significance

Anthropologists speculate that the functional significance of long head hair may be adornment
An adornment is generally an accessory or ornament worn to enhance the beauty or status of the wearer. They are often worn to embellish, enhance, or distinguish the wearer, and to define cultural, social, or religious status within a specific community. When worn to show economic status, the items...

, a by-product of secondary natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 once other androgenic
Androgenic hair
Androgenic hair, colloquially body hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which are much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androgenic hair is related to the level of androgens in...

The term somatic means 'of the body',, relating to the body. In medicine, somatic illness is bodily, not mental, illness. The term is often used in biology to refer to the cells of the body in contrast to the germ line cells which usually give rise to the gametes...

 hair (body hair) had largely been lost. Another possibility is that long head hair is a result of Fisherian runaway
Fisherian runaway
Fisherian runaway is a model of sexual selection, first proposed by R.A. Fisher in 1915, and expanded upon in his 1930 book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, that suggests an explanation for sexual selection of traits that do not obviously increase fitness of survival, based upon a...

 sexual selection
Sexual selection
Sexual selection, a concept introduced by Charles Darwin in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, is a significant element of his theory of natural selection...

, where long lustrous hair is a visible marker
Genetic marker
A genetic marker is a gene or DNA sequence with a known location on a chromosome that can be used to identify cells, individuals or species. It can be described as a variation that can be observed...

 for a healthy individual. For some groups or individuals, however, short hair is the selected trait.

By seven to nine months, infants can tell the sexes apart based on hair length, voice pitch and faces.

Cultural history

Hair is one of the most important ways humans have of presenting themselves, being one of the parts of their body which is easiest to manipulate. Also, having short, cut hair (or a shaven head) is often viewed as being under society's control, such as while in prison or as punishment for a crime, while males having long hair signifies being outside of the mainstream.

In Jewish and Christian scriptures

"She, as a veil down to the slender waist,

Her adorned golden tresses wore

Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved,

As the vine curls her tendrils..."
John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

's description of Eve
Eve (Bible)
Eve was, according to the creation of Abrahamic religions, the first woman created by God...

 in Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost
Paradise Lost is an epic poem in blank verse by the 17th-century English poet John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books, with a total of over ten thousand individual lines of verse...

In the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, the Nazirites would go for long periods of time without cutting their hair to show devotion to God. Samson
Samson, Shimshon ; Shamshoun or Sampson is the third to last of the Judges of the ancient Israelites mentioned in the Tanakh ....

 is one example; his strength depended upon his refraining from cutting his hair. The New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 says, "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering," something followed by women in some apostolic pentecostal denominations in some countries as an act of holiness.

Classical period

In ancient Greece, long male hair was a symbol of wealth and power, while a shaven head was appropriate for a slave. The ancient Greeks had several Gods and heroes who wore their hair long, including Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

, Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

, Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

, and Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

. Greek soldiers are said to have worn their hair long in battle. Such warriors considered it a sign of aristocracy and are said to have combed it openly in order to show off. Also, in order to keep enemies from getting a hold of it in battle, they were known to cut the front short, but leave it long in the back
Mullet (haircut)
The mullet is a hairstyle that is short at the front and sides, and long in the back. . The mullet began to appear in popular media in the 1960s and 1970s but did not become generally well-known until the early 1980s...

, where it was more out of reach. A widely held alternative interpretation of the conventional belief that they cut it short in the front in order to keep their enemies from getting a hold of it during battle is that, they did not in fact cut it in the front, but rather tied it back in a style known as a pony tail in order to keep it out of their enemies' reach. The pony tail method allowed warriors, who often traveled to battle with a minimal amount of equipment in order to avoid excessively heavy loads over long marches, to keep their hair manageable with a small piece of string to hold their pony tail in place and a knife to cut the back to length with one simple slice. Around the sixth century, however, the Greek men shifted to shorter hairstyles, with the exception of the Spartans. Women in the culture remained with the longer style, which for them showed freedom, health, and wealth, as well as good behavior. In men, it was considered a sign of false pride by this time.
Women in Roman times valued long hair, usually with a center part. Men's hair was usually shorter than women's, (but in the early times, the custom was quite the same as in Greece) although other cultures of the time, such as Greeks in the east, considered long hair to be typical of philosophers, who were thought to be too engrossed in learning to bother with hair. Strictly in the province of Rome, however the shorter hairstyle was especially popular. When Julius Caesar conquered the Gauls
The Gauls were a Celtic people living in Gaul, the region roughly corresponding to what is now France, Belgium, Switzerland and Northern Italy, from the Iron Age through the Roman period. They mostly spoke the Continental Celtic language called Gaulish....

, who favored long hair, he ordered it to be cut short.

Up to the seventeenth century

In the European middle ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

, shorter hair often signified servitude and peasantry, while long hair was often attributed to freemen, such as the Germanic Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 and Merovingians. In Ireland, English colonists who wore their hair long in the back were considered to be rejecting their role as English subjects and giving in to the Irish life. Irishmen, in turn, scolded others of their race who moved into English culture by cutting their hair. Thus, hair length was one of the most common ways of judging a true Englishman in this period. Muslims in Christian areas were ordered to keep their hair short and parted, as their longer style was considered rebellious and barbaric.
A long hair fad was widespread among English and French men in the 11th and 12th centuries, though otherwise it was considered, mostly because of endorsement of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, proper for men to have shorter, and women, longer hair. The fad was largely brought about by monarchs who rejected the shorter hairstyle, causing the people to follow. Wulfstan
Wulfstan may refer to:*Wulfstan, ealdorman of Wiltshire , died 802*Wulfstan of Hedeby, 9th century merchantman and traveller*Wulfstan , Archbishop of York...

, a religious leader, worried that those with longer hair would fight like women, and be unable to protect England from foreign invasion. (This idea can be found in later military leaders as well, such as those of the American Confederacy
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

.) Knights and rulers would also sometimes cut or pull out their hair in order to show penitence and mourning, and a squire's hair was generally shorter than a knight's. Married women who let their hair flow out in public were frowned upon, as this was normally reserved for the unwed, although they were allowed to let it out in mourning, to show their distressed state. Through these centuries it was expected of Eastern Christians to wear long hair as well as long beards, which was especially expected from clergy and monks.

In England, during the English Civil War times of 1642 to 1651, male hair length was emblematic of the disputes between Cavaliers and Roundheads (Puritans). Cavaliers wore longer hair, and were less religious minded, thought of by the Roundheads as lecherous. The more devout Roundheads had short hair, although there were exceptions.

Recent meanings

Before World War One men generally had longer hair and beards. However, short hair on men has often been enforced as a mean of control, in police, military and other forces that require obedience and discipline. Slaves and defeated armies were often required to shave their heads. The trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 in 1914 to 1918 exposed men to flea
Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects with mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood...

 and lice infestations, which prompted the order to cut short hair, establishing a norm that has persisted.

Beat poets during the 1950s wore longer hairstyles, as did many of the urban gay culture, although long hair was far from popular. However, the 1960s introduced The Beatles
The Beatles
The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

, who started a widespread longer hair fad. The social revolution
Social revolution
The term social revolution may have different connotations depending on the speaker.In the Trotskyist movement, the term "social revolution" refers to an upheaval in which existing property relations are smashed...

 of the 1960s led to a renaissance of unchecked hair growth, and long hair, especially on men, was worn as a political or countercultural
Counterculture of the 1960s
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural movement that mainly developed in the United States and spread throughout much of the western world between 1960 and 1973. The movement gained momentum during the U.S. government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam...

 symbol or protest. This cultural symbol extended to several Western countries in the Americas, Western Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Specific long hairstyles such as dreadlocks
Dreadlocks, also called locks, a ras, dreads, "rasta" or Jata , are matted coils of hair. Dreadlocks are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing...

 have been part of counterculture movements seeking to define other alternative cultures and lifestyles since this time. Longer hair in general remained popular among the youth rebellion throughout the liberal decade of the 1960s. Homosexual men, many of whom had adopted a long hairstyle in the early 1950s, have largely abandoned this trend. Some people saw the long hair fad as a threat to gender identity
Gender identity
A gender identity is the way in which an individual self-identifies with a gender category, for example, as being either a man or a woman, or in some cases being neither, which can be distinct from biological sex. Basic gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to...

, cultural, and religious norms as it grew with the spread of the hippie
The hippie subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The etymology of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into San Francisco's...

 movement in the 1960s. Notably, some country-and-western performers during this period (and many fans) also sported longer hair.

In the 1970s, the popularity of Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

's reggae
Reggae is a music genre first developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s. While sometimes used in a broader sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that originated following on the development of ska and rocksteady.Reggae is based...

 music and musician Bob Marley
Bob Marley
Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley, OM was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers...

 prompted interest in dreadlocks
Dreadlocks, also called locks, a ras, dreads, "rasta" or Jata , are matted coils of hair. Dreadlocks are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing...

 internationally. The anti-establishment philosophy of Rastafari
Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement or Rasta is a new religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, which at the time was a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black descendants of slaves. Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia , as God...

, echoed in much of the reggae of the time, resonated with left
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

-leaning youth of all ethnicities — especially and primarily among African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s and other Blacks
Black people
The term black people is used in systems of racial classification for humans of a dark skinned phenotype, relative to other racial groups.Different societies apply different criteria regarding who is classified as "black", and often social variables such as class, socio-economic status also plays a...

, but among counterculture
Counterculture is a sociological term used to describe the values and norms of behavior of a cultural group, or subculture, that run counter to those of the social mainstream of the day, the cultural equivalent of political opposition. Counterculture can also be described as a group whose behavior...

 whites as well. The Eastern Christians are encouraged to wear long hair with long beard. In the 1980s the view of long hair as a solitary signifier of political or counter-cultural identity was countered and parodied in films such as Rambo and many other militaristic heroes of media which challenged then-contemporary views of what was masculine. Today, longer hairstyles remain popular among rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

 enthusiasts. Long hair may be grown for the purpose of being donated to an organization
An organization is a social group which distributes tasks for a collective goal. The word itself is derived from the Greek word organon, itself derived from the better-known word ergon - as we know `organ` - and it means a compartment for a particular job.There are a variety of legal types of...

, such as Locks of Love
Locks of Love
Locks of Love is a non-profit charity based in the United States. The organization accepts donations of human hair and money, with the stated intention of making wigs for needy children who have lost their hair due to a medical condition in Canada and the USA....

, for hairpieces to help those who could not have hair otherwise, such as those who are diagnosed with alopecia areata
Alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is a medical condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body, usually from the scalp. Because it causes bald spots on the scalp, especially in the first stages, it is sometimes called spot baldness. In 1–2% of cases, the condition can spread to the entire scalp ...



Women often have a stronger inclination towards long hair than men do. Younger women tend to have longer hair than older women. Hair length and quality can act as a cue to a woman's youth and health, signifying reproductive potential. Growing and wearing long hair was almost universal among women in the western world until World War One.


The Sikhs were commanded by Guru Gobind Singh at the Baisakhi Amrit Sanchar in 1699 to wear long uncut hair called Kesh at all times. This was one of the 'five requisites of faith', collectively called Kakars that form the external visible identifiers to clearly affirm a Sikh's commitment and dedication to the order (Hukam) of the tenth master and made one a member of the Khalsa. The Khalsa is the "Saint-Soldier" of Guru Gobind Singh who stated the following:
"He does not recognize anyone else except One Lord, not even the bestowal of charities, performance of merciful acts, austerities and restraint on pilgrim-stations; the perfect light of the Lord illuminates his heart, then consider him as the immaculate Khalsa." (Guru Gobind Singh in the Dasam Granth page 1350)

The Kesh or unshorn long hair is an indispensable part of the human body as created by Vaheguru that is the mainstay of the 'Jivan Jaach' and the Rehni that was prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib by which a Sikh is clearly and quickly identified, Kesh. The kanga, another requisite of faith is usually tucked behind the "Rishi Knot" and tied under the turban. The uncut long head hair and the beard in the case of men forms the main kakar for the Sikhs.

KESADHARI, a term defining a Sikh as one who carries on his head the full growth of his kes (hair) which he never trims or cuts for any reason. Anyone, Sikh or non-Sikh, may keep the hair unshorn, but for the Sikh kes, unshorn hair, is an requisite of faith and an inviolable vow. The Sikh Rahit Maryada published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, statutory body for the control and management of Sikh shrines and by extension for laying down rules about Sikh beliefs and practices, issued in 1945, after long and minute deliberations among Sikh scholars and theologians, defines a Sikh thus:
Every Sikh who has been admitted to the rites of amrit, i.e. who has been initiated as a Sikh, must allow his hair to grow to its full length. This also applies to those born of Sikh families but [who] have not yet received the rites of amrit of the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh. ".


In the Muslim world, it seems the trend of hair styles is now favouring short over long in men. In the past, Bedouin Muslims often wore their hair in long braids, but western influences brought on the view that such styles were feminine in nature. Now, Bedouins are much less likely to have long hair. Islamic countries in North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 such as Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 view long hair in men as homosexual and in one case the Egyptian police viewed it as satanic and a sign of an infidel, although Western rock music, especially heavy metal, may have contributed to this view.

Muslims regard Prophet Muhammad as the best example to live by, and try to emulate him whenever possible. The Islamic Prophet Muhammad reportedly in Sahih Muslim
Sahih Muslim
Sahih Muslim is one of the Six major collections of the hadith in Sunni Islam, oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. It is the second most authentic hadith collection after Sahih Al-Bukhari, and is highly acclaimed by Sunni Muslims...

 had hair that "hung over his shoulders and earlobes". Sahih Bukhari
Sahih Bukhari
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī , as it is commonly referred to, is one of the six canonical hadith collections of Islam. These prophetic traditions, or hadith, were collected by the Persian Muslim scholar Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari, after being transmitted orally for generations. Muslims view this as one of...

, regarded the most authentic of hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

, also supports this. The Prophet Muhammad has also described Jesus as "having long hair reaching his ear lobes."

With regards to women, neither Qur'an nor Sunnah explicitly state that women cannot cut their hair. Hadith does mention that women should not imitate men, and vice versa, and hence many scholars on this assumption, decree that women should let their hair grow longer than the hair of the Prophet, reaching beyond their shoulders, as hadith mentions that the Prophet had his hair between his shoulder and his earlobes. (He described Jesus's hair, which hung to his earlobes, as long.)

However culturally, some Muslims are opposed to men having long hair as it is also important in Islam to have clear differences (in appearance) between sexes. And generally these cultures encourage women to have long hair and men to have short hair. The Taliban viewed long hair for men as a western influence, and punished it by arrest and forced haircuts, albeit this would be a direct contradiction of the sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

 of the Prophet. Similar measures have been taken by Islamists in Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. In spite of this, several Taleban affiliated members of the Mehsud clan are recognisable by their long hair. The Saudi Islamist fighter Amir Khattab was also notable for his long hair. Dervishes of some Sufi orders, such as the Kasnazani
The Kasnazani order is a Sufi order popular in Iraq and Iran, especially among the Kurds. It is a sub-order of the Qadiri order and is thought to be the largest order in Iraq. It makes no distinction between Sunni and Shia followers...

, often have long hair and whirl it around during rituals.

Native Americans

Many Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 men wore long hair before the arrival of western influences on their culture or rather eastern influences for them. (In Cherokee legends, for example, males said to be handsome were often described as having "long hair almost to the ground" or similar formulas.). Both men and women of these cultures have frequently struggled to maintain their tradition, but have faced heavy opposition. Many consider it a sign of giving in to western influences to have their hair cut. Early American settlers saw long-haired, native men as rebelling against their civilized society. Mountain men and trappers who adopted the customs were also considered amoral, and often identified by their long hair. Since the cultural movements of the sixties and seventies, however, Native Americans have felt less pressure to have short hair, as different movements have defended their cultural rights. For example, several states have loosened prison regulations, allowing Native Americans to wear long hair during incarceration, along with other cultural allowances. There has been resistance to these changes, however, as long hair is sometimes used to hide drugs, as well as to identify with a gang.

Sub-Saharan Africans

In West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

n cultures, women with long hair were highly valued. Long, thick hair was seen as a sign of health, strength, and capability to bear many children. In keeping with this general theme, women who were too young for marriage would shave a portion of their heads to signal so. This tradition, however, did not extend to every African tribe, as several valued shorter hair.

African Americans

When black slaves were freed in the Americas, they struggled to reach the social status of whites. Many former slaves tried to conform their hairstyles as part of this struggle. African-American women felt pressured to make their hair straight like white women, rather than keeping the shorter, curlier style they had known. However, during the civil rights movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 of the 1950s and 60s, African-Americans such as Malcolm X
Malcolm X
Malcolm X , born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , was an African American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its...

 advocated hairstyles such as afro
Afro, sometimes shortened to fro and also known as a "natural", is a hairstyle worn naturally by people with lengthy kinky hair texture or specifically styled in such a fashion by individuals with naturally curly or straight hair...

s and dreadlocks
Dreadlocks, also called locks, a ras, dreads, "rasta" or Jata , are matted coils of hair. Dreadlocks are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing...

. Social pressures at the time were heavily influencing African-American females to have long, straight hair, like many Caucasians did. Recently, scholars have observed continued pressure on blacks to have long, straight hair. Amelian Jones believes that dolls marketed towards children add to this pressure, citing as an example a new black Barbie with long hair. Jones believes that African-American females should maintain their "African" cultural norms without feeling pressured to "tame" their hair.


Historically, East Asian cultures viewed long hair as a sign of youth and aesthetic beauty. Long hair is associated with private life and sexuality. East Asian cultures see long, unkempt hair in a woman as a sign of sexual intent or a recent sexual encounter, as usually their hair is tied up. Lay Buddhists have long hair, while Buddhist monks have shaved heads. For Sikhs, Kesh
Kesh (Sikhism)
In Sikhism, Kesh is the practice of allowing one's hair to grow naturally as a symbol of respect for the perfection of God's creation. The practice is one of the Five Ks, the outward symbols ordered by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 as a means to profess the Sikh faith...

 is the practice of allowing one's hair to grow naturally as a symbol of devotion to God and lack of worldliness. In Jewish and other cultures, shortening hair signifies mourning and sadness.
East Asian cultures would sell their hair and also used it for dental floss

Around the seventeenth century, the Manchu people forced all men in China to adopt a hairstyle called a queue
Queue (hairstyle)
The queue or cue is a hairstyle in which the hair is worn long and gathered up into a ponytail. It was worn traditionally by certain Native American groups and the Manchu of Manchuria.-Manchu Queue:...

, which was basically a long braid down the back with the hair on the front part of the head shaved. This style lasted well into the nineteenth century, when the Chinese began immigrating to America. Americans at first judged them to be poor workers because their long hair brought an association with women. Both Islamic and Christian missionaries to the Chinese were strong advocates of shorter hair for their converts, but this was a small group. Around the Destruction of Four Olds
Four Olds
The Four Olds or the Four Old Things were Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. One of the stated goals of the Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China was to bring an end to the Four Olds...

 period in 1964, almost anything seen as part of Traditional Chinese culture
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

 would lead to problems with the Communist
Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China , also known as the Chinese Communist Party , is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China...

 Red Guards
Red Guards (China)
Red Guards were a mass movement of civilians, mostly students and other young people in the People's Republic of China , who were mobilized by Mao Zedong in 1966 and 1967, during the Cultural Revolution.-Origins:...

. Items that attracted dangerous attention if caught in the public included jewelry and long hair. These things were regarded as symbols of bourgeois lifestyle, that represented wealth. People had to avoid them or suffer serious consequences such as tortures and beatings by the guards. More recently, long hair was ridiculed in China from October 1983 to February 1984, as part of the Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign
Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign
The Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign was a Chinese political campaign spanning from October 1983 to December 1983, started by political factions in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party that feared the spreading of Western liberal ideas among the Chinese populace, a product of the then...

. Li Yang
Li Yang (Crazy English)
Li Yang is the Chinese creator of Crazy English, an unorthodox method of teaching English. He claimed to have taught English to more than 20 million people in a decade.-General Experiences:...

, an unorthodox Chinese English teacher who brands the popular Crazy English
Crazy English
Crazy English is a brand name related to a non-traditional method of learning English in mainland China conceived by Li Yang. Li believes that the traditional way of learning English in China is ineffective. Li Yang's method places heavy emphasis on practicing English orally...

, claims the following on his website:
What [America, England and Japan] want most is for China’s youth to have long hair, wear bizarre clothes, drink soda, listen to Western music, have no fighting spirit, love pleasure and comfort!

In Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 and Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, male long hair was valued in until the seventeenth century, when the area adopted outside influences including Islam and Christianity. Invading cultures enforced shorter hairstyles on men as a sign of servitude, as well. They were also confused at the short hairstyles among women in certain areas, such as Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, and struggled to explain why women in the area had such short hair. They came up with several mythical stories, one of which involved a king who found a long hair in his rice and, in a rage, demanded that all women keep their hair short.

In rural areas in certain Asian countries, for example India, girls still usually let their hair grow long, and knee-length hair is not unusual.

See also

  • Grooming
    Personal grooming
    Personal grooming is the art of cleaning, grooming, and maintaining parts of the body. It is a species-typical behavior that is controlled by neural circuits in the brain.- In humans :...

  • Haircut
  • Hair extensions
  • Hairstick
  • Lady Godiva
    Lady Godiva
    Godiva , often referred to as Lady Godiva , was an Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry in order to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation imposed by her husband on his tenants...

  • Long hair fetishism, a form of Trichophilia
  • Rapunzel
    "Rapunzel" is a German fairy tale in the collection assembled by the Brothers Grimm, and first published in 1812 as part of Children's and Household Tales. The Grimm Brothers' story is an adaptation of the fairy tale Persinette by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de La Force originally published in 1698...


  • Female long hair in art (Gallery at Wikimedia commons)
  • Female long hair photos  (Gallery at Wikimedia commons)
  • Male long hair in art (Gallery at Wikimedia commons)
  • Male long hair photos (Gallery at Wikimedia commons)
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