·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   · 

Volume 91, Issue 14

Friday, September 19, 1997



The Mane attraction

©Nick Burdun/Gazette
JUST A LITTLE OFF THE TOP PLEASE. Second-year Kings Arts and Social Science student Patrick Teskey gets a close shave at the one and only on-campus hair salon Style One.

By Natalie Henry

Gazette Staff

You drown it with silicon hairspray to give it more shine, yet ironically, it clearly reflects your identity. It has no feeling but if one lock is out of place your mood, not to mention your day, is in disarray. It cannot talk yet when you attempt to smooth things over, it 'frizzes back into a hair-raising fury and you muzzle it with your favourite baseball cap.

Women and men find themselves bound to their locks when passing mirrors, store front windows or potential significant others that make judgement upon what they see starting with the mane attraction – hair.

"It has a lot to do with perception," says Madeline Lennon, art historian and chair of visual arts at Western.

When asked about the preference of long hair in the North American society she says, "It's painfully awful that long hair somehow does it and short hair doesn't.

"It's a cultural practice that crosses all kinds of cultures. Young women tend to have to long hair. Having long hair was a sign of virginity and availability," Lennon adds. "This doesn't hold in North America, however, the connotations are still there. People think long hair is more sensual. There's a perception that there is strength in one's hair. A lot of hair makes you feel different – less vulnerable."

There appears to be a stigma, passed through the ages, that sexual power and femininity are associated with long tresses. "If you look at Cosmo[politan] and YM [Young and Modern] we are conditioned to think that men prefer longer hair," says grooming editor for FAB Magazine, Sandii Currie.

Constant media bombardment, with black and white supermodels sporting long straight coifs, can set difficult standards for those with naturally curly or kinky hair. Straight hair is an ideal beauty and this is shown through ads and television, Lennon explains.

"We cater to 80 per cent blacks, West Indian Canadians, Africans and mixed race," Rose Martineau, Sculptures Hair Design owner, says. "Relaxer [perming or straightening] is more prevalent. The main reason for perming, was to fit in, to be more accepted."

Even if you are blessed with perfect hair the way a person wears it can speak volumes. "For Afro-Canadians it's a choice between going straight or making a strong political statement in braids when you're in a society faced with 'ideals' sold as to what you should look like," Lennon adds.

"Even when we fight the ideal we still respond to it. We're always conveying a message with our dress or hair."

Although many traditional ideals are still prevalent, the new fall trends are becoming more popular in such a fast-paced society. "It used to be that people wanted long hair and now they're realizing short hair is fine. Short hair whether its straight or naturally kinky," Martineau stresses. "Though it mostly has to do with convenience – fussing less with their hair, plus it's stylish and cute."

"The common short hair look is mainstream," says Suki Bal owner of Suki Salon and Health Spa. "It's carefree hairstyling, it's wash and wear and for a person who has no time to do their hair."

Colour has been the big thing for the last five to six years in Europe and North America, he adds.

When sitting in the hair salon chair awaiting a colourful transformation, whether its streaks, highlights or hair dye, a certain timeless shade comes to mind: golden honey, flaxen, peroxide, strawberry – blond. Why is blond such a head-turning choice and why are so many becoming 'bottle blonds'?

"It's a question of perception. [Blond] is a less natural colour and a rarity in the general population – so what you don't have much of is highly valued," Lennon responds. "Blond and blue eyes is so highly favorable because its so rare.

A blond stands out in a crowd of dark haired people even though there are a lot more 'bottle blonds'."

"Different sex symbols and even in the animal kingdom, blonds are noticed," Currie adds. "Look at the lion's mane, a lighter-haired animal – it's bright and attention-getting."

Redheads would be the likely choice as the rare flaming gem in a sea of dark hair however, the sensual stigma attached to blonds isn't as popularly reflected on its red counterparts. "Red hair is different because there are fewer redheads than blonds," Lennon says. "What's the chance of one redhead in one hundred – it's rare yet it's not linked to sensuality like the blond ideal."

Hair is something that many shave, gel down, curl, maim, chemically process or tease and despite all of the abuse, it somehow represents a significant part of one's self. Through trips to the salon in an attempt to seek inner peace people try to hide behind, exemplify or change their exterior by living up to conventional ideals, following the current trends, rebelling against the norm, trying to be, or find, their true selves.

To Contact The Features Department: gazfeat@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997