Hello Minions! I want to talk about hair. That’s because hair can merely be a fashion statement…or it can be symbolic.
This came up after I cut just about all my hair off, which is a big deal for me. I absolutely despise short hair. I mean, other people look great with short hair. And I guess I look okay because everyone always tells me I look super cute with short hair? But I don’t see it, and more importantly, I used to have Disney Princess hair so when I woke up, it was usually already perfect, maybe could use just a little bit of a brush. How does anyone think short hair is easier to manage when no matter how many times I brush it, it still pokes up stupid?
Even when I get the brush wet! And people are like, “well I have to use [product]” and I’m thinking that everyone who says that they have short hair because it’s “easier” sits on a throne of lies because all I ever do with my hair, even when it’s down to my hips, is brush it. The biggest reason I hate short hair, however, is that I can’t put it in a ponytail. Now it’s always in my face.
So why did I cut it all off? Turns out that you can sell your hair, if you’re willing to put up with total creepers who weren’t kidding when they asked you to fly out to Florida so they could “cut your hair in person” which is probably code for “traffic you” knowing your email address and then emailing you a month after you take down your hair listing. Or trust that the guy who’s best credential for not being an axe murderer is “I’m Mormon” is actually a nice guy who just wants to cut your hair and isn’t Sweeny Todd (turns out he was just a nice guy who wanted to cut my hair. Phew! But seriously, “I’m Mormon”? How is that credential for being a good, honest person? Ted Bundy was Mormon! And even if being a Latter-Day Saint somehow magically made it so you were def an honest person, anyone could still claim that.)
Long story short
I wasn’t going to cut it this short but then it turns out if you give me $100 to cut it shorter than I want to, I will.
I still hate my short hair. It’s always in my face and I look like an anime character 50% of the time. But I also have like ten different hats and I’m now free of credit debt. So when I look at my short hair, it’s not just a different hairstyle everyone likes but me. It’s a symbol of the fact that I am, in fact, an adult: I can do hard things, do things I hate, because it needs to be done.
Hair can symbolize a lot. In fact, in more than one culture, hair has some kind of (often spiritual) significance. Consider Native Americans, for example. There are plenty of cultures where hair was thought to be an extension of thought. There have been many uses of symbolic hair in fiction, too – Children of Eldair includes elves who collect magic in their hair and use it to cast spells…and there’s the Biblical story of Samson, where his hair represented his covenants with God and thus granted him strength.
If hair itself symbolizes something, cutting it probably does as well. We mentioned Samson – I’ve also known violence against women abbreviated to hair cutting. The cutting of her hair, taking something from her forcefully, might represent something like a rape – an interesting take that avoids directly mentioning or describing that event of violence. It could be more minor, as well – in webcomic Order of the Stick, Haley’s rival cuts her hair up as a taunt (even if they later lampshade the event as not actually about character development at all when she magically regrows it, there was an opportunity there for it to mean something). There’s also plenty of examples of people cutting their hair in mourning. Or to symbolize their shame.
On a contrast, there’s more than one time where a girl’s hair is sheared in Miyazaki films, which I’m told is to represent the girl’s maturation. In Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie gives her hair willingly; in Castle in the Sky, the pigtails are shot off. So, you be the judge of its truth there. (Certainly the hair cutting in Princess Mononoke doesn’t represent maturation…or does it?)
This of course doesn’t even go into hair color – but color coding is usually a more visible and well-known, so I’ll spare you talking about it.
A hairstyle can, of course, just be that. But it can be so much more. There are so many ways to incorporate hair symbolically into your story. It’s always worth putting careful thought into every detail. It’s more work, but it’s always worth it.