Sunday, 6 November 2016

Hairway to Heaven

Daily Draw, Tarot de Marseilles, The Star

Every hair on a person's head was a heavenly creation so said a Lutheran pastor c1600. For this reason a 'proper' hairstyle praised God. In Reformation Europe, a time of religious tensions, the style of a man's hair or beard were easy ways of judging his religious affiliations. People's everyday performances of hair and their innovative usage of head, facial, body and animal hair mirrored fundamental religious and social changes at that time. 

According to Cambridge historian Stefan Hanss 'The Reformation turned hair into a highly contested issue...A community's religious purity was defined by its inhabitants' bodily, as well as social behaviour, so hairstyles were a way of demonstrating religious conformity.' 

Preachers encouraged their parishioners to adopt hairstyles appropriate to their age, gender and status. Women were were discouraged from displaying curly flowing tresses (like Miss Star here) in public. 

Deviance outraged God's honour. In 1582 a French noblewoman Charlotte Duples-Mornay scandalously wore curls to receive the eucharist. This act was considered sufficiently audacious to warrant an official investigation which resulted in the excommunication of her entire family.  

As good grooming equalled godliness ruining someone's hair was a popular way of discrediting them. Violent attacks such as pulling off wigs or tearing out beards were quite common. 

As hair was a marker of religious, cultural, personal and social status its loss was a serious matter. This association between hair and status can be observed in the way that the authorities sentenced certain criminals to forced shavings.

With hair being used express social, political and scholarly affiliations, hairstyling was to make identities and cultural hierarchies a material reality.  


  1. Reminds me of the story of Delilah cutting Samson's hair, and as a result, Samson losing his strength. Orthodox Jewish women are required to cover their hair with a scarf or wig (unless alone with their husband). Gives a new meaning to "let down your hair." :D

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  3. Makes me crazy, being adjudicated by what comes down to as part of someone else's personal agenda.
    I'm just trying to hold onto the 8 hairs I have left.

    1. Agree totally maddening - apparently not possible to have long blond hair and be academically able - but maybe i benefit from the 'Inspector Columbo effect'
      : D.

      Yikes only 8 hairs left - you haven't got many left to tear out!

  4. I always wondered why they were hiding behind all that facial hair. As you stated and as history recorded it was a way to establish ones place in the world, past as well as presence. But still so many mistakes have been made by such 'socially correct' individuals. I guess that is why a lot of them hide behind their hairy masks.