A woman with beautiful long hair would capture you attention like a magnet even if you don’t contain any iron in you. According to Desmond Morris, the author of The Naked Woman (the book suggested by my awesome friend), hair has been “shown off, concealed, styled, cut, trimmed, extended, straightened, waved, put up, let down, colored and decorated in a thousand different ways.” The Naked Woman has a compilation of all the different parts of the woman body, analyzed and explained from evolutionary perspectives. The book talks about hair, brows, lips, cheeks, mouth, arms, breasts, waist, … everything you can visually behold.
In this article, I will summarize and elaborate some of my thoughts on Hair chapter. Desmond mentioned that our extremely odd hair style, compared to our close relatives or to any other species, does not appear to give any survival advantage. When there is no definite explanation, the scientists speculate. On why women have long hair, three competing speculative theories were discussed in the chapter: the aquatic theory of human origin, the warm blanket theory, and the identification theory.
The aquatic theory suggests that we lost our body fur as an adaptation to swimming. However, when our ancestors swam, the hair protects the head from harmful sunlight. When the mother swam, her babies would tag along and cling on the long hair. However, it is unlikely for mothers to both take the baby and dive for food in water. It would be dangerous for the baby. The other counter argument is that the hair of our ancestors who evolved in scorching African climate, would be much bushier rather than long and flowing.
This theory, I think, has some convincing arguments. For example, the newborn and month-old babies have a preprogrammed motor reflex called grasp reflex. If you know any baby, you can try. You could give your finger, pen, or even hair, anything, to the baby palm. The baby will grasp it, really hard in the fist. See this amazing video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXJLaGguQiU
The babies are hanging on the stick for a long time, and they don’t need to be taught. So long hair could be very useful in this sense. Plus, babies are natural swimmers up until like 6-12 months. But they lost the capacity to float and swim as they develop. For cute babies swimming videos, watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb6GDufOQ88 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lxd8xvEids
Another theory, I think is farfetched, is that the very long hair kept the bodies of our ancestors, who evolved in cold harsh weather, like a blanket. The long hair from the head would protect against cold temperature. This might have even given our ancestors the idea of making clothes to protect the bodies. The serious flaw in this argument is why do we not have long hair all our bodies. Our ancestors evolved in cold weather should have a whole thick fur. And why would men in cold weather not have longer hair, that would protect them from cold too?
The main argument Desmond supported appears that hair serves as a species identification purpose. Hair patterns and colors could be used as species identification markers, especially in nonhuman primates and monkeys.
As humans migrated out from Africa to to different regions of the world, our bodies adapt to different climates. Variations would arise in a response to climate adaptation. (But I am not sure about survival and reproductive advantages of having this or that hair. There might be none). But all these different types of hair pattern: wolly hair, crinkly hair, wavy hair, straight hair, blond hair) would help our visual ancestors identify different races and groups. Besides, our ancestors could discern the sexes of their own species. Males with hair faces could be easily differentiated from females with less hair.
However, Desmond argued that cultural adaptations (e.g. fire control, farming, clothing, inventions) emerged before natural selection took our ancestral hairstyles to the extreme. Hairstyles that keep our isolated humans apart no longer kept them apart. However, hairstyles serve as conspicuous display in females.
Desmond also discussed hairstyle modification in females, using evidence of stone age carvings with distinct elaborate hairstyles to oldest Venus figurines, dated at least 20,000 years. Some wigs worn by high-ranking Egyptian females were dated back at least 5,000 years ago. Egyptian females shaved their head completely and then worn fancy wigs. Although women in ancient Rome did not shave their head for wigs, they still wore them as status display. Such fashion trend became nasty when it came to a point where people insisted that the wigs should be taken from the heads of people who lost the war. Different types of female hairstyles such as long flowing hair for feminine look, pony tail for practical look and short hair for rebellious and freedom purpose, etc. were also discussed in the book.
The other very interesting point I noted was on the color of hair. Average hair on human head is 100,000, but blondes have finer hair and have 140,000 on average. Brunettes have about 108,000 and redheads usually have 90,000. As we begin to develop a culture of artificial hair coloring, blondes become a trend in women fashion. According to the book, over 90% every hundred women who possibly changed hair color to blond. The argument is that females with longer and finer hair (achieved by dying hair into blonde) exaggerated the sexually dimorphic trait, making themselves look more feminine. The blonde provides a finer, silkier, softer look.
At one point in a history, Roman laws required prostitutes to wear blonde hair. It’s crazy, isn’t it? I think the knowledge of our hair history over human lineage matters. But what your current hair pattern is not that important in many societies of the world. I am a male and have long hair.
Time has changed, hasn’t it? By the way, are you thinking about dying your hair blonde?