For centuries, a woman’s hair has been more than just something that grows on the top of her head. Whether it’s a representation of her culture, financial/relationship status, individuality, sexuality, or bravery… It’s safe to say that a woman’s hair is a symbol of power.
According to beautifulwithbrains.com, in Ancient Greece, slaves wore their hair short. Only free woman could grow their hair long. If you were single, you would wear it down and loose. If you had tied the knot, you did so with your hair as well, and you tied up your hair in a bun. At that point in time, a woman’s hair represented whether or not she had the power to live a free life, and whether she was living the single-life or the married-life.
Some people in this world define money as power, or the ultimate source of power. According to Milady’s Cosmetology textbook, during Roman times, a woman’s hair color signified what class in society she belonged to. In other words, how much money and power she had. Noblewomen (those born into money) would tint their hair red. Middle-class women would find ways to highlight their hair blonde. Poor women would color their hair black. This was because of what each class could afford. Back then, people used natural substances to apply makeup and change hair color (berries, vinegar, coal, etc.) and the wealthier women could afford to purchase the substances that were used to lighten or tint one’s hair to her liking.
While there are many women who use their hair as a representation of more than just their style, I’ve created a list of a few of my favorites. And while this article is all about the GirlPower, I’ve also included one man who helped a lot of women grow through their haircuts, and completely changed the game of the Cosmetology Industry.
Lady Godiva (1040-1067) was an English Noblewoman. She was born into a wealthy family, and was one of the very few female landowners of her time. She went on to marry Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who’s taxation caused the citizens of their land to suffer greatly. Many people throughout the community went into debt over these taxes.
Multiple attempts were made to get the tax debts lifted, including formal appeals and out right begging, but Leofric refused to settle. Instead, he sarcastically made the wager that he would lift the tax debt when Lady Godiva rode through town naked…and so she did! Lady Godiva stripped down and hopped on her horse, bare back. She rode through town with nothing but her long hair to cover her. Leofric, feeling defeated, immediately lifted all the taxes. Lady Godiva, and her locks, became a legend.
Madame CJ Walker (1867-1919) was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, social activist, and America’s first female self-made millionaire. How did all this begin? Her hair.
Due to a scalp condition, Walker began losing her hair earlier than most. This caused her to start experimenting with store-bought cosmetics and every day household products. Through trial and error, and many homemade concoctions, she eventually found the magic recipe and created her own little remedy for her scalp issues This sparked the creation of “Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower”. From starting out her sales by simply going door to door, she went on to create extensive marketing strategies, including product demonstrations. Then in 1917, she organized the first ever national meeting for businesswomen. #GirlBoss!
Madame CJ sold “The Walker System” of hair products, and with that, a new image for hair culture. For the first time in history, an African-American woman was featured in a before-and-after photo for a cosmetic advertisement. Walker spent time traveling and teaching African-American women how to care for and style their hair, as well as how to budget, build businesses, and become financially independent. Again, #GirlBoss. By the time of her death, she had established herself as a pioneer in the modern African-American hair care and cosmetics industry.
Bettie Page (1923-2008) Rebellious or revolutionary? With bangs as an immense part of her distinctive look, the 1950s pinup girl empowered women to love their naked body and embrace their sexuality.
She taught the world that what they were told should be unmentionable, was actually perfectly natural and beautiful. Of course, she did have her spin on things. Her confidence assisted in the sexual liberation of women in the 1960s, and women of the future. Today, people still admire Bettie Page, her signature look, and her ability to go against the grain. Clients still come into the salon asking for “Bettie Page Bangs”.
Angela Davis (1944-present ) During times of slavery in the United Stated, a lot of African-Americans attempted to style their hair like the predominantly Caucasian communities they lived in. In other words, they tried to smooth down their natural curls. During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement also brought out the “Black is Beautiful” Movement, and with that a new sense of identity was brought to the African-American Community. This movement reestablished an appreciation of black beauty and aesthetics, and redefined the personal style of African-Americans that included more natural, untreated hairstyles. The Afro became a powerful political symbol which reflected black pride.
Angela Davis is a progressive African-American educator, and social activist. She was heavily involved in the civil rights movement during the 60s and 70s, and it was something that she represented inside and out. She rocked the afro! Everything that Angela represents is exactly what the Afro represented during that era. She used her hair to represent the power that she needed to stand up for herself and her community.
Vidal Sassoon (1928-2012) was a Hairstylist, businessman, entrepreneur, and in my opinion, a visionary.
Once upon a time, women would come into the beauty parlor for their weekly (yes, I said weekly) hair appointment. They would get their hair styled, then try to fluff and maintain that style throughout the week until their next appointment. Every so many weeks they would get a cut, and every week a style. Those were considered separate things. They had a cut and a style. Vidal Sassoon decided the cut would be the style. He created the first geometric haircut. This changed the way stylists cut hair, and how often a client needed to be rescheduled. He wanted to make it possible for a client to come in less often for her convenience, and a stylist could charge a little bit more due to his/her skill level —everybody wins!
As we all know, for centuries, it was a woman’s “job” to get married, have babies, and take care of her family and home. Then one day, we decided we wanted more. Once women started to go to school and work, we didn't have time to go to a weekly hair appointment. Sassoon was quoted saying, “Women were going back to work, they were assuming their own power. They didn't have time to sit under the dryer.” He knew a woman’s hair was a sign of power. By giving her a cut where it simply fell into place every day, he gave her more time to focus on her independence.
Over the years, I’ve heard it all. From, “A woman’s hair is her glory.” to “Hair is a form of self expression!” I’d like to think that your hair is one of the greatest representations of you. Your hair makes whatever statement you want it to make. Rock the power; rock your look!
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