Big Hair, Don’t Care

My name is Danielle Teigen, and I’m a hair-aholic.

Let me be clear: I don’t collect hair or wigs, or anything creepy like that. But I do love a well-coiffed head of hair. And the bigger, the better.

My family and friends tease me relentlessly about my big hair. Less than a year ago, I had long, lustrous locks that hung down my back in perfectly styled curls whose roots stood at precarious heights. I’ve always had long hair, and I’ve always taken great pride in styling it to be more voluminous than its natural tendency. A fellow big-hair aficionado once remarked to me that “the higher the hair, the closer to God.” #lifemotto

A New ‘Do

After watching House of Cards, I became infatuated with Claire Underwood’s corporate mom cut, which is described as “the cutthroat sister of the soccer mom, unconnected to the Rachel and only distantly related to the manic pixie dream girl the way humans are related to Hades in hell.” For months I told my husband that I was going to cut all my hair off to emulate her style, and he cautioned me against it. (With good reason, because every other time I’ve cut off significant length off my hair, I have immediately hated it and began growing it back out.)

Last August, I did it. Well, almost. I didn’t quite go to the extreme of Claire Underwood but the style was a major change for me.

Danielle Teigen_long and short of it 2

I’ve had this shorter style for nearly a year now, and, for the most part, I love it. It makes me feel more confident and assertive, as well as more professional. It’s still big, and on my worst hair days, it hangs limp next to my cheeks, teasing me with incompetency and meekness.

In thinking about my own hairstyle, I can confidently claim that much of my personal identity is directly tied to my hair. When I was a Forum reporter years ago, a colleague of my husband’s said she thought she saw me covering an event. When he asked her to describe me, the first thing she noted was my hair. Three years ago, on two separate occasions, complete strangers remarked about my big hair after I presented my drivers license and my passport photo.

My hair is my thing.

Double Standard

For centuries, women have associated their sense of self with their hair. It’s why slave owners would shave the heads of those they had enslaved—to rob them of their identity. For African American women, hair can be a statement by which they conform or rebel; straight hair has always been associated with a white standard of beauty, even during slavery. Straight hair meant freedom and protection. During the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 1970s, Malcolm X equated straightened hair with being ashamed of the unique beauty of black hair.

While I have never had to deal with that type of seriousness regarding my hair, I understand what hair symbolizes in a particular culture. Attractive hair is defined on a regional, class, ethnic, and age basis. In the south, my big hair wouldn’t hold a candle to the styles women prefer; everything is bigger there. Claire Underwood’s “mannish” style would not work for many other professional women.

Women are acutely aware of the expectations society places on their hair. Rose Weitz studied how women seek power using their hair and discovered that participants reported a bad hair day equated to “a true catastrophe for those who consider their hair a significant source of power.” There is a hidden paradox here. The hairstyles traditionally considered attractive (long, blonde, curly, etc.) are also the styles that accentuate a woman’s femininity; however, our culture equates femininity with incompetence.

Talk about a double standard.

Not every woman puts the type of pressure I do on myself to perfectly style her hair every day. But I do. And I’m proud of it. My hair is my thing. And to quote Lady Gaga, I am my hair.

6 Responses

  1. Sam

    Amen! You put so eloquently what I have always thought about hair, Danielle! Having had my fair shair of pixie cuts, I can tell you that the shorter my hair was, the more I felt the need to compensate in other areas, makeup and clothing, to still let others know that I am indeed feminine. It always seems to be a push/pull in terms of our looks, doing what we want with ourselves, while still trying to fit in to our assigned gender roles. I think we all need to live a little more by my favorite saying, “you do you”!

  2. Cordy Swanson

    Just wanted to say that I promised to cut my hair when I turned 40… It had been long, blond and corkscrew curls my WHOLE life. I found myself actually following through with it when my girls were about 5 and both had long long flowing locks that needed my care a couple of times a day. While I sometimes miss my unruly mop, I love my new, styled mini-mop 🙂
    To be fair, my husband hates it, hated it from the get-go. He married a long, curly haired vixen and now has to live with a Marilyn Monroe/Shirley Temple mix. He even has the girls on his side. “Grow your hair back, Mom!” Uh uh. This is who I am now and I can love running my hands thru it and not worry about ‘messing’ it up! Freedom from clips and bands and pins and hairspray (although I do use a little cream to combat the frizzies :). I am a mature business woman with a fun, modern style that other ladies would kill for. I’m sticking with it. Sorry Honey (and Honeys). :}

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