The Issue of Long Hair

Figure 1.--

Reactions to long hair has varied in different historical periods. Long hair has been both admired and veviled often with freat vehemence the meaning of long hair, however, has varied over time. Some civilizations view it as a sign of verility. Others saw it as effeminate. At other times it was considered suitable for young, but not older boys. Some boys despised having to wear long hair. Other boys were distraught about being forced to cut their hair.

Long Hair in the 17th Century

Long Hair in the 19th Century

Long Hair in Post-World War II Era


The adult world of post-World War II America reacted viscerally to long hair. Parents viewed their kin with alarm. Principals rebuked the new trend at assemblies as if they faced a biblical plague. Preachers spoke with alarm from the pulpit. The young people, especially teenagers saw it as their personal Declaration of Independence. School officials from New York to California reacted to the new challenge. Many took a determined stand. Boys were refused admission, sent home, isolated, or in some extreme cases actually sheered. The gym teacher and coach often was the most vocal, reacting viscerally to long hair boys. The reaction was strongest in the conservative South and Mid-West. Boys stood up as best they could. Walkouts were staged. But the strength was in their numbers, more and more boys wanted longer and longer hair. Parents varied. Many were relieved that the school was reacting where they feared to tread. Other parents sided with their boys. Some parents simply followed their parenting approach of avoiding standards and discipline. Other parents genuinely saw the school regulations as intrusive and arbitrary and helped bring law suits. States varied on the authority given to schools to regulate "conduct and behavior". Often detailed hair style guidelines were added to school dress codes.


The issue of course was not fashion and hair length. The real issue was respect for authority. Schools saw long hair as a challenge to school authority affecting the school's ability to maintain standards, decorum and discipline. Some educators felt that the school's initial, approach was misguided. They saw the home as the proper place for such decisions. Schools initial effort to dictate hair styles actually made long hair more popular and fueled dissent and rebellion rather than quelling it. Others saw that making students wear uniform hair styles was only one step removed from, making them all think alike. The same argument that in the 1990s was heard concerning school uniforms. Court rulings never really settled the issue. Gradually schools began easing regulations as the numbers of long hair boys became to numerous to deal with. It was not too long before teachers began appearing with languish hair--eventually even gym teachers.


Many in America saw the humor in the issue. Billboards showing a shaggy-haired teen, proclaimed "Beautify America: Get a hair cut." Newspapers described fathers buying dog licences and mothers giving pink hairnets for long-haired sons. School administrators reprimanded long-haired boys for using the wrong rest rooms. [Bill Severn, Hair: The Long and Short of It (David McKay: New York, 1971), p. 10.]

More serious reaction

As intense as the reaction to long hair was in America, it was even more severe in many other countries. In some places long hair was even dangerous. The Soviets denounced long hairs as enemies of the people. Eastern European countries had various specific guidelines. Most boys did not dare wear long hair and foreigners with long hair were not allowed entry to the country. Similar reaction was reported across Latin America and Asia. Many countries in Western Europe reacted as in America. There were a few exceptions like the Netherlands which even allowed soldiers to wear long hair. [Bill Severn, Hair: The Long and Short of It (David McKay: New York, 1971), pp. 14-15.]

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing hair style pages:
[Return to the Main long hair page]
[Long hair] [Bangs] [Ringlet curls] [Hair bows] [Curls] [Caps] [Collar bows]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Introduction] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Biographies] [Bibliographies] [Activities] [Countries] [Contributions]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: March 7, 2000
Last edited: March 7, 2000