Hair on the Brain

October 31, 2016
Hair on the Brain

For this installment I took to the streets (metaphorically speaking) to interview a few friends about their hair and the intrinsic and imposed identities those little bundles of keratin confer. Settle in and hear their stories.

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Amanda Diamond, Fourth-Year

How does your hair play into your personal identity, both tangible and intangible?

I think my hair says a lot about me. I think it has defined me within my race, the larger community I am surrounded by, and is a tool I use to express myself.

Are you afraid to make drastic changes to your hair, or do you enjoy that sort of risk taking, or fall somewhere in between?

I’m open to hair changes; however, I still think I’m nervous about them. I have thought about getting dreadlocks in the past because it’s a hairstyle that is so bold, and also has a connection to my culture and identity. As an actor, however, I think I should be careful what I do with myself because I can be put into a proverbial ‘box’ quickly, speaking to the types of roles I’d be able to play. That’s just reflective of society and the way the general public uses hairstyles to draw conclusions and assume things about someone and their identity. 

What are your thoughts about external perceptions of your hair?
How others view my hair. I could go on and on about that but I’ll try to keep it succinct. First, there’s the idea about my hair from other African-American people. I have what people might call “good hair”, which is like less kinky, tight curls – mine are a little looser. People wonder if I’m mixed with something. Black people are often quick to mention the other races that they’re mixed with, and associate mixed race as something more beautiful, as if just being black isn’t enough to fit into the definition of beauty that’s shaped by dominantly white, popular media. Then there’s trying to explain to white peers how my hair is different. Or the questions to touch my hair, or their amazement when they say “how great it looks straightened.” I get questions about not washing my hair often, or why I would put grease in my hair rather than try to wash it out. Not to mention that my natural hair is “unprofessional.” The unruly nature of my hair is apparently too much for the office, but to straighten my hair that often just causes so much damage.   

What’s your favorite feature of your hair? Least favorite?
Favorite feature is how soft it is, least favorite is it won’t grow past a certain length and that’s annoying.

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Binx Saunders, Fourth-Year

How does your hair play into your personal identity, both tangible and intangible?

Hair played more of a role in my self perception when i was younger because I had much redder hair than now, and was teased for being a “ginger” as a child. I was embarrassed of my hair to a certain degree. As I got older the red faded and now I don’t think about it as much more than an aesthetic feature. 

Are you afraid to make drastic changes to your hair, or do you enjoy that sort of risk taking, or fall somewhere in between?

I am afraid partly because of the importance placed on appearance, especially among girls at UVA. I would be afraid to get bangs, for example, because I have no idea how they would look (but I suspect that they would not look good). I have gotten highlights before, but that doesn’t seem drastic because it can easily be changed back. I think part of it has to do with my mom and the fact that she has never done anything crazy with her hair, and even though she has grey hairs still doesn’t dye her hair. 

What are your thoughts about external perceptions of your hair?

My first two years of college I had really long hair, and so did most of my friends. Now that we’re older and looking for jobs, we want our hair to look ‘professional.’ I’ve recently noticed that the majority of my friends who are fourth years have shoulder length, straight hair. I think in general, long, wavier, hair is associated with being young, while having short, straight hair is associated with being a professional. 

What’s your favorite feature of your hair? Least favorite?

My hair is really thick, and it kind of sheds, so my sweaters and car are covered in hair (which is really annoying). My favorite feature is that it’s straight and pretty much stays that way no matter what I do, so I don’t need to blow dry or straighten it.

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Emily Yun, Third-Year, 

How does your hair play into your personal identity, both tangible and intangible?

I see it as a sort of neutral feature. I think if my hair were a different color, it’d be more of something I see as identifying me. I suppose because my family all has brown hair, and many Asians have brown hair, it does represent my identity to some degree. However, I generally see my identity as defined by personality, not physical features.

Are you afraid to make drastic changes to your hair, or do you enjoy that sort of risk taking, or fall somewhere in between?

I would make more drastic changes if I knew I wouldn’t get tired of it so quickly. I have dyed it a bit in the past, but I generally keep it the same color and medium-length style for the most part.

What are your thoughts about external perceptions of your hair?

Others often tell me my hair is healthy and thick, which I perceive as a compliment. Professionally speaking, I don’t believe that there would be objections to my hair color or style.

What’s your favorite feature of your hair? Least favorite?

My favorite feature is the texture but my least favorite is how heavy it is – I can’t keep it long or I get neck pains!

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Tori Spivey, Third-Year

How does your hair play into your personal identity, both tangible and intangible?

Growing up, especially through middle school, my hair was a huge part of my identity. This feels really conceited to say, but I’ll elaborate. I have really thick, really curly, big brown hair. In middle school, I kept it on the shorter side which make it even bigger and so I kind of stood out amidst the straight haired, if not blonde, girls of my suburban private school. This has continued today, but on a smaller scale. I love my hair because it’s like my sister’s and my mom’s, and it’s still different. Yeah, so I really like my hair.

Are you afraid to make drastic changes to your hair, or do you enjoy that sort of risk taking, or fall somewhere in between?

I don’t think I’m afraid to – I contemplate it a lot, but then never do it, so maybe I am afraid. Whenever I get frustrated or exasperated in my personal life I usually cut my hair, just to assert myself over my situation I think. I also don’t do anything too drastic because my mother would have a heart attack.

What are your thoughts about external perceptions of your hair?

I think people see my hair as different or interesting. I get comments on it because it falls between that curly and wavy hair spectrum. People will legitimately not recognize me when I straighten my hair because I do it probably four times a year. Pretty much always met with praise, at least when it’s washed and down.

What’s your favorite feature of your hair? Least favorite?

I love how my big hair matches my big personality, and I hate that it really seals in heat on the back of my neck (but I just rediscovered scrunchies and I am in love).

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