“The Significance of Male Hair: It’s Presence and Removal”

An extremely insightful article on the conflict between societies and uncut kesh by Raj Kumar Singh:

With no claim to a rational justification, we largely demand that adult males present with bare faces and clipped cranial hair if they are to be presumed good, productive members of society. Yet scholarly studies demonstrate observers typically make many, significantly positive attributions, both of character and life mastery, to the male who “wears” (i.e., does not artificially remove) facial hair or long cranial hair; and historically uncut male hair was religio-spiritually required with exceptions made only as an adjunct to worship.

What is the significance of this juxtaposition? Two rules of fact emerge from the research:

  1. A man’s reasons for abstention from hair cutting practices all relate to his assertion, intended consciously or subconsciously, that he is not the servant of other men.
  2. When people in positions of (non-religious) authority demand that a man cut his hair or shave his face, their purpose is to require the clipped man to openly demonstrate his obedience and subservience to them.

This paper seeks to provide a multi-disciplinary review of the literature that relates to the significance of the hair presentation of the adult male. Further, it proffers the theory that the extent to which we desire short haired, bare faced men is the extent to which we seek the stereotypically presumed attribute of submissiveness found in the female combined with the assumed strength and dependability ascribed to the male.


Preface: Why a multi disciplinary approach
The Semantics of Male Hair Valuation
The Significance of Cranio/Facial Appearance
Haircutting as a Function of Spirituality
Hair Allowance as a Function of Spirituality
Male Hair Denigration
Toward an Explanatory Theory
In Conclusion
Table of Male Hair Law Cases

Preface: Why a multi disciplinary approach

The reports of cases that address male hair law, identifiable as such, are found to have been published over a span of about thirty years. They number over two hundred and almost invariably reflect the inability of plaintiff men to satisfactorily impress the courts with the general importance of the ability of a man to exercise unfettered control over the presence of his hair.It is important to note the following:

  1. Male hair regulations are invariably aimed toward requiring men to keep their cranial hair clipped short and their faces scraped clean, never the opposite.
  2. The shorn appearance against which the plaintiff so adamantly rebels is nearly always the image of choice of the deciding judge (or, in the case of a female jurist, her respected peers).
  3. If the plaintiff is represented by male counsel, the attorney will almost always present with short hair and will nearly as often stand in court with a scraped face.

Together, these demonstrate that the case law has very often been decided after bare faced, short haired counsel have presented pleadings to a judge of similar tonsorial persuasion for recognition of the importance to the integrity of a man to present with the facial hair that attests to his manhood and the cranial hair of one unbowed.

How sincere can the above described counsel appear to be? How is the judge to reconcile his own self-perception as a powerful, free male with the plaintiff’s assertion that short hair is the mark of a slave and a face free of hair is only natural to the child or female?

If the judge is a woman, how can she appreciate the issues involved? If the plaintiff asserts that his unshorn head is the sign of his dedication to God over man, then what does this suggest regarding the religiosity of the judge himself or, in the case of a female jurist, her peers on the bench? Is their religion invalid, or is their discernment and/or adherence to its true precepts faulty? A consideration of these questions illuminates the jurist’s personal conflicts that must be overcome if the plaintiff’s case is to obtain an unbiased hearing.

If a plaintiff is to impress the court with the concept that a man’s ability to control his own cranio/facial presentation should be considered a fundamental right of the highest magnitude, then he must be prepared to begin at the beginning. By using a multidisciplinary approach the attached paper seeks to allow the advocate in a male hair law case to do just that. By acknowledging the social-psychological, anthropological, historical, socio-political and spiritual/religious considerations the person who is to be persuaded is called to account for any tendency to discount, not just the position of the plaintiff, but also the positions of the cited authorities.

I do not intend that this paper be submitted simply as a supporting brief. It’s highest and best use will be made when the advocate studies this presentation for the purpose of instilling a sort of mind set or attitude. That having been done, the references cited should be acquired and studied in the raw. At that point the advocate for male hair rights will be in good stead to develop the philosophical component of an appeal to the court.

This paper is intended to be a review of the literature followed by a theory that attempts to explain and reconcile apparent inconsistencies in our society’s attitudes and practices regarding male hair. As a “review of the literature,” it is not intended to serve as a comprehensive recapitulation of all that has been written on the subject of male hair significance. As stated earlier, the reader desirous of an in-depth study of the subject is well advised to treat the list of references as a directed reading list.


Restrictions against male hair presence are so common and so firmly entrenched within our cultural mores that most of us take them for granted. We hardly consider the extent to which men must go to feel respected in modern American society.Indeed, the man who is “dressed for success” has literally hidden every square inch of hair producing skin except for his hands, face and cranium. A man’s hands produce only minimal amounts of hair and, at any rate, are easily ignored. The socially astute male removes his facial hair every morning and makes regular visits to a barber whom he pays to cut his cranial hair to a length that is typically no longer than about three inches on top and tapers to nothing over the ears and shirt collar.

When we see a bare faced, five year-old boy with short, greased down hair we comment on how he looks so much the part of the “little man.” If we acknowledge, however, that facial hair is natural to the adult male’s face, and that short hair is a classic sign of subservience, we see that it would be more appropriate to comment on how the typically presented business man has so much the look of a little boy.

As a society, we superficially appear to believe that male, cranio/facial hair presentation is a matter of de minimus import. One author titled his otherwise scholarly writing on a sub topic of the subject “Suits for the Hirsute…”. (Maloney, 1995) In his first footnote (at pg. 1243) he thanks his wife for suggesting that title as an alternative to his first choice of “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.”

We may well doubt that a male orthodox Jew or Sunni Muslim, who has had to make a choice between forgoing life sustaining employment or shaving his face in defiance of the spiritual tenets in which he believes, could appreciate the humor of either title.

Another author (Kentsmith, 1973) begins his journal article on the significance of hair with a quote from the poem The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope; to-wit “What mighty contests rise from trivial things.” Thus, he makes his sentiments on the subject evident beyond peradventure.

Consider these three perspectives on the value of male hair:

  1. the individual man’s valuation of his own hair presentation,
  2. ostensible societal expectations of what constitutes the cranio/facial presentation of a good man,
  3. true societal preferences in male hair presentation as uncovered by research performed in the discipline of social-psychology.

If (a), (b) and (c) were in accord with one another, there would be little to discuss. Individual men place great value on their own hair as habitually presented, and social-psych research shows that we hold bearded men in more positive regard than bare-faced men. Further, we see long-haired men as being dominant and unbowed, (Kentshmith, 1973 at pg. 579) and religious prohibitions against haircutting and/or shaving are not uncommon among the world’s religions.

Yet, on the more practical level, we largely demand that men present with bare faces and shorn cranial hair if they are to obtain life sustaining employment and are to be presumed good, productive members of society; therein lies the proverbial rub.

This paper seeks to provide a review of the literature that relates to the significance of the cranio-facial hair presentation of the adult male, as well as to put forth a theory that explains those incongruencies in our social position on male hair described above.

Read the rest of the article here: Unshorn Hair


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