One of the accompanying and identifying features of females across most parts of the world is long hair. It is, in most cases, a cultural, religious, and societal expectation for females to have longer hair than their male counterparts.
Guess what? There’s also a biological phenomenon behind females having longer hair than men.
We’ll discuss these factors and answer the question ‘why do females have longer hair?’ in this post. Prepare to discover some interesting facts.
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Females And Long Hair: A Look Through History
The association between women and long hair has existed for centuries.
In ancient Rome, women kept their hair long, often parting it in the middle. But for men, it was considered rather effeminate to pay too much attention to their hair.
Ancient Greece was rather interesting because while men were allowed to grow their hair out, women still had overall long hair than men.
The Christian bible references Apostle Paul who wrote a letter to the Corinthians admonishing them about the length of their hair.
He categorically stated that even nature teaches us that long hair is a shame to a man while it is a glory to a woman. Was he onto something when he attributed his statement to nature? We’ll find out when we talk about the biology behind longer hair for females.
The Biology Behind Longer Hair for Females
Have you ever wondered whether there was something different between the rate of hair growth in men and women? If you have thought about it, then it’s time to find the answer.
Yes. There is a general biological process behind hair growth that makes women have longer hair than men.
As for hair growth, both men and women experience the same hair growth rate of approximately 1cm per month. The difference is not in the hair growth rate. It is in how our hormones relate to the phases our hair goes through.
Human hair growth follows three stages- Anagen (hair growth phase), Catagen (transition phase), and Telogen (resting or shedding phase). The anagen phase lasts between 2 and 7 years, while the catagen and telogen phase lasts for 10 days and 3 months respectively.
So, every time, our hair is in one of these phases, even when we’re unaware of it. Our hormones play a major role in determining how long our hair stays in a particular phase.
The female hormone estrogen makes women stay in the hair growth phase longer than men. But the male hormone testosterone causes men to reach the third stage faster than women, thereby resulting in shorter hair than women.
Based on biological sources, both men and women have the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT).
DHT is responsible for keeping a person’s hair in the resting/ shedding phase for a long time, but females can counter DHT thanks to the female hormone estrogen while men cannot.
When a woman’s hair spends more time in the growing phase for longer, it is bound to grow longer than a man’s hair. However, women with low levels of estrogen might face the same fate as men.
We must also consider hair loss because men tend to experience more hair loss and faster balding patterns than females.
Beyond culture and time, there has always been a natural process responsible for females having longer hair than males.
Regardless, we cannot ignore the societal norms so let’s consider them and how they relate with the biological aspect to hair growth.
Societal Norms Further Enforcing Gender Disparity in Hair Length
Beyond the biological pattern of hair growth, we have discussed, while leaving room for personal and genetic differences, societal and gender norms often prevent males from discovering their hair length.
Across several societies, we see a norm where men are somewhat compelled to keep short hair while women grow out their hair.
In such cases, the men never even discover the length of their hair growth phase and how long their hair could get if they grew it out. They simply had to cut their hair all the time without letting it ever reach its maximum length.
In many societies, gender traits and characteristics are often generalized using the majority.
What this means is that when we notice that more men have a certain trait and more women have a trait, people tend to turn such observations into a norm and expect everyone to fall into place based on their gender.
So, long hair is quick to become the norm for females in many societies because more women have been noticed to have longer hair. A man with naturally long hair might be asked to cut his hair to blend with the rest of the males with naturally shorter hair.
While these facts stay true for several societies around the world, the interesting thing about life, in general, is that there are always exceptions to principles and practices.
Exceptional Cases Where Females Don’t Have Longer Hair
Throughout several cultures and times, both men and women have gone outside the norm where hair length is concerned.
Chinese Sikh men who maintain their ‘queue’ hairstyle don’t cut the hair, but grow it and bind it under their turbans.
The roles are reversed in the Maasai community of Tanzania and Kenya. Young men who belong to the warrior class isolate themselves from society while offering protection to their community.
While in isolation, they grow out their hair into tiny, long dreadlocks and coat it in red ochre. However, when the warriors graduate and become elders, they are expected to maintain short hair.
In an interesting twist, women in the Maasai community are considered beautiful with short hair or even no hair at all.
On religious grounds, several orthodox Judaic women, especially the most zealous ones shave their heads beneath their wigs to ensure that nobody ever gets to see their hair.
Nazarenes allow their hair to grow out without cutting them. Rastafarians also uphold a spiritual principle that compels them to grow their hair long and make it into dreadlocks. The Sadhus in India also grow their jata to shockingly long lengths.
We have been able to establish several things in the course of this post.
First, biology, a.k.a our hormones, creates a pattern for females to have longer hair than men. Cultural practices also make it such that men don’t allow their hair to grow out, leaving women with longer hair. We cannot leave out the effect of religion on this norm as well.
However, cases of women having long hair and men having shorter hair are not universal. There have been exceptions over time, and there will always be exceptions.