Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Last night I watched an old Dean Martin movie called ‘The Silencers’, that was a 1966 spoof of the “Bond, James Bond” movies. You can find it here listed under ‘Thrillers’

(Apart from the reason I’m referencing it in this post, it also has some really cool 1960’s futuristic gadgets. I want to sleep on that bed, just once, maybe twice)

One of the ‘Bond girls’ or rather ‘Helm Girls’ was a hot tamale (vernacular of the time) by the name of Daliah Lavi,whose character starts out with Hollywood-jet-black hair but ends up with a distinguished streak or two that highlight (pardon the pun) the transformation she has undergone (I tried to write that sentence without giving the story away for those who want to watch the movie)

Next in our ‘Hair Today’ exploration we head to the wonderful world of books and the seriously ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ Sorceress Polgara,  from the ‘Belgariad’ and ‘Malloreon’ series by Leigh and David Eddings 

I’d have to go back and read the books to discern the moment when Polgara’s hair developed its signature white streak, but I do remember that it happened as her true character was revealed.

Last but by no means least we head to the world of television to find the truly stunning Yvonne De Carlo, a home-town gal, (born in Vancouver) as Lilly Munster, in The Munsters’, who also had the ubiquitous streak of white hair among the black.

Hands up those who are seeing a pattern here?

And lest we not forget the lads, we have Gandalf the Grey, who became Gandalf the White after his fall into the Mines of Moira.

So, the hair thing … There are many conventions in the arts about how to depict things that have no physical shape or form to them. In my examples we have Daliah whose true nature is revealed, Polgara’s true powers are revealed and Lilly Munster’s separateness from the ‘norm’ is revealed. Gandalf rises in the ranks of wizards.

All have these aspects visually relayed to us by their hair.

Why hair?

I read, aways back, I wish I could remember where, that us ‘oomins have retained our pre-hominid pelt on our heads for the purposes of grooming as a socialising tool. If you check out our nearest relatives, genetically speaking, the harmony within their societies is established and maintained in part by grooming – soothing the savage beastie within perhaps. (this makes a modicum of sense but how does that account for hair on other parts of our bodies? A conundrum best left unanswered on these pages)

Hair then becomes a highly visible indicator of how we decide to respond to another member of our species. Therefore it has power, and becomes an easily recognisable culture-wide shortcut to present a great many concepts to the viewer/reader.

What thinkest thou?

An almost irrelevant sidebar – Did Princess Leia call Han Solo a, scruffy-looking nerf herder because of his hair?

The ‘Gone Tomorrow’ part of this blog’s title refers to the fact that I’m contemplating changing my theme/template. So my next post may or may not have a completely different look!


“You know, my hair is very upsetting to people, but it’s upsetting on purpose. It is important to look old so that the young will not be afraid of dying. People don’t like old women. We don’t honor age in our society, and we certainly don’t honor it in Hollywood” Tyne Daly

10 comments on “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

  1. Eileen O'Farrell says:

    Thanks for the memories! I remember all of those shows! Regarding the hair thing, I wonder where male pattern baldness fits into the scheme?


  2. Princess Leia had danishes tied to the sides of her head so she would have been open to a hair-inspired putdown if Han Solo had been smarter than a nerf-herder.

    Hair has long been seen as a source of power. Samson and Delilah is the biblical story of power lost by cutting Samson’s hair. Rapunzel’s hair was her source of escape as she used it as a rope to escape the tower. And romantic leads of all persuasions are usually described in terms of hair health, not by the size of their bald patches.

    The social grooming argument would hold water if we were inclined to pick lice out of each other’s hair (for snacks, I guess) as chimpanzees do. The modern hair salon is possibly today’s girl’s equivalent just as the barber shop used to be men’s.

    You can tell a lot about a person by how he or she wears her hair. Mohawks say one thing; long blond tresses say another. Pink or brown, natural or highlighted, it’s all about self-expression. “My hair, therefore I am.”


    • Widdershins says:

      So glad Leia ditched the frizbees after the first movie. It must’ve been hard to hear through all that hair. . . I guess the movie/musical ‘Hair’ just about sums it all up.


  3. londonmabel says:

    Hair is super super interesting. In high school/college when a friend had le big breakup they’d come over and my step-mother would cut their hair and I’d bake cookies. Cutting your hair was a way to separate yourself from your boyfriend, because you were saying: I no longer have to care that you love my long tresses. And when I was first intro’d to the feminist gaggles in the late 80s (I was in high school, but my mother was at Queen’s and had joined various discussion groups, presses, etc) I was interested in the uniform of short hair and double tank tops (often lesbians, but possibly not everyone was.) If you were two chicks dating you didn’t have to have long hair, at least in those circles, in those days. 😉

    I don’t think hair gets used more than clothes, though–just in addition to. But compared to the other parts of your body, it’s the most visible (more than your nails), most changeable, least commitment (vs tattooing) way to make statements about yourself, say things to people, communicate.

    I think men feel a bit sad that the balding starts limiting their abilities to express themselves at some point, so they go in for the facial hair and sideburns.

    As Han Solo’s outfits have always been very neat and tidy, I can only imagine she was referring to his hair. As his hair’s not very scruffy, I can only imagine she’s a woman of limited insults (reasonable given her diplomatic upbringing), though there’s also the factor of George Lucas’ poor writing skills to be taking into account.


  4. I have always wondered why it was/is such a big deal for women to have long locks while men have shorn ones. There have been times when I’ve cut my hair off that the stylist would ask, “What will your husband think?” as in “Will your husband go ballistic because you now have hair as short as a boy?” That always made me wonder what a screwed relationship that would be.


  5. londonmabel says:

    I think somehow over time anything that differentiates women from men becomes generally-speaking more attractive to hetero men and women. It comes out in different ways in different societies, and in the west (but in many nonwestern cultures too) it gets massively expressed in hair. Like leg shaving.

    Which is why it was confusing when men started growing long hair in the 60s and freaked everyone out. I’m not saying that’s intellectually right, just that… I’m sure there’s a great number of interesting anthropological or biological studies on the subject that reflect something about us in terms of survival/sexual/mating instincts, and not just “ooh zee menz they are so awful and sexist.” It often IS sexist, but there’s Le Deep waters. I remember when a friend of mine cut her hair quite short, and would sometimes get these random “lesbian!!” shouts from men in passing cars.

    So then the Nice Men in your life… they still secretly love long hair, but they know it’s Naughty to say so. So they keep it to themselves. Which is a bit… odd too. (Not that there are no women with short hair that they find beautiful, but most images of Sexy are associated with long tresses, and how can everyone be immune to that? ) It can be a little confusing to be Le Sensitive Male in 2011.

    Come to think of it… a book I’ve always wanted to read but haven’t yet cause it will hurt the brain: Women With Mustaches and Men Without Beards by Najmabadi

    My professor of gender and sexuality in the Middle East was blown away by this academic. She showed us part of the book, using slides–showing how men and women at one point in Persian history seemed to look more alike (Iranian women often have a lot of facial hair, and the men didn’t wear beards) and then over time you see women and men being skewed in opposite directions–nowadays women wax off a lot of the facial hair, and men are supposed to wear thick beards. I think she related it to Islam, and gosh knows probably colonialism, but I don’t even remember. Must be time for me to read.


  6. londonmabel says:

    Some academics are just very dense, or not good at getting their ideas across in clear ways that mere mortals can understand. I don’t remember why I think that, except maybe my prof brought her to speak at our school.


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