I’ll admit that like 99.99 percent of black women, I’m hair obsessed. I remember back when I learned how to actually do my own hair–from start to finish without a hairdresser–it was one of the most liberating and exciting times for me. I would stalk YouTube and the hair boards for info on how to manage my natural hair, and I would watch in awe and admiration as I saw women whose hair looked like mine grow from a TWA to waist-length. I recently announced on my blog that I have a goal to attain waist length natural hair myself by my 40th birthday and take a big ‘ol “nekkid” glamour shot. To that, someone replied: “It’s just hair.”
Well, it’s hair, but it’s not just hair. Not for a woman. Hair does more than keep your head warm. It frames the face, and can make an okay-looking woman a drop-dead gorgeous one if her tresses are stunning. “Long hair is Hot and seductive; it’s instantly flirtier and more frivolous because you can flip it, whip it, toss it, twirl it, stroke it, twist it — you can even play peek-a-boo from behind your bangs!” says Suzanna Mathews, “The Date Maven,” a Midwestern matchmaker.
Matthews might be on to something. Pantene recently conducted a survey that found that of the respondents, 74 percent of men indicated that they notice women because of their hair and 44 percent of men surveyed said that hair is the first thing they notice about a woman, more than her clothes (26 percent), legs (25 percent), or make-up (four percent).
Hair before boobs? Hair before arse? According to Andrew Schrange, 25, co-founder of Money Crashers, the answer is yes: “With the guys in my social circle, they often say ‘Oh, she has beautiful hair,’ and notice that more so than other physical traits.” Schrange says that he loves the look of a full ‘fro that many African-American women are sporting in his home-base of Chicago. “It’s super unique. It’s almost a statement and expression of confidence.”
The Pantene survey also reported that most men surveyed would be more likely to approach a woman at a bar with great hair than a woman wearing a low-cut shirt. About 82 percent of men indicated that Hot hair is a key element to a woman’s overall sex appeal. But this is a bit of a stretch to The Last Honest Guy, the writer of a blog with the same name, who chose to keep it pretty real. “When we first see a woman, we usually do a full body scan of her from top to bottom. If she has nice boobs, our eyes automatically stop there. If she doesn’t have nice boobs then we continue to scan down and either stop again at her waist if she has a nice one or simply notice her butt and then stop there. This is just standard procedure and it’s an automatic behavior by a man.”
Automatic behavior it may very well be, and there might be a reason for it. ”Beauty is not skin deep but a strong indication of our evolutionary psychology,” says Los Angeles-based celebrity make up artist, Jeffery Paul. “Throughout the ages we as humans found certain traits as indicators of the perfect mate. The traits we found pointed to the fact that the mate we were choosing was healthy, fertile and able to progress the species. Facial features, height and weight proportions and skin were some of the traits while hair has its own significance.” He may not be an evolutionary scientist, but he’s right on the money. I guess there’s a very good reason why some women will stay hours and hours in his chair getting long-haired weaves.
So which is it? The hair or the whole package? “We women make hair more important than it is. Men are turned on by hair, but it’s not everything,” says Chris-Tia Donaldson, author of “Thank God I’m Natural.” Hair in itself is not the issue– it’s whether it’s grab-able.”
Christelyn D. Karazin is the co-author of “Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” (to be released April 2012), and runs a blog, www.beyondblackwhite.com, dedicated to women of color who are interested and or involved in interracial and intercultural relationships. She is also the founder and organizer of “No Wedding, No Womb,” an initiative to find solutions to the 72 percent out-of-wedlock rate in the black community.
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