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I tend to like long hair, both on women and men.  My own hair reaches down to an inch below my shoulders.  Now, this is only my own feelings, I can fully understand why some may like short hair.  I also like almost everything about ballet, except for most of the stories and that male dancers generally have short hair.  One exception is Farukh Ruzimatov.  Here are three clips showing him dancing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5hOTlwuQxg ½ minute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfbeA6QouzI 1 minute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiApUA9Kd9o 5 minutes

And here is a 15 minute video showing Saetlana Zacharova and Farukh Ruzimatov dancing as Zobeide and the Golden Slave in an excerpt from the ballet Scheherazade.  Here both characters are shown with long hair, Ruzimatov has his in a ponytail.  I feel long hair very much fits the subject of this dance.



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Thinking about the above I wondered why I don’t feel the same way about female ballet dancers who wear their hair up in buns.  At first I thought that even if the dancers had their hair up I would still know or at least assume that they had long hair.  Then I realized that it was primarily the main male dancers that I had an issue with and that almost all female dancers and most minor male dancers wore something on their heads.  What they wore may be small, but it was something.  Here is a video, 14 minutes, that shows 15 male dancers, some wearing something on their heads or having long hair and some not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-v_HCHLH2I.  The ones wearing something on their head, sometimes a feather, sometimes a wig, sometimes something else or having longish hair are the following.  I feel this adds to the character of the dancer:

2:30 Le Corsaire; Conrad Variation, Angel Corella, feather, somewhat long hair

3:28 Marco Spada: Variation, David Hallberg, wig with ribbon and short ponytail

5:47 Le Corsaire: Slave Variation, Vyacheslave Lopatin, long hair and bandana

6:43 La Bayadere: Solor Variation, Vladislav Lantratov, feather, somewhat long

8:25 The Sleeping Beauty: Prince Variation, Mathias Heymann, wig, ribbon

11:10 The Flames of Paris: Philippe Variation, Ivan Vasiliev, long hair 

Now that I brought it up, I always wondered why the feather for Ali the slave in Le Corsaire and for Solor in La Bayadere.  Does anyone know?  Also while Ivan Vasiliev does not wear anything on his head he does have wild long hair that fits well with his role as a rebel.  It seems that he is the only one with facial hair.  In Scheherazade from the earlier post, the male dancer, the Golden Slave, wears a band around his chest, almost in imitation of the female dancer’s brassiere.  Is this some western interpretation of a Mid-Eastern garment or was it originally for modesty?  In 1910, when the ballet premiered, men would wear bathing suits that covered their chests.

Then I thought that it wasn’t necessarily short hair, but what I think of as the 1950s haircut - short and parted to the side.  In this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LqupY03CO0 (1 minute) the female dancers have their hair long and down and flowing, but the male dancer has short hair that doesn’t move that seems to me to be in the 1950s style.  This is particularly the case at the end with the female dancers representing the wild witches from Walpugisnacht, with flowing hair, but the male dancer being very straight laced with short hair.    


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Why do young males generally cut their hair shorter than young females do, at least in most “Western Cultures.”  It is not natural to do so, in the sense that in a natural state, one in which hair is let grow without cutting, both young men and young women would have hair pretty much the same length.  Actually I read that male hair grows slightly faster than female hair, see here: How fast does hair grow?  And go down to “What Factors Affect Hair Growth?”  But this is not that different.

Based on this it appears that the general difference between the length of head hair on men and women is cultural rather than biological.  I’ve read that the Roman men kept their hair short, unlike barbarian men, so that in war the enemy could not grab them by the hair although I think it may have more to do with lice during their campaigns, then after the French Revolution, after the king was executed, men started to cut their hair shorter in imitation of the Roman Republic during which there was no king.  The article found here: Roman Hair reports that “Most Roman men kept their hair relatively short as a sign of dignity and control.”  This article mentions that  “The crew cut originated in 1927, when Yale rowing team member Jock Whitney had his hair cut short and the rest of the crew adopted the look.  Legend has it that the haircut was popular among rowers because the crew faces away from the direction the boat is traveling and has both hands on the oars.  Longer hair would blow into the face and he couldn’t take his hands off the oars to move it away.”  Also, “During World War II, American soldiers sported crew cuts (high and tight haircuts) to help control head lice in their tight quarters.”  So, men may have started wearing shorter hair due to their involvement in “manly” activities such as war and sports or to show “dignity and control” and this became culturally associated with being male.  While women who were generally required to stay home and not go wandering about, fighting wars and such, would have more access to ways of cleaning their hair, particularly before indoor plumbing, so long hair became culturally associated with being female.  So, the tendency of young men having shorter hair than young women may be the result of people following gender norms.


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Back when I was in graduate school (>30 years ago, so the conventional wisdom may have changed), I remember learning that that the key factor in how long hair grows is the length of the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. Women tend to have a longer anagen phase than men due to estrogen, whereas testosterone in men can shorten the length of the anagen phase. So the result is that although their hair grows at similar rate (or possibly a bit faster in men), the average woman will be able to achieve a longer terminal hair length than the average man because her hair will remain in the anagen phase while the man's will progress more quickly to the catagen and telogen phases.  

Additionally, many men develop male pattern baldness, this will also affect hair growth. And it can start quite young--about 25% of men have thinning hair by 21 years of age.

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FPF, thank you for your comment.  The combination of a longer anagen phase for women plus faster growth for men could result in the terminal length of hair for both young men and young women being “pretty much the same length.”  Even if I was incorrect in writing the above, the most important factor is that in general men in our current culture do not cut their hair shorter than women because of the length of the anagen phase as men’s hair rarely reaches its terminal length.  Men choose to have their hair cut even though it could grow much longer.  So, as I wrote, “. . . it appears that the general difference between the length of head hair on men and women is cultural rather than biological.”  As for thinning hair, I am not a young man and my hair is thinning on top, but that does not stop me from growing my hair long.


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