Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Pre-Raphaelite Obsession with Hair

One of the constant topics of discussion between myself and my husband is whether or not I should cut my hair. Although I love my long hair, I get an occassional yearning to chop it all off, a la Victoria Beckham (this usually happens after a long session of removing tangles). Last month in Vogue there was an article extolling the wonders of hair extensions, both permanent and clip-on. I can't help but compare my hair with the likes of Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Lopez and wonder if I should just run out and get a weave.

While this sort of preoccupation with one's tresses might seem a bit excessive, it's nothing new. For centuries womankind have been doing all sorts of things to their hair in order to maximize their sex appeal, from the ancient Egyptians to the pouf-style wigs of Marie Antoinette.
During the Victorian period hair became an obsession.

I suppose the reason it wasn't quite as much a concern in previous eras was that people had become used to wearing wigs and didn't really need to work very hard to cultivate the "loose, luxuriant hair" that "was an emblem of female sexuality in Pre-Raphaelite painting"(Marsh 23). Rather than using pin- or rag-curling methods, the Pre-Raphaelites favoured a more natural way of acheiving perfect curls. "After washing, the tresses were plaited while still wet...and then allowed to dry, creating a naturally crimped look" (Marsh 23).

I'm still debating getting a major haircut. I've gotten pretty attached to my locks, though I'm careful to maintain them as there's nothing I hate more than ratty hair. Really long hair always looks better in paintings, I think!

References: Jan Marsh, The Pre-Raphaelite Women: Images of Femininity in Pre-Raphaelite Art. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1987

1 comment:

Bebe said...

Hi Meggie,

I love reading your posts ~ they are informative and well-written!!

I didn't know that much about the pre-Raphaelites until I started reading some of you posts ~ so thanks for inspiring me to learn more!!

I used to be really obsessed with my hair back in my teenage years. It had to be perfect or my day was ruined!! :) Now that I'm older, I keep it bundled up ( a la Gibson girl) and don't worry about it as much. I like the natural way, like you mentioned, of just braiding it when it is still wet. I hear horror stories of all the celebrities with their hair extensions and how it has pulled out their real hair. Not for me! Give me a classic, clean cut anyday!

Bebe :)