In 1968, when I was a teenager, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical opened on Broadway. I saw a performance of it several years later while attending college. The musical captured the 60s’ and early 70s’ role of hair as a symbol of rebellion, and as a symbol of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Hence the title song of the musical and its lyrics (only a portion here):

I let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home for the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for the buzzin’ bees (buzzin’ beeeeeeeesssss)
A nest for birds
There ain’t no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my…

Hair (Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair!)
Grow it, show it
Long as I can grow it
My hair

Yes, the hippie counterculture was certainly defined in one aspect by hair.

But hair has been a symbol, a metaphor, and a sign of role, status, or attitude for centuries.

Shaving or the removal of hair was often a way to punish or shame a person or to signify their status. Slaves had their heads shaved. Monks shave their heads. Samson, after his seduction by Delilah, has his hair cut and loses his strength. In medieval times, a woman accused of witchcraft was shaved of all hair so that no marks could be hidden.

In fairy tale, the most popular example of hair as an important element is the story of Rapunzel.rapunzel fairy tale long hair hanging from the tower sketch engraving vector illustration. t shirt apparel print design. scratch board imitation. black and white hand drawn image. That hair both entraps her but also marks her innocence. When it is cut, she is no longer burdened by her naivete and innocence.

In many romance novels, the heroine has hair that is described in attractive or seductive terms. The hero, too, often has hair that is noticed because of its length–or lack thereof. The hair carries a scent, or it moves in the wind, or fingers run through it…or wait to.

Hair is considered to hold the essence of a person. Because it does not decay, it has been used since the Middle Ages to make memorial jewelry, made especially popular in the Victorian period. Holding a person’s essence is also why hair is used in spells.

 Interesting then, isn’t it, that hair can also be used for DNA identification. Where would so many mystery stories be without it? Think of the hairs caught on a jacket or collar. Or discovered on the trunk of a car.

Hair seduces, disguises, and hides. Color, length, and style can all convey something about the person from whose head it springs.

Hair. So evocative in so many ways. It’s no wonder that it shows up over the centuries in myth, fairy tale, and story in all its forms.

What stories have you read or watched where hair is important or has a role to play?