Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shaving The Hair - A Dying Ritual

Over the last four or five years I've gotten into the habit of letting my hair grow long, then shaving it all off, then letting it grow long again. Normally I let my hair grow for about eight to twelve months before shaving it off. At that point it's generally fairly long - think Beatles Revolver era. Part of the reason I shave my hair is because I like having long hair but generally get fed up with it after a while. Another reason is that I'm simply too lazy to make the effort to go to the hairdressers. I also for some reason feel it's healthy to shave the hair off once in a while, don't ask me why.

Anyhow, the reason I mention this is because last night I watched the BBC Four documentary 'Roundhead or Cavalier: Which One Are You?' The basic premise of the show was that Britain is divided by two conflicting personality types, the puritanical Roundheads and the fancy-free Cavaliers. The Cavaliers were defined by "panache, pleasure and individuality", the Roundheads by "modesty, discipline, equality, and state intervention." The show also provided modern examples of these two personality types. For example, Boris Johnson was held up as a classic example of the modern Cavalier, whereas Ken Livingstone was judged to be more of a dowdy Roundhead. However, for all the political and social commentary in the documentary the general thrust of the argument seemed to revolve more around the length of a person's hair and style of their clothes than anything else. Laurence Llewelyn Bowen appeared on the show as a spokesperson for the Cavaliers - need I say more.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the relationship between hair length and personality, as from my own experience I do feel like a completely different person after I've shaved my hair off. I also look completely different too. Maybe it's simply a confidence thing or just a social attitude I've been brought up to have about long hair. It might also be that other people react differently to me depending on my hair length - that may in turn effect my general outlook. Whatever the reason I find it quite fascinating.

Whenever I shave my own hair I think of the story of Achilles shaving his head after the death of Patroclus in Homer's Iliad. For some reason shaving the head does feel like a ritual. I also think of the seasons and harvests, and the scything of the corn. It grows, it gets cut down, it grows again. It seems like a natural cycle. I'm sure there must be other examples of ritualistic hair shaving from history. It may be something worth keeping an eye on.

In any case, the 'Roundhead or Cavalier' documentary was excellent, in spite of my nitpicking, and I thoroughly recommend it. I also recommend the periodic shaving of ones head. Why choose either long hair or short hair when you can have both. A seasonal shift from long hair to short hair and back again. If there is a relationship between hair length and personality it may be the perfect way to freshen up the mind.

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