The Caesar
December 23, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Why did long hair fall out of fashion for men?

So I'm reading the Aubrey-Maturin series. Again. It takes place during the Napoleonic Wars (1800ish to 1815ish?). The captain, Jack Aubrey, still wears his hair long, but the younger men are sporting the newer, shorter cropped look.

Now, how or why did this happen? What are the roots of this change?
posted by eurasian to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The military adopted short hairtlstyles because they are easier to clean, less prone to infestation, and short hair can't be grabbed during hand to hand combat.
posted by dfriedman at 12:43 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Part of fashion is its edgy rebelliousness, its reaction against the current state of things. Long hair on men, like baggy pants and hats and lots of other things, has gone in and out of style over and over, and it will probably keep doing so. It's cyclical.

(Somebody who knows more about fashion than I do can probably say this more eloquently and with better examples.)
posted by box at 12:51 PM on December 23, 2010

I could be wrong, but I think it also had something to do with the Roman ideal that was so fashionable at the time. If you look at old Roman statues, they all have short hair.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:01 PM on December 23, 2010

The military also adopted short hair because it's a way to quickly de-individualize someone and instill a military esprit de corps. You walk into boot camp and they shave your head and throw you into a uniform. Your old life is gone, dude. You're a soldier -- just like everyone else in the platoon.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:09 PM on December 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm guessing you're asking about Europeans, but you might be interested in the Wikipedia article on the Chinese queue. Briefly, when the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing dynasty, they ordered everyone to shave their foreheads and braid the rest of their hair, as was the Manchu style. Since they enforced this order by executing everyone who disobeyed, the hair style was not well liked and fell out of fashion with the Qing dynasty.

Funnily enough, the objectionable bit of the queue edict was the shaving of the forehead; both Confucian teachings and Ming dynasty dress codes called for the hair to be entirely uncut. Apparently, people were so eager to lose their Manchu-imposed queues that they forget this part.
posted by d. z. wang at 1:18 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As for the French, according to this history soon after becoming emperor Napoleon ordered his soldiers to cut their "long tresses and useless queues."
The reign of queues was over; the young officers adopted the change cheerfully, and on the day of the publication of the ordinance, the barbers' shops near the quarters of the troops were filled from morning till night, and more than two thousand queues were sacrificed.
posted by Knappster at 1:23 PM on December 23, 2010

I'm guessing the latest long hair cycle in the US of A was killed by hair bands.

But maybe I'm wrong.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2010

Mind you, for centuries, long hair was the province of the status quo, the rich, the powerful. It had nothing to do with rebellion.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2010

There's that evolutionary-biology thing, that long hair is indicative of prolonged good health and nourishment, and of having the time and resources required to care for it.
posted by box at 1:35 PM on December 23, 2010

Best answer: Cropped hair became fashionable in England in the early 1790s probably as a result of its association with revolutionary France. A number of historians have suggested that, in turn, this change in French fashions was due to a reaction against the wig-wearing aristocracy.

In the early 1790s it was still a pretty daring style to wear in England: a group of fashionable gentlemen in 1791 refused an invitation to the Prince of Wales's party because cropped hair was "not the etiquette yet". Certainly contemporaries associated it with Whig and radical politics, some tracing a link back to classical Roman hairstyles.

The trend was accelerated by a tax levied on hair powder in 1795 - this forced a lot of people away from wearing wigs or at least powdered long hair, as had previously been the fashion. A number of "Crop Clubs" sprang up in its wake. Worth noting though that officers in the navy were exempted from the duty, which perhaps may be why older men carried on wearing their hair long, while the more fashionable younger officers opted for a crop.
posted by greycap at 2:01 PM on December 23, 2010 [14 favorites]

I have a strong feeling that it goes along with other neoclassical trends of the time, especially in women's fashion. See also the empire-waist dress.

The men's suit as we know it today also emerged around the same time.
posted by Sara C. at 2:01 PM on December 23, 2010

Best answer: THis is not exactly the same time, but I guess after the revolution people styled their hair a la victime to look like those who had been executed. fascinating!
posted by genmonster at 2:17 PM on December 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Related to several points above, but with the addition of celebrity: the Beau, and dandyism, with its emphasis on selectively minimalist (according to the standards of the day) perfection.
posted by notquitemaryann at 2:24 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: So many excellent answers, but greycap's the mostest awesome-est, thanks!
posted by eurasian at 3:10 PM on December 23, 2010

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