As anyone who's gotten a really good — or bad — haircut knows, hair is so much more than just a look: It can be a reflection and reinforcement of who you are.
And sometimes your hair speaks for you, even when you don't say a thing. Have a long, curly, blonde mane? The world's going to see you differently than someone with a straight, ombré coif.
“It’s intensely personal, but it’s also totally public,” says Rose Weitz, a women and gender studies professor at Arizona State University, of the relationship between hair and perception. “And [hair is] malleable; we can change it so easily in ways that we can’t change any other part of our body. It becomes a reflection of who that person is, and a sign of our identity.”
So what message are you sending with your hairstyle? We asked the experts to translate your tresses:
Beauty's in the gender of the beholder
A cropped cut can be a way to show the world how strong you are. "A woman with short hair is perceived as confident — not having to hide anything,” says Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, author of “Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior – Anytime, Anyplace.”
But perceptions of people with short hair versus those with longer manes vary according to gender.
“I refer to the fact that men prefer long hair on women as they believe it's ‘sexy,’” Dimitrius told TODAY, citing findings from her survey of more than 1,500 Americans that shaped the book “Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You.” “Short hair is perceived as only being attractive on a woman who is slender and/or physically fit."
short hair can look less professional
While a short style can come across as powerful, sporting long hair in a workplace environment may have subconscious consequences.
“Short hair in contemporary American culture is typically seen as less sexy, but more professional,” Weitz says. “Women are expected to be feminine, but are also are expected to fit in with men’s norms in the workplace, in which, more often than not, they’re working with male bosses and working with male higher-ups, so, that’s always a trade-off.