O1 HAIR THROUGHOUT THE AGES
Lier D
C.G.-Jung Institute Küsnacht, Küsnacht (Zurich), Switzerland

From the psychological point of view the hair on our head is extremely important: we communicate with it nonverbally. We can use it as our identity or “brand.” Long before entering a verbal dialogue, our hair or hairstyling reveals quite a lot of our secret wishes or our world view. It is worth thinking about the meaning of the hair, and it is exciting to look into the past and to ask what the hairstyles tell us of the philosophies of life, which were valid in former centuries.

Hair never stops growing. It is an adjustable medium, which makes it possible to use our head as a stage, on which we can create and change the atmosphere we would like to show. Our hairdo is part of our professional and private outfit. It can be taken as an advertising sign.

Hundreds of sayings and expressions about the hair give evidence of its wide metaphorical use and show its importance in various ways. People, for example, who always find something to quibble about, are in German those who “always find a hair in the soup”. Whenever a situation is extremely delicate and deserves high concentration, we say in German “everything depends on one single hair”. A German man who is full of protest “brushes his hair the wrong way”, and whoever gets anxious or extremely shocked is one whose “hair stands on end”. When English speaking people say “don’t worry your head about it”, we say in German: “Don’t let your hair become grey.” A tough customer or cookie is in German somebody “with hair on the teeth”. And finally: in both English and German we used to say “he just missed hitting me by a hair’s breadth”.

In our 21st century we are free to style our hair the way we want. We can present ourselves with bobbed hair or long curls; we can choose any color, even green and blue. We can give our hair an artistic form, use it as an eye catcher or perform an elegant hairdo with it. “Anything goes”: this is the main motto of our century, not only in terms of the values and different ways of life, but also on the contemporary heads.

In former ages traditions were otherwise. The official hairdo in Old Egypt for example was the wig. In the Classical Greek time, men and women had curly hair, and in the Middle Ages everybody was forced to use scarves or hats as a sign of their subordination to the religious and secular authorities. In several cultures only unmarried girls were allowed to show their hair openly. And up to our century there are still brides who stitch a curl into the wedding dress, - as a sacrifice to matrimony. The 17th Century, also known as the wig’s century used the stylized curls on the high wigs as visible signs for the display of power.

During the whole history of mankind, hair was a symbol of power, vitality, creativity, health, youth, and intensity, in short: of enjoyment and preferential status. This is the reason why hair loss is mostly experienced as a tragedy. In spite of the contemporary trend among prominent figures to show bald heads, whenever the first signs of going bald become visible, they are usually accompanied by a deep fear not only of loosing more and more hair, but additionally of loosing power and position in society. Ultimately it is the fear of old age and of death.