April 18, 2010

Paleo hair

Whenever I go out dancing, my hair usually ends up saturated in sweat from all of the high-intensity activity. I've noticed that this makes it fuller once it dries, even into the next day before I shower. So why not just skip the shampoo altogether the day after and rinse with water only? I've tried that the past two times I've gone out, and it looks a lot better than when I shampoo out all of that oil and sweat. Apparently I'm not the only one who's hit on this idea, although it is marketed as "beach hair" rather than "sweaty hair."

But as you can see from this recipe, they add not just sea salt to water but some kind of essential oil too. Sure, you get salt from going to the beach, but not oil -- unless there's been a spill or something. Water, salt, and oil -- that's what your skin is pumping out when you reach a high level of physical intensity. As far as hair goes, our minds evolved to prefer signals of health and vigor, not the flat-against-the-scalp signals of inactivity or of only low-intensity exertion that would characterize the sick, the poorly fed, and the elderly. (Do sprinters have better hair than marathoners?)

As with other aspects of human appearance, fashion often works against what is truly attractive. You don't even have to look through National Geographic with its exotic tribes whose women scar up their flesh to show group membership. Like fashion in clothing, the new look for girls in the '90s and 2000s was minimalist, razorslim hair. One of my former tutorees, brimming over with excitement about making herself up and how intimidating it would look, said that then we're gonna go straighten our hair -- like Mean Girls straighttt.

It seems like this fashion cycle is particularly long, as the '60s through the '80s all had comparatively voluminous hairstyles for both men and women. (Wild times call for wild hair.) The adoption of polyester probably helped out with the sweaty hair look during the '70s. Similarly, for the past two decades it's mostly been the super-straight and tightly manicured look that's been in for men and women. Hopefully the recent obsession with beach hair is more than a passing fad, something that hints at a coming return to wildness in the culture. There are always bad examples of any fashionable look, but if you look at how high the peaks are, for my money the '60s - '80s hair looked the best. They don't make 'em like Jean Shrimpton or Kelly Kapowski anymore.

7 comments:

  1. When I saw the title "paleo hair" I immediately thought ... you can figure it out.

    Peter

    ReplyDelete
  2. Steve Johnson4/19/10, 11:46 AM

    "As with other aspects of human appearance, fashion often works against what is truly attractive."

    That's the purpose of fashion. Wear clothes and hairstyles that accentuate flaws; if you still look good you're that much fitter. Think handicap principle.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The straight, plain hair look was in from about 1969 until about 1973. I think this was a hippie/radical look that was a backlash against the 60's glamor look. Look at the pictures in any HS yearbook from 1972 and you will see what I mean.

    It was the mid-70's perms that ended this look, followed by the Farah Fawcett look that dominated the second half of the 70's.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Wear clothes and hairstyles that accentuate flaws; if you still look good you're that much fitter."

    But ugly un-fit women sport the same bad fashions, so it's not an advertisement of quality. A handicap is something that only the elite fit can display -- only a small fraction of peacocks have extravagant plumage, not the majority.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve Johnson4/19/10, 8:31 PM

    "But ugly un-fit women sport the same bad fashions, so it's not an advertisement of quality"

    Ugly unfit women have a dilemma. Either they accentuate what they have ("slut!") or they dress fashionably and look bad. This dilemma works quite well for high status women who get further separation.

    Think about it in guy terms. Scruffy beard, unkempt hair and messy clothes look great if you've got chiseled features but make you look like a slovenly loser if you don't. If a guy then shaves and wears a suit to look his best he's subjected to peer pressure. This is even among guys - who's value isn't nearly as bound up in their appearance as women's is.

    ReplyDelete
  6. They don't have to dress slutty to accentuate what they have -- just wearing good make-up, forgiving clothing, and using cosmetics to get voluminous and lustrous hair would do too.

    You're describing an amplifier, not a handicap. An amplifier takes your value (in standard deviations) and multiplies it. So if she's at -1 s.d., she might end up at -2 s.d. by wearing flat hair, while someone at +1 s.d. would end up at +2 s.d. because of the contrast effect or whatever.

    I don't think that's what we have here, since the good-looking ones look even better with beach hair. I could see that for wearing short hair though -- take someone who's +3 or +4 s.d. like Audrey Hepburn, cut her hair super short, and her value goes up even higher. But take someone who's dog ugly, cut her hair super short, and she looks even worse than she started.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Steve Johnson4/21/10, 10:13 AM

    "They don't have to dress slutty to accentuate what they have -- just wearing good make-up, forgiving clothing, and using cosmetics to get voluminous and lustrous hair would do too."

    I don't think women are actually accurate (or even care about accuracy) when they call each other names, the idea is just to lower the status of the target through the accusation (true or not).

    "You're describing an amplifier, not a handicap."

    This could be just a semantic difference.

    Take the stereotypical example of a handicap: pronking. If a predator chooses to chase a pronking gazelle the pronking slows the gazelle down and increases the odds of being caught. On the other hand, the act of pronking advertises high fitness and that catching that gazelle would be difficult. When the predator comes to an assessment he factors both of these into his determination. Maybe a non-pronking gazelle would be easier to catch. Maybe a nearer pronking gazelle slowed down by too much.

    Here's the analogy: there's an absolute measure (how good you look / how fast the gazelle is) and a relative measure (how desirable someone is / how easy it is to catch a given gazelle). Audry Hepburn with long hair (some super-fast gazelle that doesn't pronk) looks better than Audry Hepburn with short hair (that same gazelle pronking madly) but short hair Audry might get more attention (the fast gazelle gets chased less often because of the display). It's both a handicap (worsens her looks / increases the chances of being caught if a chase occurs) and an amplifier (causes her to stand out more / decreases the odds of being killed and eaten due to the decreased frequency of chases).

    I think it comes down to the fact that people's judgment about looks is imperfect. You see a beautiful woman with short hair and (subconsciously) think "wow, she looks great with short hair, imagine how great she'd look with long hair" giving her full points for having great long hair (which, of course, isn't easy to grow). You see a woman with flat straight hair and imagine her with perfect wild hair. Maybe if she had the long hair in the first place she wouldn't have been rated as highly as you're giving her credit for; maybe her wild hair isn't so great looking.

    One of the girls from your shot in the post:

    http://geeksploit.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/amanda-seyfried.jpg

    To me, she looks sexier with the wild hair here but there's a gap between how good I imagined she'd look with wild hair and how she actually looks with wild hair.

    http://static.reelmovienews.com/images/gallery/amanda-seyfried.jpg

    ReplyDelete

You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."