The Cult Obsession With Hair And Why It's One Of Our Most Defining Features

by Elite Daily Staff

Jared Leto might have taken home a shiny Oscar for his outstanding performance in “Dallas Buyers Club,” but the real winner of the night was his hair. On a red carpet of predictable updos and ordinary waves, Leto’s locks stood out for their luster, texture and impeccable hommbré execution.

His hair was more talked about, more enviable and more splash-worthy than any of the dramatic gowns or dazzling jewels that appeared on the red carpet, and for good reason: We have a cult obsession with hair.

When J.Law cut hers, the world responded in an uproar, which then prompted her director to issue an apology assuming responsibility for her shorter ‘do. Post-pregnancy, Kim Kardashian dyed her infamous jet black mane to a softer caramel blonde. It boosted her image and positively put her back in the spotlight. And you can’t even utter Jennifer Aniston’s name without mentally associating her with “The Rachel” ubiquitous haircut. This is all because our coifs are very closely tied to our self-image and sense of self.

Take a moment to visualize yourself in your mind. You probably pictured salient features like your head, your legs, maybe your eyes or stature -- and definitely your most identifying component: your hair.

Much like body fat composition or blemished skin, our hair is one of the first bodily traits we notice in the mirror. It has a real, tangible prominence in our lives. We associate our personalities with our look, let it impact our mood, and even form an emotional attachment to our strands. Experiencing a bad style is not unlike the entire island of Manhattan breaking out into anarchy and collapsing on itself.

I’m not trying to sound shallow -- clearly there is more to a person than what’s on top of his or her head -- but it’s hard to deny hair’s strong significance in our daily lives. It very much influences both our demeanors and how others perceive us. On the surface, a straight-haired girl and a curly-haired girl are internalized differently: One is seen as polished while the other is relaxed, respectively.

Which is also the reason we intentionally plan out our hairstyles in advance of an event -- our hair is a reflection of ourselves. A professional job interview calls for sleek and clean. Tousled and easy is fitting for a pool party. An elegant updo enhances a strapless evening gown. Especially in the modeling industry, cutting or coloring a model's hair can literally make or break him or her.

As someone who can groom hers in a variety of ways, I know that I assume varying personas corresponding with my hair’s texture that day. When it’s a giant frizzball, as it’s accustomed to, I’m less confident and more inclined to stick it under a hoodie. Conversely, after a fresh blow out, I love parading around the city and socializing.

And I fully believe that men are more attracted to my smoothed-out locks than the crazy tendrils (although my girlfriends insist the opposite). Blow dry bars are so successful because people like me carry ourselves better when we’re feeling positive about our ‘dos. It just puts the extra pep in your step.

If you’ve ever been one of those people who envies the perfectly coiled and immaculately glossy strands on girl walking down the street and thinks, “I wish I had her hair,” then you totally get what I’m talking about. We praise hair goddesses with unearthly compliments, such as “you’re so lucky” and “you have the best hair,” and then run home to try and emulate it on our own. Hair envy is completely a real thing.

And in some extreme cases, our locks really do define who we are. Mia Farrow’s famous baby doll cut was synonymous with her innocent demeanor. Twiggy cut off all her hair and pioneered the androgynous look. Kyle Richards, Blake Lively, Carrie Bradshaw, Kelly Osbourne, P!nk, Miley Cyrus -- they all would have nothing without their notorious manes.

It’s the equivalent of being known for a killer body or admiring someone’s voluptuous bra-filling capabilities. It adds sex appeal, movement and character. We remove it practically everywhere else on our bodies except our heads because it contributes to our uniqueness.

Blondes claim they “look like a different person” during summer months when the sun subtly lightens their golden tones. Redheads like Julianne Moore have a hard time being inconspicuous due to their naturally radiant color. Mousy brunettes complain of looking too ordinary. Hair woes have a viable impact on our daily functioning and the struggle is real.

Naysayers might say I’ve taken it too far. That I’ve got problems for letting my hair affect me so greatly -- and they would, in some respects, be correct. I’ve always wanted to be one of those girls who could step out of the shower and not think twice about how her hair dries afterwards. To be able to just wake up, give it a quick brush and go.

At the end of the day, though, it’s important to remember that it’s not on, but rather, what’s inside your head that truly counts.

Photo via Wild Fox Tumblr