Thursday, 12 April 2012

One head four ways - wigging out!

Who are we? Are we defined by our hair, our makeup, our clothes? Of course, the answer is that we are defined by the intangibles, but I heard this from a woman I style-eyed recently: Nobody ever crossed the street to meet a personality. Our looks and presentation form first impressions and our personalities make or break them.

This post is a continuation of my investigation into women's identity and style, very a la Cindy Sherman, the New York conceptual photographic artist. The first post I did in this project was called "One face six ways."

The Investigation
How do our perceptions of people change with different kinds of hair?
How much does hair affect our behaviour? 
For this study I applied heavy makeup and tried on three wigs: Ginger, Annette, and Tina. 

NATURAL (below): Wigless is my natural state but I wasn't used to this much makeup. The makeup served as a cover so I felt freer to do things outside my usual self and it exaggerated the transformations.

GINGER (below): I felt vixen-like but overwhelmed by the hair! I dressed as Ginger for two parties about 12 years ago and really disliked the attention. I was the bone to a bunch of hungry dogs! I rarely spoke all night - I was in shock. 
 
ANNETTE (below): (The cone is misshapen after 14 years in a drawer!) This woman is from the sixties, say, Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra. In kitten heels I walk a poodle in a diamond collar, go to a party and do the twist, and wake up in the morning with smeared makeup, stinking of booze, ready for a fresh martini and a gherkin.
TINA (below): This is the wig I have always disliked most and it is the one that made me feel like I lost myself the most. I don't really see myself here and yet I enjoyed the discovery process of the transformation.

These are closeup summary shots of the personalities that emerged in these wigs with this makeup.


In every wig I tried on, I had a sense of being someone else. Considering that a wig is really just an extension of a hat, our cultural interpretations of hair elevate the wig far beyond mere body adornment. For example, when I wore Ginger my personality was unable to live up to the expectations that the hairstyle invoked. Even hair colour has deeply ingrained stereotypes: ditzy blond, fiery redhead, white- or black-haired crone.

I once saw a movie in which women cancer survivors attending a conference joyously doffed their wigs; they threw them exultantly into the air as a symbol of empowerment and liberation. At the same time, I have seen women with deliberately shorn heads treated with derision or bewilderment. Throughout history, the cutting of a woman's hair has been punishment for a lapse in morality. Even biblical Sampson lost his strength when his hair was shorn.

I'm wondering, what's your relationship with your hair? Do you change your hair style to reflect or even evoke big changes in your life? Do you wear wigs? If so, do you mix them up depending on your mood or outfit? Do you wish wigs were more commonly worn? Do you think that hair colour affects how people perceive us? How does hair length affect perception? I'm just curious.

Have a good weekend everyone!

49 comments:

  1. The ginger was the starkest change to my eye. I actually liked the Annette wig. We own a couple of wigs, which our mannikin wears--one is red like the ginger and one is a big afro. I have tried on the red wig and so disliked the look I never published the photos. Perhaps I am just used to your usual style--but your natural hair best accentuates the big blue eyes.

    Over the years, I have experimented with hair length quite a lot. Twice I have shaved my head and been regularly mistaken for a male. One day recently I had curled my hair and taken off for work without combing it out. By the time I arrived for my meeting, I'm afraid I was looking very Sarah Palin...and was shamed for it in a room full of feminists.

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    1. That's interesting about being shamed for the curler hair. I think people have an innate sense of aesthetics that compels us to create wonderful works of art that define our cultures. I think on the living front, that applies to hair as well. Why would it be taken for granted that you are styling your hair to please others and not yourself? Is plainness of grooming supposed to be more empowering? Where does that indefinable feel-good factor fit into the picture? It's very complicated, I know, far too much so for discussion here...

      I don't mind being mistaken for a man - it's happened.

      Thanks for sharing your experience here, Terri!

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  2. The red hair enhances your wonderful eyes.
    Brilliant post, Melanie.
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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    1. Thank you, Sacramento! I hope you are having a fantastic weekend!

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  3. Long hair is always seen as more feminine, but I've met some pretty wiley and attractive girls with very short hair. I've had very short hair myself and it didn't stop me picking quite a few men. However I like having longer hair as it's more versitile. It's great to know that I suit both. Some women cling to the same hair style for years. The blonder I get the more men in vans whistle at me. Though I think putting on weight has made me want to grow my hair, so as to look less butch, I'm clinging to my femininity when I shouldn't have to.

    I love you with red hair, being quite pale of skin and blue of eye, you're very stunning. I think Tina was too conservative for you, she needed to be in Graceland, working in a hairdressers, very evangelical.

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    1. Your comment about Tina made me laugh! And I think you would look feminine with any length of hair!!

      Who are these mysterious "men in vans"? That's a new one to me and I quite like it! Really, what is it about blond hair? Have you figured that out?!

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  4. Gorgeous, gorgeous!
    It looks good on you♥

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  5. I've been popping back to this post all day, trying to organise my thoughts!
    Hair (different hair) really changes how you look quite dramatically. It's very symbolic, especially for women. We so often change our hair to coincide with/express some change in our lives, I find.
    Anyway - mine has been short, long, middling, red, blonde, brown, streaked, straight, curly. It's been the bain of my life (never does what I want it to) but I'm over fighting with it now. Although I do still fight the grey...
    I have several wigs, bought for parties/fancy dress, but I do love them, and have had great fun wearing them. There's a Hallowe'en post and my Harper Valley PTA post where I'm wearing wigs, you can tell I enjoy it!
    But to you! Ginger looks amazing with your eyes but that's such a lot of hair for your petite delicate little face! You could definitely rock Annette with your go-go boots and a 60s dress - ready for a fresh martini and a gherkin, ha! Clare (Miss S) made me laugh about Tina - she's right, way too straight for you. Though if she was blonde, she'd have a look of Rod Stewart around 1976 about her. But I don't think that's a very good thing...
    I'll stop now. Why are my comments on your blog always soooo lengthy, Melane? You get me thinking... and typing! xxxx

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    1. I checked out your wigged looks! Excellent! I looove the Harper Valley PTA look with your take-no-excuses Nancy Sinatra walkin' boots.

      I'm glad you've surrendered to the hair! I think the feedback from you and Miss S explains why I felt so weird in Tina - the person I become is so far from my imagination. Sometime I'll dress like Rod and maybe try David Bowie....

      I love when you write long comments!

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  6. A great post! I have to say I do like the natural Melanie the best but I know it is fun to experiment with different looks. My haircut is definitely important to me and I've had much anxiety in the past over a bad cut. Sick to my stomach anxiety! It has to reflect how I feel inside and be a bit quirky. As I'm typing this I'm realizing just how sensitive I am to things not feeling like "me." And my son, who is almost 14 now has been the same way since he was 5.
    As far as wigs go, I only have one. Bright pink and her character name is Julia. ;-)

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    1. I'd like Julia to meet Ginger! Thank goodness I like the natural one best too - whew! I am not surprised that you, being an artist, are sensitive to whether things feel right or off. Looks like your son is headed in your direction career-wise...?

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  7. Awwwwwwww hair! i change so often, often and often - I am like Curtise, i had it blond, brown, dark brown, all shades or red, streaks, perms, short, long...I know i did drastic changes when a relationship terminated - I changed my from bleach blond to red to save money and i was tired of spending 3 hours every month at the salon - I had styled my hair to please a man, big, big mistake...

    I get more looks from men when my hair is blond - i do not know why i changed so much...but i like blond...i realize it was the best color for me, now, ha! ha! ha!

    I love you as Ginger, but too much hair, a red bob you look great - Annette hum...yeah, ok...if you wear a 60's frock and go go boots!

    Your eyes Mélanie are amazing, i never noticed how beautiful they were!

    Have a good weekend

    Ariane

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    1. I love how you change your hairstyles around, Ariane! You are always an inspiration! I agree - the Ginger eats me alive and Annette would need a proper wardrobe and bar... and poodle, man or beast! Thanks for this comment!!

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  8. I LOVE the auburn wig so much! =)

    http://pinkchampagnefashion.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks! This wig has a personality of its own. If only I could tame it!

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  9. Hair oh hair. It's interesting that you are thinking about this. I have had short hair my entire life and I've always believed that I would be a different person if I had had long hair even just once. I've been thinking about blogging about it, too. My face has always been right out there..as it is....no long bangs to hide behind. I even have a pinterest board devoted to short hair inspiration. Melanie, you look absolutely gorgeous no matter what is on your head! If you're ever in the neighborhood, we're on for a gin & tonic at the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Wishing you lots of sunny days :)

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    1. Wouldn't a G&T together at Torrey Pines be lovely?! You brought up a good point about bangs - even the name, I wonder where it comes from. I've often heard women say that bangs are an aging woman's quickie facelift, or something to that effect. What a terrible thing to say about such a beautiful style accent! I would be interested to see your blog post about hair!

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  10. Fun post! You have the most gorgeous eyes.

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  11. What a great exploration of an infinitely "hair raising" topic. And its very close to my heart. Around 20 years ago I had long long hair- everybody loved the hair but I hated it- I felt like an imposter. Wanted to shave my head, was told I didn't have the face for short hair, but a decade ago I did it anyway. It was liberating! While I lost the typical def of what folks considered "sexy" I felt very attractive in being myself. Now I get told all the time how cute my short hair is, and that I "have the face" for it, ha ha. Word to the wise: just do what you want, and the world will catch up.

    As for hair color- am currently exploring that right now! A life long brunette, I've always loved red, red hair and thought my current transition would be a good time to explore this temporary color shift. I love it! Wish I had tried it sooner, as the color seems to match everything and the simplest thing such as pink eyeshadow or a red coat feel like a much bigger fashion statement. My boyfriend however has had a lifelong attraction to brunettes and seems to be the only one bemoaning the loss of my natural brown hair color. I shrug: we'll see.
    But I can't help but noticed how differently people treat me based on the small act of a bleach and a color.

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    1. Thanks, Bella, for this story. I'm so glad you followed your heart - as you continue to do! I have heard that one before: you don't have the face for short hair. Maybe they don't have the EYES for short hair. Your hair now is awesome! Your advice is right on.

      If I were to dye my hair again, I'd definitely go red, red, red! I'm stymied by the reactions people have to hair colour, but I react too no matter how hard I fight it.

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  12. You always look beautiful, but you do have a more typical, accessible beauty as Ginger. No wonder the men swarmed! I had a friend who had a shaved head and androgynous style who put on a long, blond wig and immediately burst into tears. Hair is interesting. Also: I love Cindy Sherman. She is so amazing.

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    1. Oh dogs, they were! A couple of male friends tried on Ginger once - you should have seen their transformations - suddenly they were hard metal rockers! Air guitarists! I was floored!

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  13. I love this post. I believe that for centuries women have been defined by their glorious locks as younger, prettier and more 'baby-making' productive. I think it stems from cave-men days and honestly if it weren't for the hubs, i'd chop it all off in a hot minute! So, i suppose i am afraid he will see me differently if i had short hair. (Baaad Me!!!)

    People do love a good 'do' i suppose, but i am one who down deeep in my soul has short hair and wears man repellent clothing!

    I do have a wig and i wear her sometimes. i wore her last week. the hubs just loves the curls and so do i. Isn't it funny how we humans have come so far, yet have so much farther to go!

    hugs,
    Reva

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    1. I often wonder what is an innate beauty aesthetic and a conditioned one. Not baaad you! (Although you would look fabulous in short hair too.) Maybe many people are afraid that women will exert more power if they have short hair because they won't be spending so much time grooming? Ha!

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  14. PS, I must discuss your indoor lighting techniques! I am dying to do better indoors ;)
    E-mail me if you get a chance:
    retroreva@zoomtown.com

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  15. I like your real hair best, although I enjoyed the drama of the wigs. I once wore a long golden wig to a Halloween party, and was taken aback by the attention I got. I also had on long fake red nails but quickly snapped them off because I figured out I couldn't hold anything :P

    For a long time, I was married to my long hair, maybe thinking it took years off my age, for some idiotic reason. Now I'm enjoying shorter and simpler hair, and not much caring about how old I look.

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    1. Thanks, Lynne. Isn't the attention weird? I felt like those men were terribly gullible and I wondered how they would react if I took my wig off in front of them. I tried fake nails before too, "Do-it-yourself-badly" variety, and very quickly pried them off.

      You are gorgeous as is so of course you don't need to care how old you look!

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  16. I love wigs, don't have any, wish they were worn as frequently and easily as hats!! The senior ladies around me (80+ yrs old) have them for special occasions, which I love.

    I find that I'm much more free with other people's hair than my own. By that I mean, I love wild, crazy, short, long, shaved, locked, bleached, etc etc on other people. I tend to dislike anything too trendy or commonplace. But when it comes to my own hair, I get timid. I freak out if the cut is a little off, or if the color is not what I anticipated. I straighten it because the curl is too unpredictable etc. Sad but true.

    I recently spent a YEAR( !!!) obsessing over whether or not to continue coloring my hair. I grew out my gray for about 6 months to see what was there. Just before I started blogging, I went to my hairdresser and had her remove a lot of the brown dye and she toned it all gray to blend in the new growth with the old colored stuff. It's still a work in progress. I'm fine with it, just amazed at my own reluctance to change or take risks.

    Hair is a hugely charged subject. Where we chose to be in the continuum is a fascinating question, if in fact we have a choice at all.

    My preference? I love your own hair, color and cut. The wigs look like wigs, fun and fake. But that's the cool part; they're temporary! I think I'm going to have to try a few. Thanks for the tutorial.

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    1. Thanks, Jean, for this thoughtful comment. Many wigs are so real I'm sure we don't see them and we would be surprised to find out how many there are! I'm glad the technology has become so advanced. Obviously, my wigs are just the cheapo variety, so clearly fake, but they can still cast a spell on me.

      Your hair colour is beautiful! I gave up on colouring a while ago. I'm glad I did - now I can relax!

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  17. "In kitten heels I walk a poodle in a diamond collar, go to a party and do the twist, and wake up in the morning with smeared makeup, stinking of booze, ready for a fresh martini and a gherkin." Have you been spying on me? Totally the story of my life! :-D

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    1. I'd hardly call it spying... After all, you were the one up there go-go dancing(!) on the table next to mine! Ha!

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  18. Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Oh I just love this post! I've never owned a wig and although I LOVE to see people wear them, I get scared when I try one on. Wow, analyse that eh? My hair is a shitty mousey colour and I'm always happier when it's coloured. I went peroxide blond over a year ago and I love it ... I feel like ME more than ever. The only other hair colour I feel comfortable with is RED. When I put a wig on, I feel like it has stolen my personality. Head wear is a must for me, but strangely, not a wig. Maybe I feel like people can't see who I am ... and yet I'm a fake white-blond! Go figure!

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    1. I was so interested to read about your hair adventures. My Ginger wig scared me - once I took a pic with it on and I looked like a GHOUL spirit! I freaked and wanted to burn the wig immediately... They do have the power to be soul-sucking or to mask personality. I'm glad you are happy with your own hair no matter what colour it is! And your hair-pieces are stunning! Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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  19. Excellent post for inspiring comments! I've never owned a wig or had long hair. The wigs really do change your look and make your eyes look even larger, but your own short "do" really does suit you, and in my opinion, makes you look more interesting. I find my eye is always drawn to women who have short haircuts, probably because where I live, most women have long hair, but I also imagine them to be more creative and engaging; I'm not sure why. Maybe because I applaud them for daring to stray from the socially accepted norm of women=long hair. I've received more than my share of negative comments about my hair since I started cutting it really short in my 20's, especially from men, who would say things like, "you know, you'd be much prettier if you grew your hair long", or, "what's up with the lesbian haircut?". I love being able to colour my hair different colours and play with it, and now I find that women my age often compliment me on my hair and say they wish they were brave enough to cut or colour their hair. My hair has become my signature, and people say they can always spot me in a crowd, which I think is a good thing!

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    1. Isn't that funny how men are so into long hair? And what's that about short hair being a "lesbian" style or a style that requires bravery? Those ideas are pervasive.

      Your hair is fabulous - I love it short and it's hard to imagine it any other way. I just went this short a year or two ago and it has changed (or reflected?) big changes in my life in general. I stopped colouring it about two years ago too. I appreciate your feedback!

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  20. Such a thought-provoking post: the comments just as much as your post itself. Firstly, I agree with those who have already said that they think your own hair becomes you the best. Your face and eyes are radiant in a way that is somehow more disguised in any of the wigs. Then, moving on to the whole massive subject of hair colour/length and public perception of both. Hmmm, why do I keep my hair so long? Well, partly it's sheer laziness - I visit a hairdresser maybe twice a year at the most for a very light trim and other than that, I do nothing other than washing and brushing. It suits being pretty low key when it comes to any kind of 'image maintenance'. But on the other hand, the thought of having my hair seriously chopped is faintly horrifying, so I must be attached to the length... Plenty to ponder on her.

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    1. Thanks, Rosalind, for commenting. For me, it's your considered non-chalance to style that is so powerful, so I am not surprised then that you are laid back about your hair, which is so beautiful.

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  21. Fascinating what a difference the frame makes to the face, putting features in a completely new context, changing the potential narratives dramatically! (again, makes me think of Cindy Sherman . . . )
    I always have fun watching people fail to recognize me when my hairdresser straightens my hair -- even my husband will do a double-take after first mistaking me for my sister. It's something akin to those optical challenges in which we can see the vase OR we can see the profiles . . . the straight hair seems to draw viewers' eyes away from my face so that they can't see that it's still me inside the frame.

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    1. Or maybe they see your face even more and finally wonder, "Who ARE you; you're nothing like what I thought!" Whatever it is, changing a hairstyle is a pretty cool way to redirect focus to the person inside the hair. Or maybe I'm confused - to redirect focus AWAY from the person inside the hair... Chicken, egg, chicken, egg, coleslaw.

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  22. "For example, when I wore Ginger my personality was unable to live up to the expectations that the hairstyle invoked." Very poignant, considering that for some people, this type of wig or get-up might bring out a more fiery side to themselves. You LOOK like a totally different personality in each wig. The last one I kind of liked actually-- you look sort of sassy.

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    1. I could always use a little more sassy in my life! At the time I wore the wig, I was not as confident as I am now. If I went out today with Ginger, I think I would be able to live up to her standards - but that would only be theatre. Thanks for your comment.

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  23. What a great post as I finally had time to check it out. I have my hair cut for hats, so it's difficult to change. I wear a hat every day and have never appeared on my blog without one. Just before I turned 50 (I can't believe that's 19 years ago) I went to a new hair person, and he said I looked 'washed out' in my kinda blond hair. He did my hair red - when I went back to work nobody recognized me. It was so much fun. It's been red ever since and I love it because red hair seems to go with almost any color that I choose to play with. I toy with going natural, which would now be white. But I love playing with color and I fear that 'white' would limit some of that. So even though I wear hats, my hair remains important.

    Your varied looks are so interesting and intriguing. And your blue eyes are brilliant in your photos. However, I like the 'real' Melanie best!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your hair history! I like that your hairstyles are all about your hats - it makes perfect sense. And that red is so you - another colour might have a hard time living up to the vibrance of your personality, although I'm sure you could pull off whatever colour you choose. Your blue eyes are radiant within that red frame!

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  24. jajajaja what a different versions of you...

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  25. Just doing a little catching up!
    Love this post. Isn't it amazing how hair changes us. I have VERY short hair (no more than a couple of inches when just cut). On a few occasions I have worn long wigs to fancy dress parties. At the last one there were lots of people who didn't know me. Towards the end of the evening when the wig was getting too hot and itchy I whipped it off and was amazed to register the look of complete shock on several people's faces! I felt as though I had conned them in some way.
    I have had longer hair in the past but always end up going back to very short ... I like the 'edge' it gives me.
    Of all the photos of you I prefer your own short style ... it perfectly suits your petite features and beautifully big eyes. Not many women can get away with short hair - you can.
    M x

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  26. I have long red hair. I am used to the stereotypes. I do feel a special bond with other redheads and especially male redheads, because my brother had 'strawberry blonde' hair as a child. When I look back at photos of my mom before she had breast cancer the first time, she had long hair. When I was growing up it was a short bowl cut. I remember her trying turbans before she got a wig during the radiation. Interestingly enough, her hair came back more curly and a lighter color than it was before the cancer.

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