Hair

Diane Simon, Author Thomas Dunne Books $23.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-20893-6
A longtime sufferer of ""low hair esteem,"" which she blames on her ""frizzy"" locks, Simon sets out to uncover the complex forces that have shaped the nation's relationship to hair. According to Simon, the ""hippie hair"" that caught the country's attention in the 1960s was a revolt not only against the status quo, represented by the hardened, false perfection of the bouffant, but also against the longstanding precedent of Judeo-Christian culture, established with Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, in which he sets out the ""righteous"" norm for hair--short for men and long for women. Simon moves on to consider a rather dizzying array of hair-related history, including Roman depilatory practices in the days of Caesar, the ways in which traditional African hairdressing techniques were preserved and altered during slavery and rabbinical interpretations of the Talmudic dictums on covering the hair. While Simon displays a journalist's eye for detail as she leads us through Harlem braiding salons and Brooklyn wig shops, when it comes to figuring out what all the hair fuss is about, she often comes up short. (After a long section on the difficulties that male cross-dressers face in passing as women, she decides that ""Guys dressed like girls are not, after all, girls."") Strands of hair aren't quite enough to hold all this burgeoning information together; in the end, Simon seems bewildered as she remarks, ""I have written this book, my hair is getting longer... I'm not sure what happens next."" It's a dissatisfying close to what turns out to be, despite its fun sociological tidbits, a thin treatment. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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FORMATS
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-312-27851-9
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