Here’s the deal: My friend Kristi has a weave. It’s a straight, bra-strap length weave that one of her PR clients, a celebrity hairstylist, hooked her up with just for fun. Kristi isn’t afraid to experiment—she’s had all kinds of hairstyles in the past. For example, when I met her in 2007, she had gorgeous locs. She eventually wanted a change so a few years ago she chopped them off and got a short asymmetrical cut, kind of like the one Rihanna used to have. Then about a year ago she got the weave. I had drinks with Kristi recently and we were talking about what it’s like to make dramatic hair changes. I know a little something about that myself because I wore my hair in an Afro for about seven years before I started relaxing it again four years ago. When you go from one look to something completely different, it makes you realize just how much your image effects the way people treat you. Especially men.
“The dudes in suits talk to me now. They didn’t when I had locs. The privileges you get with long, straight hair are endless,” Kristi told me. I asked her to elaborate and the example she gave me is a doozy.
About a month after Kristi got the weave, she was at the airport, waiting to board a Virgin Atlantic flight from New York to London for work. She was standing in line at the gate, hoping to change her seat. Kristi said she wasn’t used to her hair yet and it was bothering her. She kept playing with it and tossing it, trying to get comfortable and she noticed that she had caught the eye of the gentleman standing in line behind her—a white guy that looked like a frequent business traveler. When Kristi got to the front of the line, she asked the agent if there were any free upgrades available. The answer was no so she stepped to the side to organize her carry-on. Next thing she knows, she was told that the man behind her had paid for her to move up from premium economy class to the upper class section of the plane!
“I thought ‘What do I do next? Do I talk to him?’ I sat right next to him on the flight and we chatted for a few hours. He ended up giving me his number,” Kristi said. The man was nice and not overly flirtatious with her at all. After the trip, she never spoke to him again.
Now, obviously she didn’t ask the guy why he upgraded her, but it’s safe to assume it was simply because she’s a pretty girl. A pretty girl with long, straight hair. He wanted her company and he had the means to get it. Kristi felt pretty sure it had everything to do with the hair because she flies all the time and nothing like this had never happened to her before. I didn’t even challenge her on that because as crazy as it sounds, I know she’s right. I had a weave once too. It was about the same texture and length as Kim Kardashian’s hair. Wearing that weave was a real eye-opener–I’ve never been ogled so much in my life. And I definitely don’t get those kind of stares now with my shoulder-length cut. Not that I miss all the leering on the subway.
But it taught me that before the weave, I was invisible to some guys and didn’t even know it. As Kristi put it: “Ideally every woman’s hair would get attention and be considered beautiful, but men love long hair. They’re programmed to think that long hair equals beauty, sexiness and femininity. They don’t care if it’s real, fake, pony, donkey or ostrich—they love it!”
She went on to say that the upgrade experience shocked her and also made her wonder if the “looks don’t matter” speech she heard growing up was a bunch of B.S. “Is everything about how you look and how long your hair is? If so, my mom was way off. She always told me it was about being smart, not pretty,” said Kristi.
I don’t believe that every man on the planet is shallow or only interested in women with long hair–I met my boyfriend with my hair in a messy bun. But generally speaking, cascading hair is considered to be more desirable. Evidence of that is everywhere (magazines, Disney movies, Victoria’s Secret catalogues, music videos) and has been since who knows when. No woman is immune to that bias, not even A-list actresses. When discussing her pixie cut with Elle UK last year, Michelle Williams said that “Straight men across the board are not into this hair!”
Although the long hair beauty standard is nothing new, Kristi’s story floored me so much that I just had to share. If you have an outrageous tale of your own, feel free to blab in the comments section below. And check out what short-haired girls have to deal with on a regular basis–it’s funny/sad!