What Your Hairstyle Says About You

Apr 12, 2017

According to professor of psychology, Marianne Lafrance, our hair plays a bigger role in our lives than we might think. She says there is a psychological impact of having a bad hair day. 

For example, if we looked at women with long straight blonde hair, people tended to think that she was sexy, but also fairly self-centered. - Marianne Lafrance

In her research, Lafrance found that a majority of people are inclined to have lower self-esteem on bad hair days.

"When we had them write about their bad hair days, these stories had all the hallmarks of an event,” she laughs. “There were a lot of people remaking ‘oh, please,’ but we do make decisions based on this kind of thing. In the scheme of things, it is relatively minor, but it may not be so minor after all.”

She also found that how we wear our hair has a big impact on how people perceive us. 

“For example, if we looked at women with long straight blonde hair, people tended to think that she was sexy, but also fairly self-centered.”

“We do judge by the cover of the book, and in this case, the cover of the book is hair.”

During this Talk of Iowa program, host Charity Nebbe talks with Lafrance about her research. Jordyn Shipley, who teaches at the Aveda Institute in Des Moines and Krista Goldsberry who owns G-Spot Hair Design (which has salons in Des Moines and Iowa City), also join the conversation to talk about recent trends and styles. 

In addition to seeing many young women dye their hair gray, Goldsberry says more people in her salon are asking for dreadlocks.

“There has been a lot more education about how to install locks, and there has been a lot more acceptance,” she says. “The history of dreadlocks is different for every culture. It’s not strictly limited to one race or one geographical area. There are a lot of Asian cultures that have a history of locking their hair. As the culture becomes one mixed culture, and we all become one big mixing pot, I see a lot of these techniques molding into one another.”

There was a time when my grandfather was dead serious about the fact that he did not want a woman without straightened hair in his house. - Lakesia Johnson

Toward the end of the conversation, Lakesia Johnson, associate dean and professor of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies at Grinnell College, talks with Nebbe about the cultural appropriation of hair styles and the politics behind black hair.

“I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a political reason behind why I went natural, but it’s easy. I know how to take care of my hair in its natural state,” she says. “My mom still teases me about it, and there was a time when my grandfather was dead serious about the fact that he did not want a woman without straightened hair in his house.”

Editor's Note: This show originally aired on June 23, 2015.