Victoria Gao is an intern in our photography department.
Check our Tumblr, Dodge & Burn all week for more *interesting* hair in film and photography.
Hair often transcends categorizations of gender by transforming people into fashion icons or recognizable characters. Celebrities are often noted for starting hairstyle trends or for embodying them so well that their hair becomes as much of their celebrity as they themselves are.
For example, Louise Brooks, the American silent film star and the first woman to dance the Charleston in London, epitomized the Roaring Twenties with her sharp bob haircut. She popularized the style through her appearances in movies and advertisement photographs. Similarly, Charlie Chaplin, with his small bowler hat, baggy pants, and comical waddling walk, completed his “Tramp” look with the toothbrush moustache that was fashionable decades earlier but would come to define him throughout his career.
Hair can also be used as a tool for masquerade.
People use wigs to disguise signs of balding, aging, or illness, or to transform themselves into costumed characters for entertainment. The modern history of wigs is closely intertwined with the history of photography. Nineteenth century photographs of men and women dressed in elaborate, white-powdered wigs and other eighteenth century clothing were lighthearted sources of satire and comedy. Wigs remained largely out of fashion until the 1960s and 70s, when women’s bouffants revived the industry, but Andreas Feininger’s 1968 image of a wig shop draws close parallels with the famed street photographs of store window mannequin heads taken by Eugène Atget in the early decades of the mass consumer culture industry.
Above all else hair is a source of aesthetic pleasure, and film and photography have played significant roles in representing that. From the politically charged musical-turned movie Hair (1979) to photographs focusing on hair as an abstracted, formalist element throughout twentieth century art movements, hair has bewitched, provoked, inspired, repelled, and entertained us all.