Now See Hair…

I always thought it was just the yeshivish community that had an unreasonable grudge against curly hair, perhaps dating back to when straight was in fashion. Or when curly was in fashion. We tend to be slightly out of step with out prejudices. Sometimes the line is “That’s in fashion! It therefore can’t be modest to dress that way!” But other times, the argument is,  “Nobody wears that, so it’s completely unacceptable  to stand out like that.”

Curly hair, sadly, gets the negative end of both approaches. When curly is in, it’s fashionable-and-therefore-wrong. (“Why would you want to look like some pruste bum from Hollywood?”) When curly is out, it’s outlandish (“It stands out and screams ‘look at me! I want attention!'”).

So, I always thought it was a frum thing. Until NMF#7 sent me this link about curly hair in the general population, making me wonder if the curly prejudice isn’t more widespread than I thought. Really? A mainstream woman in a liberal artsy field complaining about hair discrimination? We totally need a support group.

What on earth is wrong with curly hair?


23 thoughts on “Now See Hair…

  1. In answer to your question: beats me. It actually makes me sad when my friends with beautiful, gorgeous curls straighten them away for weddings. Mousse them and wear them, my friends! Curls are so pretty!

  2. I noticed that article too and had the same reaction. The obvious point is that hair is not like fashion; hair type is something you’re born with, and it takes a lot of effort and expense to change it, and it’s not always successful when you try.

  3. I have bright reddish orange bottle curls, seems to be more of an asset than a curse. I refuse to straighten them unless it’s for a costume. Yes, I’m frum, and it does attract a certain type of frum guy

  4. I stopped straightening my hair on a daily basis. Since I work in a secular environment it made absolutely no difference.

  5. I have curly hair. It is a dominant trait that is actually associate with Jewishness. As Susan Weidman Schneider writes in Jewish and Female, “Assimilation for Jewish women has often meant trying to change the way we look,” as the fall prey to the “’straightening’ syndrome. They follow the dictates “straighten your hair, your teeth, your body, you nose, your house,” so that you may achieve “’acceptability’” (Schneider 245). Generally, they’ll straighten their hair and then buy straight sheitels. See

  6. one of the posts from the 5 towns shuls list today was: “My 14 year old daughter with thick,long, wavy hair wants to get her hair straightened (the kind that last 3-4 mths). Can anyone recommend a good hair salon that does this? What is the approx. cost? Thanks for any and all advice! ” I am tempted to say, it’s better to make her appreciate the beauty of her own wavy hair than to keep spending hundreds of dollars on salon treatments for straightening.

  7. hello – this article was written in the NY Times. It was saying how secular culture currently frowns on curly hair.

    Ariella – Straight hair is the current fashion. Like I mentioned before, google “80’s hair.” The it was all about frizzy and curly height, and frum girls pursued that style then. Sleek hair does not equal a desire to assimilate; my sister’s high school yearbook looks a lot different from mine. She was born with stick-straight hair and she got a perm that destroyed her hair. She graduated in 1990. There are many styles out there that many make a point to acclimate to. Like how girls nowadays make a point to buy short-sleeved garb so they can wear a shell beneath, rather than purchasing something with actual sleeves, because the look is “in.”

  8. I had my hair forcibly straigtened for my wedding. I let my mom have her friend do my hair. I cringe now, because that long sheet of stick straight hair was not me.

  9. Princess Lea, with all due respect, hair straightening is not analogous to the layered look. BTW don’t blame the girls — even the “frum” stores stock mostly sleeveless tops; moreover, they stock skirts and dresses that also require wearing another skirt underneath because they are quite a bit above the knees. It’s really very annoying. As my daughters themselves observe, there’s no point in shopping at the frum stores then because these types of clothes are sold everywhere, and you can get better quality at better prices even with sales at Banana Republic.

    The hair issue goes much further back than current fashion. The book I quote in the article went through this as a regular phenomenon. I did extensive reading on Jewish women’s identity and the beauty standard, and it is clear that many internalize the idea of straight hair as part of the ideal — i.e. not Jewishly defined — look. I’ve also seen countless accounts of women who straighten their hair so that they “don’t look like an extra from Fiddler on the Roof,” etc. Check out: Strasser , Teresa. “On Jewish Hair: How I Won the Battle but Lost the War.” Jewish Bulletin of Northern California. 22 May 1998. January 12, 2003. module/displaystory/story_id/8775/ format/html/displaystory.html. One of the books I read refer to a 1973 movie in which Barbara Streisand played a Jewish woman circa the 40s who straightens her curly (i.e. “Jewish”) hair. And from real life, see Anne Roiphe’s account of her mother dragging her to a place that “relaxed” hair for African-Americans to get rid of the curl in 1185 Park Avenue: A Memoir. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999. It’s a great parallel to Malcom X’s “My First Conk,” which is in The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

  10. Ariella, I annoyed the proprietress of a local frum store by referring to an item in her store as a “minidress”. “It’s a TUNIC,” she sniffed.

  11. Tesyaa, that’s very funny. Where I live, I noticed a relaxing of standards in the windows of Junee and Elzee. At first all the short skirts and sleeveless tops were only shown over shells and other skirts. Now they don’t even bother, and the mannequins’ reveal their knees and arms. But here we even have frum owned stores that showcase strapless gowns. I know that some of the same stores have branches in Lakewood, but I am 100% certain they would not dare set up their windows there in the same way.
    But back to Jewish hair, which, as I said, is something other than fashion. Here’s a great blog post written by someone years after I published my article:

  12. My local Junee’s has a mannequin in a v-neck vest without a top beneath. I was rather scandalized. I’ve never really gone to frum stores as their skirts are never long enough for me to begin with due to my height.

    My sister is the only one in her high school yearbook with a long mane of straight hair (as her hair is naturally straight). Everyone else had super-curly height, either achieved by natural or chemical means. Current fashion cannot be completely written off.

    Patti Stanger (aka Millionaire Matchmaker), in the NY Times article, requests her female clients to straighten their hair. She claims because men want straight hair; I will say rather that because she is a Jewish woman and so probably has curly hair, it is more an issue for her than for her male clients.

    All of us tend to envy the looks of others. Jewish females, in general, tend to have curly hair, and some react by seeking the opposite extreme (who was curly haired in Fiddler?)

    Wavy sheitlach abound nowadays; it is not only straight hair that is “in.” I would keep my hair wavy if I had a reliable way of styling it.

    While of course many Jews or other curly haired ethnicites desire straight hair, the question is if the rest of the world demands it of them, or if it is an ideal they foist on themselves.

  13. I have long curly hair. Its gotten back to me by shadchanim that the boys “do not like curly hair because its not the norm, makes a statement”, I refuse to straighten it. Curly hair is unique. I am the only one by a wedding with the hair- I get all the attention 🙂 Let’s rock it girls!

  14. Hi everybody,
    I just cannot understand why this “curly x straight hair” thing should be an issue at all, even for dating purposes.
    From the male viewpoint — however I don’t know if my opinion does represent the majority of men — it’s far more important what’s *inside* a girl’s head, not outside !!!
    A self-proclaimed frum Jew should search for good personal traits, modest behavior, fair looks (I mean, “normal”, within a minimum aesthetic standard, not necessarily a celebrity) and other “little things” that make a certain girl the right woman to be his kids’ mother and also a nice life partner for a seemingly looong time frame B”H.
    If a guy thinks he deserves to be called a talmid chacham, a frummer man *and* sticks to non-issues such as a woman’s hair radius of curvature as a basic criterion for choosing his future wife… well – this man should go straight back to the yeshiva and learn a lot until he gets it !!!
    I’d suggest to all girls here, simply to improve their “middot” and you’ll surely find a good match.
    Just a thought…
    (P/S: I’m 50, married for 23 years, and have 3 children).

  15. Ok B4S, I think we’ve hit the root of your problem. If you want to catch a fish, you have to think like a fish. If you want to catch a guy, you have to think like a, no, not a fish, a guy.

    A guy sees curly hair and the first thing he says to himself is “Hair curlers. Every night she’ll go to sleep in hair curlers.”

    That’s what’s wrong with curly hair.

  16. I just don’t understand why someone should have to straighten curly hair. Why should someone have to change something that they were born with? Every time I tried to straighten my hair it took about 2 hours. Precious time better spent elsewhere! Have shadchanim told girls to buy colored contact lenses because “boys like blue eyes”? Or to go tanning booths? Thank G-d, hubs loves my curly hair. We love our daughter’s toddler fro!

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