Long hair is a hairstyle where the hair is allowed to grow to considerable length. Exactly what constitutes long hair can change from culture to culture, or even within cultures. For example, a woman with chin-length hair in some cultures may be said to have short hair, while a man with the same length of hair in some of the same cultures would be said to have long hair.
Humans (and horses) are among the few species that may grow their head hair very long. Humans are believed to have lost their fur 2.5-3 million years ago when transiting from a forest habitat to the open savanna, as an effect of natural selection, since this development made it possible to run fast and hunt animals close to the equator without getting overheated.
An exception was however head hair, which was kept to provide thermal insulation of the scalp from the sun, to protect against ultra-violet radiation exposure, and also to provide cooling (when sweat evaporates from soaked hair). The ability to grow long straight hair, has been observed among homo sapiens sub-groups in less sunny regions further away from the equator.
Relative to curly Afro-textured hair, straight hair allows more UV light to pass to the scalp (which is essential for the production of vitamin D, that is important for bone development). Scientists also view the ability to grow very long hair as a result of sexual selection, since long and healthy hair is a sign of fertility and youth.
Long lustrous female hair is rated attractive by both men and women across cultures. An evolutionary psychology explanation for this attraction is that hair length and quality can act as a cue to youth and health, signifying a woman’s reproductive potential.
As hair grows slowly, long hair may reveal 2–3 years of a person’s health status, nutrition, age and reproductive fitness. Malnutrition and deficiencies in minerals and vitamins due to starvation causes loss of hair or changes in hair color (dark hair turns reddish). The prevalence of trichophilia (hair partialism or fetishism) is 7% in the population, and very long hair is a common subject of devotion in this group.
Among the Masaai and other cultures, short or bald hair on women is considered attractive, wedding hair so the degree to which attraction to long hair in women is cultural remains to be studied.
Ways of life often viewed as more rigid, such as soldiers and religious cultures, often have explicit rules regarding hair length. For example, Buddhist monks shave their heads as part of their order of worship.Even outside religious structures, cultures often associate male long hair with ways of life outside of what is culturally accepted. Subservient cultures, for example, are sometimes detected by their rulers through hair length, as was the case with the Gaelic Irish under English rule and the Moors under Spanish rule in Medieval Spain.
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