On Being a Longhair

longhair, n. - A man with long hair, particularly
hair long enough to fall upon the shoulders.

Part 1 - Introduction

Many guys have tossed around the idea of being a longhair. I guess I've wanted long hair myself since I was five years old. But like many guys, I'd start to grow it out, it would start to look messy or friends used to seeing it shorter would comment, and before long I would cut it. This went on for many years. Then finally, one day about twenty years ago, I decided it was time I did what I wanted to do with my hair! I began to grow it out.

Lots of gals have longer hair, and they have had a lifetime of exchanging information about it. A gal with questions about longer hair can usually find numerous friends around who have it, to ask. Far fewer guys have long hair, so it is not likely for many guys that they will really have anyone to ask questions of, who they will be comfortable asking. So let me share what I've learned myself, and in discussion with other longhairs.

What I'll be sharing here is what it is like to have long hair from a guy's perspective. What I won't get into is hair care products (male and female hair is the same, and you can find that information elsewhere). Nor will I delve into identity issues where hair length may make someone feel more masculine or feminine that some people such as trans people have. What I will discuss is what it is like for an ordinary masculine guy who wants to have long hair.

Guys have things to deal with that gals with long hair usually do not. Issues we have revolve around things like growing our hair out for the first time, finding masculine products in lines mainly sold to a female clientele, facing discrimination, and otherwise dealing with being a person in a minority, albeit a great looking one!

How Common Are Longhairs?

First, a word about just how much of a "freak" you will be. We constitute about two to three percent of the adult male population. Add to that perhaps another similar percentage who are "borderline longhairs", guys with noticeably more hair than most guys, but not quite to the extent one would think of as being a longhair. That gives you a range of two to five percent. Thus you will not be unusual, but you will be a guy who stands out from the crowd to some degree.

How Fast Does Hair Grow?

This is, of course, the first question everybody asks!

Almost everyone's hair grows at about half an inch (1.25 cm) per month, though some guys will experience growth at as little as half that rate, and a few lucky men will see twice that or more. The usual growth rate works out to six inches (15 cm) per year. To really begin to look longhaired, you'll need at least nine inches (23 cm) of hair, so you are probably looking at a transition period of a year and a half. That is also about the length at which you can put your hair into a ponytail, a milestone of passage for many. Most longhairs do not want to stop there, of course; many want about twice that length. This means your total growing out project will probably take two to four years.

How Long Can Hair Get?

Three factors determine this:

Let's first look at the first of those three items, how long individual hair strands live.

The Life Span of Hair

A human hair only has a life span of two to six years, after which time it falls out and a new hair soon sprouts in its place. This life span, with the growth rate we just discussed, translates into a "terminal length" of one to three feet (30 to 90 cm). Some people are genetically disposed to have longer-living hair than others, and they can therefore grow longer hair. And many people find, as they age, the life span or growth rate of their hair decreases, meaning their terminal length decreases. So each human being, if never cutting any hair, will eventually achieve a maximum hair length, and that length will most likely be between one and three feet (30 to 90 cm). The good news is that whatever length you achieve within that range, you will nevertheless have enough hair to "look like a longhair"!

Of course all of your hair strands will never simultaneously achieve terminal length. At any given time, a guy who has not snipped a hair in decades will have an assortment of young hair strands and older ones, and his hair will look much like this:

Fortunately, on the head, hair is many layers deep, not just one layer deep as shown on the diagram. This means that one sees hair, not space, where the gaps in the diagram are, because there is more hair underneath, and the glaring space one sees in the diagram is not seen on the head. Because of this layering effect, your hair as it tails off will not look nearly as ratty as the illustration would suggest, and it will look pretty good down to the last few percent of its final, or "terminal" length.

This actual taper in the bulk of your hair will show up immediately if you tightly constrict it, though. This explains why braids get narrower and narrower as they get farther from the head. The fact that all hair in a braid does not originate at its base, but some has to travel across the head a distance to that point, also contributes to this effect to some degree.

The chart above also explains one other thing all longhairs become familiar with. When you have a pony tail, if the wind blows hard enough, it will inevitably pull the shorter hairs on the top of your head out from the bundle of the others and leave them wafting upward. These younger hairs will also work their way out as the day wears on, windy or not, and this can also prompt a recombing. (You should never trim these hairs off! These young hairs are your future long ones.)

Though longhairs speak of their "terminal length" as being that achieved by their longest strands, not all areas of your head will necessarily grow hair to the same final length. Men often find the following areas, in particular, will sprout hair with a shorter terminal length:

The Strength of Hair Strands

All materials lose strength over time and eventually fail. This is due to deterioration from exposure to the elements and due to damage from physical contact with the environment. Put more bluntly, things rot and they wear out, and hair is not immune to this. If your hair could grow three feet (90 cm) long over six years before falling out, but after four years on your head the strands structurally fail, you will not get but two feet (60 cm) of hair. So you need to understand what makes your hair strong.

Straight hair has a round cross-section, while curly and wavy hair has one flatter, more oval-shaped. This means curly and wavy hair has one dimension that is diminished. This narrowness of these hair types makes them weaker for two reasons - one of course is that anything thinner is weaker, but also, this situation makes these strands more apt to dry out. Then they are more subject to damage.

Some people also just get thicker hair strands than do other people. And some people find their hair strands get thinner as they age. In any event, everything we're talking about here is genetic.

Though you can't do anything about your genetics, as a longhair you should be aware of the problem of premature hair strand failure, though, because there are things you can do that affect your susceptibility to it. If you have strong hair and abuse it, it will not reach terminal length. And if you have a weaker hair type but take great care of it, you can cause your hair to survive a lot longer, and thus give you more length.

Above we said that the life span of your hair and the strength of your hair strands are two of the three factors that determine how long your hair can get, and that how you care for your hair is the third. Let's now look at that very important matter, how to care for your long hair, in Part 2.

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Caring for Long Hair
Part 3 - Keeping Long Hair Neat
Part 4 - How People Feel About Long Hair

Copyright © 1998-2014 by Bill Choisser, All Rights Reserved.

[  About This Series  ]

[  Resources for Longhairs  ]