A Note on Religion
A General Note on Legal Arguments
To get started, begin with this general FAQ On Being a Longhair. It is a compilation I put together of answers to many questions, primarily those which come up time and time again on longhair chat boards. Hair growth, hair care, keeping hair neat, resisting urges or pressure to cut, and dealing with discrimination are major topics covered. Near the end of this FAQ it delves into the extent to which having long hair can be part of one's identity.
If you want to discuss various aspects of the longhaired experience with other longhairs, the best place to go is the Men's Long Hair Hyperboard. To keep the board on its topic of providing information, posts to meet others are discouraged. The "Links" page on the Hyperboard will take you to several pages written by longhaired men about growing out their hair.
The Significance of Male Hair by Raj Singh covers the sociological, religious, and legal aspects of men's long hair over many centuries, and uncovers that aggression and/or dominance underlie most demands that others cut their hair. It includes a large bibliography of literature and legal cases.
Information on hair care can be found at The Hair Boutique. This site is primarily directed toward women, but care for male and female hair is the same. Women's sites tend to get far deeper into the nuances of hair care than do the men's sites, and some sites directed towards women contain discussion. There is also considerable discussion activity at the women's Long Hair Community site.
A general forum about men's hair is The Men's Hair Forum. It covers men's hair in general, but it does have a section on long hair.
Show this to anyone who questions whether longhairs can be upstanding citizens: The signing of The Declaration of Independence is shown on the back of the two dollar bill. The illustration shows many of the signers were longhairs! One can also drag out any nickel coin to make this point; Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the document and served as the U.S.'s third President, is widely reported to have sported a ponytail, and he is shown on the coin with his hair pulled back into a ponytail.
The Gay Longhair bulletin board is for longhaired men who want to meet other longhairs. They also have a section that profiles about a hundred gay longhairs. The links for their bulletin board include several other sites that provide profiles and message facilities for gay longhairs, so I have not included them here.
Sites for women who want to meet longhairs tend to be fleeting, and keeping an updated list is not practical.
Sadly, discrimination against longhairs still exists. Listed below are sites that may be of assistance, and sites that document incidents. Someday, this is a section we hope we can remove.
First, I will repeat a link to Raj Singh's The Significance of Male Hair. In reading Raj's study of long hair over the centuries from Roman times onward, one can envision a scheme that has been going on since prehistoric times: When a village was overrun, women were often raped, and men were often shorn. The shearing of men as a domination ploy is thus an act that rests deep within the human psyche, and this underlies the situation that women are seldom subjected to long hair discrimination. Raj's work, his thesis at Valparaiso University, is a tough read in spots, but it is worth the effort for anyone wanting an in depth understanding of what underlies much of the discrimination directed toward longhairs. His bibliography of court cases is extensive.
We will consider discrimination against longhairs in the following roles, since these are the situations in which it usually occurs: customer, student, inmate, civilian employee, and military serviceman.
Discrimination against longhairs as customers is rare, so court cases are few. Barefoot people do get more such discrimination, and materials from one of their groups, The Dirty Sole Society, report on a California case, In re Theodore William Cox on Habeas Corpus, California Reporter, 90, 1970, p. 24., which held, "Neither municipality nor shopping center may exclude individuals who wear long hair or unconventional dress ... merely because of such characteristics," in interpreting the state's Unruh Act.
Legislation such as the Unruh Act is, sadly, still quite rare, and in most other jurisdictions shopkeepers can choose who they wish to do business with, so long as they don't exclude people on the basis of a short "civil rights" list. However, as we have said, such discrimination is rare. Walk into any establishment with money showing in your fist, and they will find it very hard to throw you out!
The general thread of American cases concerning discrimination against longhair students, though there are exceptions, is that:
Although "dress codes" deal with something that can be readily changed, unlike one's hair, and thus they are more often upheld, they do deal with one's appearance and cases and sites that deal with them and "hair codes" are often intermingled. Thus, in doing research about a particular situation, search for "dress code" as well as other terms which would seem to be more relevant.
- Four of the eleven federal court circuits have ruled that public schools can discriminate and four have ruled that they cannot. The other three have not take up the issue. The Supreme Court has also not taken up the issue to resolve the discrepancy between the rulings in different circuits, so the hodgepodge of rulings remains. Most of these cases were litigated in the 1970s, and interest in pursuing the issue has subsided as discrimination against longhaired public school students has become uncommon. Court opinions written by judges weigh public authority vs. civil liberties concerns, and often rulings have been close, with the former line of thought prevailing mostly in "red states" and the latter in "blue states" as one would expect.
- Because of the closeness of the vote and the long passage of time since most long hair cases have been decided, political trends more than judicial precedent are more likely to control should any cases now arise.
- State courts may also rule that there can be no discrimination, but litigation there concerning public school students has been sparse. The general sense has become that discrimination is not likely to be permitted by most courts now. One exception in the not so distant past (the 1990s) have been rulings by the Texas supreme court which allowed discrimination.
- Although hair is not "dress", sometimes hair rules are found in a school's "dress code". The recent trend to have stricter dress codes and school uniforms, however, has generally not carried over into becoming more strict with long hair.
- Private schools may discriminate (though the Cox case, mentioned above, causes one to question whether such discrimination would be upheld in California). There also was a 2002 Rhode Island case where a lower court ruled in favor of a longhair student at a Catholic school, but that case was later overruled by the state's supreme court.
- Some religions such as conservative Christians mandate men's hair be short, while others such as Sikhs and Native American religions mandate men's hair be long, so this is an additional element to be considered that enters into schools with a religious affiliation, if such schools require the students to adhere to their faith.
- If the longhair's religion requires he have long hair, this can work in his favor, since religious discrimination is generally more vigorously prohibited than longhair discrimination.
While on the issue of students, the rights of minors should be mentioned. Parents generally have the right to force one to cut hair until "legal age" which is generally eighteen. Other adults, without one's parents' consent, do not. One incident in the mid-1990's, in which a southern California teacher whacked off the lifelong ponytail of a nine-year old in his class, caused quite a brouhaha when his longhair father objected, and the teacher was heavily reprimanded. He could have been criminally charged.
In discussing your hair with parents, say how important hair is to you. Most parents, if they sense that importance, will relent. On the day you turn eighteen, they will have no rights at all concerning your hair, and surely they don't want to alienate you to the point you later leave them out of your life.
Although longhair inmates often encounter no discrimination, it does occur in some prison systems. In most cases an inmate is deprived of certain "privileges" as "punishment" for refusing to cut his hair. This has been the case in the state prison system in California. Many men, even Native Americans who resisted for religious reasons, have relented, because the list of so-called privileges was so all-encompassing that it included many things of an essential nature.
Courts and statutory law have run hot and cold in recent years when it comes to the rights of longhaired prisoners, particularly where religion is at issue. Courts and legislative bodies are continually grappling with the situation.
As a rule, men held for a short time, such as for a minor crime in a county jail, have encountered less difficulties than felons in penitentiaries. Perhaps a recognition that courts would be less accepting of any act affecting one's appearance over a long time as part of a short sentence, underlies this situation. Further, men held on bail who have not been convicted are considered innocent and are not held for "punishment", so their encountering of difficulties has been rare, though many face coercion from their attorneys to cut hair to "impress the jury". Attorneys should not be condemned for this - the culprit is the reality that minorities fare worse in trials than others, unfair that this is. If this dilemma confronts you, comfort yourself with the realization that many black men would like to be white for the duration of their trials, too, and consider that at least you have a choice. Whether cutting your hair would be so upsetting that it would hamper your ability to mount an effective defense is of course one other thing one must consider, along with such issues as the long-term effect on you of compromising your identity.
In Texas, inmates have been held down by several men and been forcibly shorn. For one account of such disgraceful behavior, check out Alex Montana's Story. This site also details disrespect of Native American prisoners: Traveling the Spiritual Path
One of the oldest cases regarding hair on inmates resulted in a victory for longhairs. It was Ho Ah Kow v. Nunan, 12 Fed. 252, 256-57 (Cir. Cal. 1879), a challenge to the San Francisco "Queue Ordinance". This ordinance had been enacted to harass Chinese men, who at the time had cultural and religious requirements to maintain long hair.
Treatment of those imprisoned by the Nazis bears special mention. In the early days of harassment of minorities, they were arrested but after being briefly held, were released to return home. In some cases, when the men came home, despite the briefness of their detention, they returned without their hair. Eventually, when victims ended up in camps, hair was removed from both men and women, and was processed as a commercial commodity. This is one of the few instances known where hair was removed from women against their will. Nazi removal of hair from their victims is detailed here.
Incidents of forced removal of men's hair outside of purported "official" acts is rare. Certainly a deterrent is the fact that the taking of someone's hair without his consent constitutes robbery and mayhem, both of which are felonies in most states, a high price to pay when there is no economic benefit to flow to the criminal from such an act.
Longhaired men are sometimes the victims of "profiling" similar to the complaints of African Americans of being stopped for "driving while black".
Discrimination against longhaired employees is presently allowed by US federal law, and federal agencies will not process claims. A few state courts are beginning to consider claims under state anti-discrimination statutes.
Longhairs in Britain have fared better. See this 1/13/2000 article from The Telegraph in which a longhair bar employee was awarded damages for discrimination.
Making the best of employment bias is covered in detail in Part 4 of the FAQ On Being a Longhair, mentioned above.
Except in a few small countries, longhaired men are not allowed to serve. A man who wishes to keep his hair generally opts for other employment.
Major problems thus occur in instances of mandatory service, in which a man to keep his hair must resist service or immigrate elsewhere. Though there is no draft in the United States at the present time, these American organizations have aided servicemen for many years and may assist those in other countries:
Two points should be made about military service. One is that one is generally better off to refuse to enter the service and fight the discrimination as a civilian, as civilians have greater rights. The other is that one should be wary of entering a service branch that allows one's appearance since they may change their requirements during the term of your enlistment and insist the changes be applied to everyone, even those who enlisted before the requirements were changed. Men with beards who entered the US Navy when they were allowed encountered this situation.
Consider that if you are convicted of evasion of service, you may encounter the difficulties with your hair that inmates face, discussed above. This situation may present you with no option but to leave the jurisdiction in question.
Note on Religion
A brief note about long hair and religion is in order. Some courts will prohibit discrimination against long hair if it is part of one's religion. The Sikh religion, Rastafarians, and some Native American religions prohibit the cutting of hair. There are also some Christian religions that do, such as the Mary's City of David group which was well known in the first half of the 20th Century for its longhaired baseball teams.
A General Note on Legal Arguments
Most discrimination laws have a short list of "protected classes" (such as race, religion, etc.) and courts tend to only entertain suits claiming discrimination for one of the listed reasons. Long hair seldom is on such a list.
Some courts have gone beyond such lists however, to extend protection to any characteristic that is an important part of one's identity. Besides the California interpretation of the Unruh act (already mentioned above), another area where courts have looked beyond such lists has been with asylum cases. One should not overlook the value of such cases as precedents in making a similar argument in any long hair discrimination case.
It is not a reasonable argument that long hair should not be protected because "it is a matter of choice" or "hair length can be changed". The same can be said for one's religion, and religion is almost always listed as a protected class. The Unruh and asylum cases have looked instead to whether the item in question is an important element of one's identity. It is more likely that longhairs will receive protection by making such an argument, than it is that long hair will be added to an existing list.
The real dispute over hair length is seldom about appearance and almost always about power. Although later overruled, a lower court in Rhode Island recognized this and ruled an anti-longhair rule was an unconscionable abuse of power. This is an additional tack that one might take.
Copyright © 1998-2014 by Bill Choisser, All Rights Reserved.
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