So yes, following on from post 1 about women, hair and stuff.... hair really matters, it impacts on a woman's self esteem, confidence and probably her actual life chances.
Mostly, brands etc play on women's weakness to hope for miracles and give them unnatainable images and lifestyles to buy into. Some get the confidence thing and make a good fist of it. But there is lots more going on.
If you're in the 'great brands have a point of view on culture' camp (hope you are), this is where it gets interesting.
As we've said, a woman's looks have an instant effect on how others percieve her, not just physically, but her talents, personality, the lot. Basically, how a women chooses to look creates her actual identity in other's eyes.
Thanks to the feminist revolution etc, there are all sorts of freedoms for a woman that were not there 40 years ago. That's not just true of women, it's true of life too. Society is porous these days, there's more fluidity, more open boundaries. There's more to do and more to 'be'.
So it follows that the 'self' is more porous too. There is no set 'individual' like there used to be, rather there is a series of 'selves' as the person adapts to and explores the possibilities the modern world offers. People create their own identities and assert the right of self-authorship rather than being told who to be, or even being consistent.
The possibility of altering hair therefore presents opportunity for genuine transformation for a women. Doing more and being more - exploring all the elements of 'self' and what that self can do in the world.
The more freedom to change appearance means more freedom to change how you're percieved and create whatever identity you want.
If she wants to be taken seriously as a professional, she can create a no nonsense bob. The big hair suggests the vamp, the blond has more fun etc. The more possibility for hair, the more possibility for women. But.........
All a woman is really doing is conforming to the stereotype that society sets her. It's good that she can now fulfill some those expectations, but they are other people's expectations none the less.
Let's dwell on this a second and look at it from another angle. How 'free' are women really? She may be doing the same job as a man, but she gets payed less for it. She may be going out to work, but she does the lions share of the housework, she is still the primary carer of the children. In short, she is expected to carry out multiple roles. Freedom seems to entail taking on more and she can't help herself.
While men's primary urges are all about things, winning and 'me', women can't help wanting to for, groups,nurture others, create safe environments for love ones, on top of all those personal desires and needs to do something for herself. She's conflicted.
But that complexity can be made to work for her. She fulfills many roles, she has many sides. So underneath that business suit there might be the vamp wanting to come out, the vamp probably wants to be taken a little seriously. In short, if she wants, she can play society at its own game and play with her own identity - projecting whatever identity she chooses, become whatever version of herself is required.
This is far more interesting and more true about what is going on. Rather than help women conform and do what it expected, there's an opportunity to have a conversation about their multiple roles, help them create themselves anew whenever they fancy, possibly even liberate them from the the expectations placed upon them. In short, hair as a source of endless transformation, the opportunity to play how others see you rather than fit in with what they want.
A a woman is never 100% anything. Never totally professional, never totally carefree, never just a Mum, never just a wife, never completely naughty or nice. There are shades, degrees, many sides to her. Hair and its accompaniments can enable her to reveal which sides she wants when she chooses.
Put another way, in a world that too often holds them back and expects them to accept passiveley what life brings,women who manipulate their identity to create opportunities can almost seem like rebels, resisting the narrow role life tries to place them in and in many ways, beating it at its own game. But............
In the end, that is still acknowledging those stereotypes and reinforcing them. Much of the debates around modern feminism centre on beauty v brains. Is a woman using her looks to get what she wants liberated or merely reinforcing an age old system? Time to move beyond that.
Only when women are really free from stereotypical expectations of their appearance, their nature and their abilities can they really enjoy their looks. And simple enjoyment is really the point, and something that often gets missed in a froth of over thinking.
Look at fashion. The intellectuals can debate how much fashion enslaves women and makes them feel bad, the couture designers and Vogue can lose themselves in a world of self importance if they want. Both don't get it. Clothes and dressing up is fun, it's a deep pleasure, a release from the banality of the world.There is nothing to figure out about shoes...it's just fun, it's dressing up, it makes a woman feel good. It's escapism...
It's the same with make-up and, but hair is the most extreme example.
It's magical, both public and deeply personal, growing out of the body and (hopefully with the right products) moulded to personal desire. Fun, sensuous pleasure, an outlet for creativity. It can be changed in an instant.
I've read all sorts on women and beauty, on clothes etc. One true story cuts through all of that. It's the story of Belsen. If you can't be bothered to open the link, a genius put some lipstick into the supplies for newly liberated concentration camp interns at the end of the Second World War. The food gave them sustenance, but it was the lipstick that gave them their humanity. The lipstick made them a person, not a number in a way that nothing else could. These emaciated women, starving, barely human anymore, still had a driving desire to look pretty. It brought them back to themselves. That shows the basic, primal desire to look pretty. It doesn't require explanation, it's an end in itself. It brings joy.
Just as Christian Dior's 'New Look' liberated women from drab postwar austerity, reminding women to please themselves, so simply transforming hair brings uncomplicated joy. Yes, it's playing with identity, but the key work there is 'play'.
Taking pleasure in playing with appearance lies at the heart of this overlong post.
You'll have seen lots of stuff from brands that does the 'ta dah!' moment.
You'll have seen less of, but much better work about confidence and 'destiny'.
But there has not been enough about identity creation or the independence that brings.
I would want to go further than that, rather than reinforcing stereptypes, I'd like to see more conversations about taking simple pleasure in playing how you look. The positive lift that gives, the pleasure in escapism.
Sex and the City is brilliant. There,I've said it. At it's heart is four independent women who enjoy how they look. That's it. It's not complex, it just captures a certain feminine confidence, independence and the simple joy of dressing up.
This ad captures all that brilliantly. Women getting dressed up because it's fun and it makes them feel nice. It captures pleasing themselves, not pleasing a man or prescribed idea of what they should look like.
For a moment, when a women runs a ghd through her hair, when she steps out of a salon, or even when she's washing her hair for a big night out. She ceases to be a mother, an employee, a wife, girlfriend, daughter or whatever. For a moment she is none of those things. She is herself, but more alive than ever, taking simple, uncomplex pleasure in transforming her looks.
But it doesn't have to be simple. It isn't simple....and comes back to freedom.
The more control women gain over their lives, the more freedom they will have to truly enjoy their hair. Appearance, of which hair is a focal point, can become the simple pleasure it should be when appearance ceases to be such a core part of how a women can control her own destiny.
When women are evaluated on personality and achievements, it doesn't preclude them enjoying their looks, it frees them up to do that on their own terms. That feels like an interesting place to be in. Going beyond confidence and even identity creation to pleasing yourself a little more, doing things that make you happy and give you pleasure, rather than what it expected or what you should.
Freedom to do whatever you bloody well like.
If you're the 'brand out' kind of strategist, all of this is no use of course. It just gives you the context, the fun will be to find something credible for your brand to say about all this, but that's what makes it all fun doesn't it?
That's a bit about I know about women and their hair. Kind of perverse coming from a bald man with no fashion sense eh?