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My Son’s Hair Isn’t About You

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No, I will not cut my son’s hair for you. No, he has never gotten teased by other children for it. Actually, the only people who make a big fuss about it and make him feel self-conscious are adults who feel the need to point out my parenting flaw with his hair.

Please stop telling me how cute he would be “if only his hair was shorter.” He’s cute now and his hair has absolutely no baring on that whatsoever. Your daughter, who looks to be the same age as my son, has a pixie cut you obviously allowed her to get. Why is short hair alright for your daughter but long hair isn’t alright for my son?

These are the things that I want to say to people, complete strangers, who feel the need to tell me I am being a lax parent by allowing my son to wear his hair long. But I don’t tell them any of these things because they would undoubtedly come off as rude and that isn’t my intent. Instead, I tell them that he likes it long, that it doesn’t bother my husband or I, and then I extricate myself from the uncomfortable conversation while they murmur about how they would never let their child run the show like that.

Having an opinion about hair is fine, telling my child that he looks like a girl and to “tell mommy you don’t like your hair long” is nothing but an overreach on your part. Aside from the fact that you are not his parent and you do not make the decisions in my household, there are a myriad of reasons why men have worn long hair and why I allow my son to do so as well.

Culturally, long hair on men isn’t a new concept. The Native Americans have been wearing their hair long for centuries. Some tribes believe the length of their hair signifies the amount of growth their souls have taken in their lives. They also see it is an extension of Mother Nature, whose long hair is seen in the grassy fields. In early Roman days, men regularly wore their hair long and only began to entertain the thought of shorter hair after the invention of the barber in 300 BCE. Many solders in the Civil War didn’t exactly have hair cut above the ears and it was a long running idea back in early America. Then you can look at George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to name a few. Many men back in this time period wore wigs to keep up a societal esthetic — that of long hair meaning something and putting them in a higher social class (this isn’t an across the board truth but it is evidenced rather well with writings of that time).

You can also go Biblical if you would like. Nearly every depiction of God, Jesus and Joseph have them all wearing their hair long or at least longer than one would deem “proper” in today’s society. And come on! Samson derived his strength from the massive mane he had going on. Then we can look at other deities, such as Zeus, Hades, Poseidon and Apollo. Even princes and kings had long hair in both, real life and in movies. Look at King Triton from “The Little Mermaid,” John Smith from “Pocahontas” (never mind the long haired Native American men running around), or even Shang from “Mulan” (as well as pretty much the entire Imperial Army and emperor). Then there are characters like Captain Jack Sparrow (and Johnny Depp who plays him) as well as William Turner (with Orlando Bloom having long hair prior to that with Legolas). This of course opens the door to Gandolf, Dumbledoor, Snape and Lucius Malfoy who all have rather long and magnificent locks. Collin Farrell and Chris Helmsworth wore their hair long either in real life or for movies. The late Heath Ledger wore his hair long for “A Knight’s Tale” and Leonardo Dicaprio wore his long for “The Man in The Iron Mask.” Adam Driver or, as you might know him, Kylo Ren, wore his hair long in real life and for a movie role. Gods, actors and the characters we have all come to know and love are revered for their long hair in most instances, so why is it such a big deal when a mortal boy who is 5 years old has hair past his ears?

As we have witnessed, men wearing their hair long is not a new nor dwindling concept. It has been going on for centuries, has seen the rise and fall of entire cultures and is running head first into the newest century.

Aside from all of these examples I do have another very good reason for allowing my son to wear his hair long. My son, my beautiful 5-year-old little boy, has autism. He has severe sensory overload and one of the things that makes it worse is haircuts. He hates the way they sound and feel and we have seen how badly it harms him to have them done. Yes, I said harms. I will not hold my child down while he screams and bawls because he can’t regulate his feelings so some nosy stranger can feel better about how he looks. I will not “set my foot down” or stop him from being “spoiled” because this isn’t something to do with discipline, this is him literally feeling like something is hurting him. Would you intentionally harm your child because someone else wants them to look a different way? No, because parents don’t allow other people to dictate how their children look.

My son’s long hair does nothing to you. It has nothing to do with you and you have no right telling him that he looks silly, looks like a girl (being a girl or looking like one shouldn’t even be an insult by the way) or that he just needs to look more presentable.

If you notice the only thing you deem to be “unpresentable” is his hair, there are many unpresentable things about you, such as your attitude. So thank you for you unsolicited advice, but I have things I need to do, like tell my son how he could be an actor like Brad Pitt, a world class snowboarder like Shawn White, an unprecedented singer like Michael Jackson or an amazingly good soccer player like David Beckham. So please, pick up that romance novel with the Fabio looking long haired man on the cover and perhaps contemplate why he doesn’t “look like a girl,” but my son somehow does.

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Thinkstock image by Michael Blann

Originally published: November 7, 2017
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