From shaving to curling, from the concealment of hair to its ostentatious display, hair lends itself to a wide assortment of arrangements. It is uniquely suited for expressing status difference, relations among kin, group membership, and both the submission to and refusal of predominant social, political, and religious norms. Its fashioning entails, among other things, a striking aesthetic affinity with gardening and home decoration. From the West to the Middle East through the Mediterranean, this article explores the symbolic significances that societies attribute to this hotly debated physical characteristic and, more broadly, the interplay between voluntary social practices and culturally imposed rules of conduct.

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