Crystal Gayle at drag length.
On Monday, country star Crystal Gayle turned 61. That's about as long as her hair in inches. The '70s singer's trademark Rapunzel hair was almost as iconic in Opryland as Dolly Parton's chest. To that end, it's understandable why she never cut it. One can assume there's also a personal attachment to all those locks . To be a true member of the long- haired community takes patience. Xie Qiuping , the woman with the longest hair in the world according this year's Guinness book, spent almost 40 years growing her hair to the 18 feet 4 inches it is in length.
But not everyone grows out her hair for fame, fortune or a pageant trophy (Lithuania sponsors an annual long hair competition where women compete for a bike. For reals.) What about those rare women who've chosen to grow their hair long below their waists? What's the appeal of having a 50 minute shower regiment and a plumber on speed-dial ? I paid a visit to the Long Hair Community , a chat room that looks as if it too hasn't been trimmed since the dawn of the internet, in search of answers.
What I learned is that extremely long hair, I'm talking cocktail length, is the kind of physical trait that's part of one's identity. Much like the Mohawk is to male punks, women who go to extraordinary lengths wear their locks as a proud assertion of outsider status.
'Longys', as they call themselves, even share their own language. Here's an annotated glossary.
Classic: Hair that reaches down to the thigh
Tailboner: Someone with hair that extends to their tailbone.
Terminal: The maximum length one person's hair has the potential to grow
Hemline: The ends of the hair, either split or trimmed
ABL: Above butt length
BF: Beyond floor length
Drag length: Hair that lags behind a persons feel like a bridal trail
Trimmers: People who trim their hemline; the opposite of non-trimmer-those who grow to terminal
Now that you've got the basics, here are some other cultural aspects of the ultra-long haired community:
It's not easy to being long. Maintaining a five foot plus mane requires more than just shampoo and conditioner. Those are "stretched" to a minimum to avoid brittle, dry ends, not to mention drain clogs. Vinegar washes between washes to sap out the excess moisture. A wooden wide-toothed comb is used (possibly for hours) for preliminary detangling followed by a Boar Bristle Brush or BBB which helps remove "greasies" and manages flyaways. Finally cornstarch and even cocoa powder (for brunettes) is employed to pat out and absorb scalp grease without the hassle of a day-long shampoo process.
Hair can never be too long: "Assuming my hemline would stay nice and thick, I don't think there is a too long," writes a commenter. "Why wouldn't I experiment to see where that point is that I can no longer deal with it? Why would I limit myself without first going there?" Another commenter adds: "My goal is terminal seeing that sometimes people cannot achieve past classic, but my dream is to have it dragging behind me."
Once you've started growing, it's hard to stop : "I think I'll get to hip, maintain, then layer it like crazy...then someday I'll chop...But right now I'm a bit too attached to my length."
It's all about finding your sweet spot : "As of now I think waist length will be the end for me. Of course I could be completely wrong and find that when I reach waist I want to keep going. Who knows? But yes, when I find my sweet spot I will trim to maintain."
It's okay to look : "It's inspiring and makes people stare in awe, a little different effect than what a bob would do or the regular spiked hairdo."
But don't touch : "The only two people allowed to touch my hair are my husband (because he's gentle and won't tangle it) and my Mom (because she made my hair to begin with). Otherwise no one touches it unless they're my pets."
Unless you know the sweet spot: "I only let DH [dear husband] touch it. It's something he does to be affectionate. He knows my hair is important to me, so he is gentle and makes sure his hands are clean. He likes playing with it, and I love it when he does. I can't really imagine it feeling "right" for someone else to do so."
As a dyed-in-the-wool 'shorty ', with a pair of scissors at the ready in my bathroom and life-long urge to shave my head, peering into the minds of 'longys' is eye-opening. Aside from the terminology and the maintenance requirements, we're not so different. We both like testing the limits of our locks, regardless of the latest 'Rachel ' (Clearly, I stopped paying attention in 1996.) And we both admire other woman for going one step farther than we'd ever dare.
Watch Lithuania's long hair competition in less than 3 minutes. You'll get the gist.
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