How Do You Communicate Your Ideas? (12) Hair-do and Your Speech Delivery

Hair style is the first thing the audience members see as the speaker or communicator moves into the speaking arena; because hair is on the head it is highly noticeable and combines with other facial factors to send out powerful non-spoken messages to the audience. Hair communicates power, status, influence, availability (mostly in women) in addition to cleanliness, and orderliness and for men.

The lay observer or reader would wonder why I consider hair as communication element, component, an instrument, and a tool for inclusion in the communication of ideas series. Below, I provide answers to more and similar curiosities by my readers.

A Woman’s Hair and Implications to Public Communication

In the women, hair telegraphs availability, attractiveness, beauty, elegance, poise, grace, admiration, seduction, and so on. For the woman, the hair is next to her skin. You don’t touch it without her permission. She cares and covets and covers her hair as she does her skin. But she also exposes both in the public, for reasons best known to her!

In fact, hair is an extension of a woman’s skin. Without hair, the woman thinks she is naked.

It is ironic that unlike her skin, a woman’s hair is never covered unless in some fundamentalist religious sect, evangelical, and conservative Christian churches. Islamic sects, and in other places of worship; in the salons, at funerals as signs of bereavement in some parts of the world, and during rains.

Uncovering a woman’s hair is an invitation for viewing her as a complete woman.

Uncovering a woman’s hair is appreciating her beauty in its fullness.

It is crucial and critical for the woman to keep her hair permanently “covered” even though it is ever available as in permanent display for eyes to see. I use “covered” here because even though her hair isin public view, she covers it by her obsessive protectiveness, and preservation. No one touches a woman’s hair unless she permits you!.

Hair and the Professional Woman

For the modern professional woman who is in the public arena all times and all days, her hair is part of who and what she is. She has to “cover” her hair by leaving it well kept and professional looking so no man or any intruder can easily access it.

A female’s well manicured hair is like her skin, her sacred body part, that is manicured, preserved and only available for a select few. Hence her overwhelming protectiveness of her hair in public. Its pristineness and preppiness, is a way to keep others out. Her hair is her protective, conservatory, as well as defensive mechanism.

In two instances in my adult life, I ran my hand in a female friend’s hairs. Both of them, who never knew each other from anywhere, reacted the same way. One warned, “Don’t you ever touch my hair again. You have no permission to mess with my hair,” was the warning I got from my German female friend. We were both in the remote of Ohio as professorial professional peers in the academy. This day in question, both of us were hanging out in the backyard of a mutual friend’s barbecue event to celebrate his promotion.

Then second incidence occurred almost twenty years apart, this time from an African American female acquaintance at her living space after a night-out watching a movie. Nothing romantic or sexual; but chatting, playing cards and getting a comfortable relaxation. I ran my hands ran through her hair in demonstration of what we both had witnessed in the pictures. She bounced away in a fit of agitation, “I don’t let strangers touch my hair. I have not given you permission to touch my hair. So don’t ever try that shit again.” I was shocked. The message sent in that instance was that in reality, hair is an extension of the woman’s total body and personhood.

These my two female friends reacted almost in the same way to me touching their hairs, in non-sexual and non-romantic contexts. I must note here that both my female friends had beautiful natural full hairs. These were not artificial hairs that could have triggered fears of falling apart or falling out.

Without hair, the woman sees herself as unattractive to both the female and male genders. Hair suggests sexuality, femininity, and womanhood.

For the woman, hair communicates pride, cleanliness, and attractiveness. That is why she is shy, and withdrawn when her hair is undone and unkempt in the early hours in the morning; or when she is running errands in the weekends.

My two female friends must have thought my touching their hairs was a sexual come-on to which they were not ready or intending with me.

For me, I saw both of these women as my friends who would not hold back for such trivial and socially public-private-personal communicative touching behaviors. I have acted toward my male friends similarly, to show affection, care, and relationship. In fact, many of my guy friends would invite me to “feel my hair” to show-off their new curves and coils and curls from their recent visits to the barbers.

The professional woman wants her hair ‘uncovered’ for her professional self; her professionalism, competence, authority, and power. In her professional world, her hair is her weapon to keep unprofessional comments out. It is her defensive weapon, just as it is in her non-professional world: you do not touch it without her permission. Even if she subliminally admires the attention her hair gets her in her professional world, it is attention for her professional growth and self-development. Her professional hair look communicates what she wants in her work world: authority, influence, power, status, cleanliness, and professionalism.

Man’s Hair and Its Communicativeness

For the male, hair is masculinity, power, and sexual prowess. But, it also sends a message of attractiveness, appropriateness, and belongingness; or a longing for inclusion. In some cultures, men shave their hairs as a ritual of initiation into adulthood, and into an all-male society or organization

In the 1960’s United States, full-haired men were regarded as rebellious, radicals, anti-establishment, and non-conformists. Especially during the civil rights movements and anti-Vietnam war protests with long-haired men, the public came to associate full facial haired men as anti-establishment, unpatriotic Americans; irresponsible, and revolutionary.

It is no wonder that in the 1980’s and beyond, full facial hairs by men had self-censored themselves in order to conform with the societal norm and preference for clean-shaven and crew cut military-styled hairdo.

Men of all races came to wear their hairs short and trim. Facial hairs became limited to short side-burns and thin moustaches. Full beards were frowned at by the corporate worlds, at least in the United States.

But in 2010, following the killing of Ben Ladin, and beyond to the present, full facial hairs have returned as a fashion statement, not a revolutionary statement by men, especially Caucasian males in the United States.

To these young men embracing this new trend, full facial male hair communicates maturity, manhood and manliness; and hence power, influence, status, attractiveness, and sexiness.

Hair is communication. It is both a means to other forms of communication.

But hair is also a mode of communication in that it sends out several messages to the audience.

Hair In Public Speaking Communication Contexts

One of the messages sent by hairs to the audience in a speaking environment is lifestyle coherence. Coherence of any type from any of the modes and elements of human communication communicates credibility.

Second, by having hair, both male and female communicators in the public space are communicating coherence and thus credibility.

Third, hair tells a story of originality and authenticity. As in most communication acts, originality has the potency to relay to the listeners and audience members the knowledge, skill, competence, and thus, mastery of the content, context, and one’s life.

A fully-haired public speaker therefore sends a message of authority, maturity, and competence to the audience, that is ready to suck it up, and live it up.

Fourth, full hair leaves a lasting impression of sensitivity to grooming and physical appearance. As I had mentioned in my earlier posting, physical and personal appearances are two of those first elements of speech presentation the audience behold on the speaker, as he or she steps up to the speaking arena. The audience looks at the speaker from the tip of their heads to the bottom of their feet.

Fifth, because appearance sends the message of cleanliness and attendance to one’s appearance, that grooming mannerism is transferred to paying attention to details to other parts and aspects of the speaker’s life. Attention to hair translates as attention to details. Hence it bolsters speaker credibility, and accords respectability, authority, and attractiveness.

Sixth, good-looking and well-manicured hair is a sign of good health. The direct connection of healthy hair to good health is indisputable in that there is a scientific evidence that links good health to vocal quality, brightness of the eyes, and gait — all dimensions to communication effectiveness.

Finally, hair is communication to be seriously considered by the public speaker because an unkempt hair is understood by the audience as a disrespecting act by the speaker.

One may pause to ask why the audience admired Fidel Castro with his full facial hair that remained unkempt all of the years he was the leader and ruler of the Revolutionary Republic of Cuba. Fidel Castro’s unkempt hair was a symbol of a struggling revolutionary who had no time for petty little things like cleanliness. To his followers he had other more pressing problems to tackle than to be all preppy and clean-shaven.

Hair Trends and Trending In All Professional Contexts

The professional trend today is for both men and women to have shot hairdos. Yet, some women have rejected the crew-cut demands.

Many professional women reason that short-cut hair looks takes away from their femininity. Others believe it is de-sexualizing womanhood. Yet, a great many others think to wear their hairs as natural and full, but well-cared-for hair communicates authenticity, originality, womanhood and femininity.

Corporations have relaxed their stringent requirements for female hairdos in many corporate 1000 corporations in the Western worlds.

In Sum

Hair is communication and communicative.

Hair remains a form of communication. Everyone needs to be familiar with the cultural, contextual, and professional demands for appropriate hairdos in meaning making environments.

For public speakers, it is a sign of effective communication to know what the accepted norms for hairdo are, in every and any specific, particular communication contexts.


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