TLS: Hair Apparent

“The weird thing about hair”, as the comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, is how happily people will admire or even affectionately ruffle it, but if a single hair should be set free and fall into soup, it immediately becomes “the vilest, most disgusting thing that you could ever encounter”. It’s an astute insight, delivered, with his usual head-scratching puzzlement, at the start of an episode of Seinfeld. And in this context, it is especially loaded, since if you know Seinfeld, you’ll also be familiar with Jerry’s boyish mullet, Elaine’s bouffant up-do, George’s wretchedly receding temples and Kramer’s quiff that lends him the air of someone recently electrocuted.

All of this is to say that hair is a curious thing. And it is now the subject of a smart, six-volume collection of essays, The Cultural History of Hair, under the general editorship of Geraldine Biddle-Perry. Each volume is nicely illustrated…

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