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PhD: History

Thesis Title: Men's Hair in Britain, c.1958-1974


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr. Nick Thomas (University of Nottingham)

Dr. Richard Hornsey (University of Nottingham)

 

Thesis Description:

In the 1960s and 1970s, British men let their hair down.  The wearing of long hair by males has, of course, been common at various points throughout human history.  Since the nineteenth century, however, the overwhelming majority of British men had worn short hair and for much of the twentieth, give or take the odd moustache craze, they had usually been clean-shaven.  In the space of a few years all of this changed: by the early 1970s long hair, sideburns, moustaches and beards – all of which previously had variously held connotations of dirtiness, effeminacy or deviancy – were a common sight on high streets up and down the country.  A shift in appearance this dramatic, taking place in such a short time frame, surely holds a wider significance and has the potential to illuminate broader changes within society.  As Paul R. Deslandes has written, the “study of physical appearance... has the potential to transform how we understand a range of important developments, human experiences and, even, historical periods.”

Thus far, however, historians have paid little attention to the changes seen in male hair fashions during the 1960s and 1970s.  While a few texts documenting the history of hair exist, none thus far has tapped into the potential of interrogating this post-war transformation of male appearance to explore the wider issues that permeate throughout the period.  This neglect is surprising when we consider both the prominence of changes in male hairstyles within popular memory of the 1960s and 1970s, and the ways in which men’s hair was influenced by – and often held to be symbolic of – wider social and cultural change.

My thesis will chart the social and cultural history of men’s hair in Britain during these years, in order to address wider questions of conformity and permissiveness, shifting conceptions of masculinity, and the impact of consumerism and affluence on both the male body and wider British culture.  It will draw upon a wide range of archival records, including: trade papers, such as the Hairdressers’ Journal, which undertook detailed market and customer research throughout the period; national and local newspapers; ‘lifestyle’ publications, including music and football weeklies and magazines aimed at teenage girls; underground newspapers such as International Times and Oz; national and local television news reports; advertisements for grooming products aimed at male consumers; and contemporary studies of young people and youth culture undertaken by both academics and the British state.

 

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

2015:

2016:

2017:

2018:

2019

 

 

 

 

Research/Employability Placements:

2017:

Boots UK (3 months, part-time)

In 2017 I began a Midlands3Cities Research and Employability placement with Boots UK, researching the company’s historic relationship with male consumers and the retail of male grooming products.  This placement, funded by a grant from the Student Development Fund (SDF), includes a period of archival work, followed by the design and delivery of a pair of public engagement events, in the form of oral history workshops.

 

Other Research Interests:

  • Twentieth Century Britain
  • Post-war Social and Cultural Change
  • Youth and Youth Culture
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Popular Music
  • Fashion