Featured Article: “Thinking Hard About Their Hair” by Danya Issawi

Have you seen the “TikTok boy hair” trend making its way across your “For You” page? Do you wear your hair in this style or know anyone who does? You may be surprised to find that the ancient Greeks and Romans used to wear their hair the same way — and they did so to make a statement.

What does the way we wear our hair say about ourselves, our culture and our values? In this lesson, you’ll learn more about what this Gen Z hairstyle represents for young people today and how it has been influenced by generations before it. Then, we invite you to reflect on what your hairstyle says about you.

Do you ever think that a hairstyle is more than just a hairstyle? Can it say important things about who we are and our place in the world?

For each of the following statements, say whether you agree or disagree:

  • I try to make a statement about who I am with my hairstyle.

  • Hair can be used to express people’s social identities, such as their beliefs and values, what groups they belong to and their cultural traditions.

  • A hairstyle is just a hairstyle.

Then, discuss your responses with a partner: Why do you agree or disagree with each statement? What examples can you give from your own life, from history or from what you’ve observed in the world to support your response?

Read the article, and then answer the following questions:

1. The author begins the article by describing the hair routines of three young men. What do you think she is trying to show readers in these opening paragraphs? What do these stories tell us about style trends and how they spread today?

2. The author writes, “While the style may seem new, we’ve been here before, in many senses.” In what two “senses” does the current trend resemble trends of early generations? Give an example of each.

3. In the section “Rejecting the Ideals of a Previous Generation,” the historians Marice Rose and Rachael Gibson describe the ways in which hair has been used throughout history to signal a person’s social status or personal values. What are three of those ways?

4. Ms. Rose and Ms. Gibson each give an explanation for why the “TikTok boy hair” trend has become so popular today. Do you agree with one, both or neither of their assessments? Why? What do you think people might be trying to convey through this hair style, if anything at all?

5. What is one example of the “policing” of hair of people who have been historically marginalized? How have people used hair as a “vehicle of expression and resistance,” as the author writes?

6. Which of the ideas about hair and what it can signify stood out to you from the article? Why? Can you relate to any of them personally? Or, to you, is a hairstyle just a hairstyle?

Option 1: Describe and analyze your hairstyle.

Tell us your step-by-step hair routine. Or, better yet, create your own TikTok-style hair tutorial video.

Then reflect on what it means to you with the following questions:

  • Why do you choose to style your hair the way you do? Where did you learn how to do your hair?

  • What do you want your hair to say about you to others?

  • Does your hair resemble a style from another era? Does it push back against the trends of earlier generations? You might research the history of your hairstyle to see what you can find.

  • Has your hairstyle ever been challenged? How did it make you feel about your identity? Have you ever used your hairstyle as a “vehicle of expression and resistance” like some of the historically marginalized groups mentioned in the article?

Option 2: Learn about other types of hairstyles and what they mean.

The “TikTok boy hair” you learned about in the article is just one hairstyle that can say a lot about someone’s personal and social identity. If you want to learn about other styles, research one that you are interested in, or read one of these recent Times articles:

You can find many more on the Times Topics page for Hair.

Then, share what you learned with your classmates: What does hair represent for the people and communities profiled in the article? How does it help them express their personal, social and cultural identities? Can you relate to any of these ideas?


Want more Lessons of the Day? You can find them all here.