Hair’s to you Richard Armitage! (I’m sorry – I had to do it!)

**WARNING** :  There may be an excessive number of alliterative hair descriptions below…

This week’s  “oof” installment, with it’s discussion of Thorin’s luscious locks started me thinking about hair.  Maybe it’s a holdover of my hard rock days, but I have a soft spot for long haired men – in theory at least.  There is just something wild and untamed about a man with a magnificent mane…something powerful perhaps.  There is ample indication from a variety of cultures of the significance placed on unshorn hair.  It had a variety of meanings to different people…To the Nazirites of the Hebrew Bible (most famously Samson) unshorn hair was a source of power and strength.  To the Gaelic Irish, long hair was a symbol of allegiance to Ireland as it was infiltrated by colonial forces.  To the Sikhs it represents the strength and vitality of the whole religious community.   For many cultures hair can be a  “crowning glory” or when shorn, an indication of abject humiliation and scorn.

Although long hair seems to have been common for men in earlier periods of Greek history, after the 6th century BC there are clear indications that shorter hair became much more customary. (the Spartans being the exception to the rule.)  It’s not surprising that the increasingly militaristic nature of Greek culture in the 6th and 5th centuries BC would produce a trend toward shorter male hair…long hair must have been a decided disadvantage on the battlefield.  I’ve always been intrigued by some of the characterizations of the Persians as being overly coiffured and perfumed…for the 5th century Greeks this effeminate characterization of a feared and hated enemy was empowering.   While there are some Greeks who are represented as long haired in this period, the character who most regularly sports long, luxurious tresses is the god Dionysus.  This is doubly interesting to me since Dionysus is one of the gods in the Greek pantheon whose origins are not exactly clear.  There are several conflicting birth stories, and a lot of other stories that suggest at least some degree of connection between this deity and the exotic  East. (the Persians fall into that category as well…the Greeks were at once intrigued and repulsed by various elements of eastern cultures)

Dionysus and a satyr Source:

Dionysus and a satyr

Dionysus by Kleophrades Painter Source?

Dionysus by Kleophrades Painter

A relative latecomer into the pantheon, Dionysus was established as the youngest of the Olympian gods.  He is associated with the theater, but particularly with wine and reveling.  The vase paintings above show us the typical look of Dionysus.  He is most often depicted wearing elaborate Eastern Greek style robes and is often found in the company of satyrs and maenads.  One other main attribute of Dionysus is his elaborately styled curls and beard.   “Back in the day”  I used to pay big money and sit in the stylist’s chair for hours to achieve the kind of spiral curls that Dionysus wears.  Take a close look at his beard and you will see that some artistry has been applied there as well, to articulate the edges into individual curls.  Dionysus’ whole look is something that would have been a bit suspect to the average Greek, who after the Persian Wars, was inherently suspicious of things with an eastern tang.  The cult of Dionysus was at once a mainstream part of Greek polytheism, and also on the fringe.  There were ecstatic and orgiastic qualities of the cult practice that made more than a few Greeks uneasy…one only needs to read Euripides’ The Bachhae to witness what the cult of Dionysus might get up to.   For Dionysus, long curling locks represented an exotic, mysterious nature.

Love it or hate it, it seems that long hair on men is here to stay (My son is currently sporting a look that is somewhere between Dionysus and Shaggy -*sigh*  there are much bigger battles to be won!)  I love Richard Armitage and his most common close cropped style, but I have to say, the man can certainly rock the wigs and hair extensions…

Whether it is as Sir Guy of Greasy Locks….boozy and tormented in Robin Hood S3 Episode 1…

Sir Greasy...*ahem* I mean Sir Guy Source:

Sir Greasy…*ahem* I mean Sir Guy

Or a gloriously coiffured Sir Guy returned and ready for action after a trip to Price John’s personal stylist in S3 Epidsode 5…

Sir Guy of Gorgeous... Source:

Sir Guy of Gorgeous…

Or Thorin in the moonlight remembering a painful past…

Remembering past battles... Source:

Remembering past battles…

Or Thorin preparing for yet another fight….

Thorin bracing for a threat... Source:

Thorin bracing for a threat…

Or Thorin…who am I kidding?!  There are just way too many examples of Thorin’s uncrowned glory – and with two films still to come – the mind boggles!  Suffice it to say that Richard Armitage can hair act with the best of them!!

20 comments on “Hair’s to you Richard Armitage! (I’m sorry – I had to do it!)

  1. guylty says:

    I really don’t like long hair on men at all. But Armitage in his medieval-inspired role is the exception. I’d forgive him anything, it seems. In any case, the long-haired look for those characters helps to characterize them. Both Guy and Thorin are noblemen, so the power, expressed through long locks, behoves them. If I am honest, I am more fascinated by the sexual connotations of long hair. Virility and strength. Untamed, wild sexuality. Prowess and dominance. Orgiastic Dionysian associations. Fits those two characters pretty well, too. (I am just giggling to myself here because I have just remembered that pic of a young RA when in musical theatre. Well, fitting enough for a young man with artistic pretensions. Glad he has grown out of that stage…)

    • obscura says:

      Yeah, the long hair thing in practice is off putting in so many ways!

      Dionysus has always held this sort of weird, bearded androgyny to me…he embodies the sexual potential of both genders (hence the following of male satyrs and female maenads) that is let loose through intoxication – I love that – “Dionysus made me do it” 🙂

    • obscura says:

      PS…I’ll take fully long haired Sir Guy over Sir Guy of Mullet any day of the week…of course I’ll take the mulleted Guy over Robin with the same frequency!

      • guylty says:

        That’s great, because I’ll take mulleted Sir Guy over long-haired Sir Guy :-). You can have’em! (And you can really tell what decade of the last century I spent my formative years in… Arrrgh!!!)
        Back to the discussion – am I right that the Roman god equivalent to Dionysos is Bacchus? I have vague recollections of reading about the Bacchanalia (?) which seemed a great excuse for general hedonistic degeneration on an annually recurring basis? Good for them – although it probably only applied to men, again?

        • obscura says:

          Yep…Dionysus = Bacchus. Bacchanalia stated out as a religious rite adopted from Greece, but by the high imperial period it had degenerated into a Hollywood worthy orgy…respectable women probably wouldn’t have openly frequented them, but there were certainly women present. The early worship of Dionysus was female centered as well…

  2. kelbel75 says:

    I’m not a fan of long hair on men. if he’s a warrior in period costume and has some braids somewhere among the long locks though, it seems I’m more open to the idea… or maybe that just applies to Thorin 😉

  3. perry322 says:

    ‘His locks manly hung” – John Milto, describing Adam in Paradise Lost, Chapter IV.
    BTW- Those two images of Dionysus look remarkably alike-almost identical faces. Is it the same artist?

    • obscura says:

      Thanks for the quote! The look is definitely quite similar, but the vases are securely attributed to two separate painters (first image s by Makron, the second by the Kleophrades Painter, but both were working in about the same time frame in the first quarter of the fifth century BC.

  4. perry322 says:

    I mean John Milton.

  5. This is fascinating. Dionysus happens to be one of my favorite Gods in Greek mythology, since it seems I pray to such a God on a daily basis through my nightly glass of wine. 😉

    But about long hair on men – I personally love it, especially on Richard. However, I will say that it certainly doesn’t work on all men. Many a man has looked ridiculous trying to sport hair beyond ear length, and mullets are always tricky. I have felt that Richard has always looked good with long hair – even when he was trying to look bad (IE the uncared-for, grieving Sir Guy), and the mullet that is just beyond the base of the neck/top of the shoulders (which I really hesitate to call a true mullet). The Thorin look is just so very Rockstar that I can’t help myself to love it. I do love it when it is just fuller on the top, where it appears there is light product to hold and the length is at the ears – his more current look.

    Guylty, honey….re “I am more fascinated by the sexual connotations of long hair. Virility and strength. Untamed, wild sexuality. Prowess and dominance. Orgiastic Dionysian associations.”

    and elsewhere…”The flowing locks allow for dramatic “hair acting”, which has been used much in the film…It is also quite possible or even probable that the scriptwriters were familiar with the symbolic quality of hair in the Middle Ages. Hair held divine power!…Thorin’s long locks become a symbol of his physical strength, and his god-given right to assume the throne as an heir of Durin. Never mind the associations of unrestricted sexuality that the image of wild and flowing locks also evoke…”

    … I love it when you talk dirty. 🙂

    • obscura says:

      Thorin’s hair s spectacular isn’t it? It it has inspired more than a few fan fiction stories.

      I agree…Sir Guy’s do in S1-2 of Robin Hood only on its way to true mullet status (I always use Billy Ray Cyrus as my gauge 😉 )

  6. katie70 says:

    I think we like the hair on males they way we got use to it when we where younger. I have always tended to go to the short side of things. Back in the day (80’s) we had guys with it long and short. I also think that my parents, the rest of the family and the friends all thought that long hair on guys equaled bad. They at those times forgot about Jesus and Samson, funny how that is.

    I also don’t think that they thought about art or stories myths, they where to stuck in what they thought was bad about the 60’s and 70’s. After all hair styles come and hair styles go, some people look good in some and not in others.

    Before my husband and I started dating he tried to go out his hair, it didn’t even get to his shoulders before it started to curl and would not grow any longer. In his picture at 16 it looks more like like a mullet.

    • obscura says:

      I think you’re right about personal tastes…I like long hair on certain individuals, but when I think about my husband with his eighties rocker do, all I can do is giggle!

  7. Leigh says:

    There is also the whole Dionysian thing of the primacy of the senses, implying the physical appetites rather than the mental/intellectual. Raise that with the flowing locks and the mythos of the power and status associated with them, and yes, we’ve got exemplars in both Guy and Thorin. Much as Richard’s characters can make us twitch and tingle, I seriously doubt we would devolve into frenzied maenads, let alone demented omophagic ones.

    Meanwhile, much as I have hopes that Richard would grow out his own hair for the Richard III project, I know it requires constant maintenance, constant attention.

    • obscura says:

      I certainly hope none of us are set to go maenad 🙂 The maenads have always struck me as representative of the ancient Greeks enormous fear of the potential of women…

      I remember Brad Pitt saying something about what a hassle the long hair was in an interview for Legends of the Fall…welcome to our world fellas!

      • Leigh says:

        True, the ancient Greeks had this terror of feminine strength and it shows up blatantly in their mythology. Seeing how females were treated in their culture, they should have been afraid, very afraid, lest the females actually rise up and wreak vengeance. The women could make Kali look friendly.

        I agree re. long hair — welcome to our world, dudes, and don’t whine about how much product you have to use to keep it healthy and snarl-free, about hair getting everywhere when you shed like kitties, about needing to clean your brushes and combs…

  8. […] Richard Armitage’s long locks and the classical tradition. […]

  9. […] out as distinctly not Roman however, and that is Thorin’s hair.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Thorin’s mane, but the Romans were sticklers about hair.  In his biography of Caesar, Suetonius recounts that […]

  10. […] characterizations to those of the male Olympian deities….Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Apollo, Apollo…as well as a few heroes and demigods along the way.  There are a […]

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