Wednesday, December 16, 2009
THE WOMEN: Miao women, also known as Hmong, are an ethnic minority in China numbering 9.6 million. Within the Miao, the hairstyle of one subgroup has earned them the name "Long Horns."
THE LOOK: Long Horn Miao women place U-shaped pieces of wood on top of their heads and wrap their hair around it, simulating the effect of a giant set of horns. The coif is secured with a white cord. If it looks like all this hair is too much for one head to grow, well, it is. "Frequently, the girls and women will weave their ancestors' locks into their own hair," says Dru C. Gladney, Ph.D., professor of anthropology at Pomona College in California. "Up to four generations of ancestral hair may be incorporated." Linen and wool are added to fill out the hairpiece, which is bound around the horn in figure-eight fashion.
THE MEANING: In rural China, water buffalo and oxen are an integral part of Miao life. A hairstyle reminiscent of these animals pays homage to the power of nature and the animal kingdom. "The Long Horn tra-dition is probably about 2000 years old," Gladney notes. "Female family members help weave the hairpieces, with younger women's hair generally being the most elaborate."
WHERE THEY STAND: Though they are not equal to men in the tribe, Miao women enjoy certain perks, like the right to refuse a suitor's marriage proposal until he proves (through betrothal gifts of cattle and silver) that he is worthy of her.
BEAUTY QUIRK: In the past, Miao men also wore similar horn hairstyles. Says Gladney: "This gave rise to the idea that the wearer of such a hairstyle had the 'strength of an ox.'"