shaved aggression

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When you shave your head, you become more aggressive.

In high school, I was on the swim team. In preparation for the state championships, we would follow the tradition of many swim teams across the world and shave our bodies. The theory behind it was to cut down on drag. More hair meant more drag. More drag meant more effort required to swim fast. So we shaved our arms, legs, chests, backs, and even our heads in the name of eliminating drag. Freshly shorn, we swam to victory. Looking back, I think we gained as much from the feeling of being shaved as we did from having less drag.

Hair serves many purposes. One purpose is to assist the body with temperature control. It provides insulation from cold, and a way to wick sweat off the skin to help cool the body when it becomes too hot. Another function hair provides is sensory. The feeling of being freshly shorn is unlike anything else. You lose the ability to feel certain things around your body. Your clothes feel different. The way water runs off your body is different in two major ways. First, instead of getting trapped in hair, it runs right off. Second, instead of feeling the water touching all the hair follicles, you feel it directly on your skin. The feeling alone seems to invigorate you. One of the greatest sensations in the world is diving into a swimming pool after you have just shaved your entire body, especially your head.

After a recent ski trip to Utah, I started growing a beard. I had the typical raccoon style sunburn from wearing ski goggles and no sun block. After returning home, my face started peeling and it was difficult to shave. My beard has come in nicely over the past few weeks, and I’ve noticed something interesting. I have become less aggressive. My wife has also noticed my behavior change. It seems that having more hair makes you less aggressive.

This brings me to several questions. Is aggression better served in management and marketing? Is being passive better for research and engineering? Most of the marketing guys I know are clean shaven with short haircuts. Many engineers and researchers have beards and longer hair. I find that to be more than just a coincidence.

Some will argue that management and marketing people are clean shaven and have short hair cuts because they have public roles, and engineers and researchers do not need to worry about how they look. But that leads me to ask, why is being clean shaven and having a short haircut deemed “better” for public appearance? I think it is hard-wired into us to know that these traits indicate aggressive behavior. We want our leaders to be aggressive, or at least we respect them for being that way. They need to demonstrate to us that they will go after the other company and make the kill. Having a clean face and short haircut helps them convince us that they will do precisely that.

This plays right into another topic that I’ve thought about. Taller people tend to get better opportunities. That’s a subject for another day, but I think it is closely related to this one. They both tell the story of what happens in our minds when we see someone more powerful (taller) or more aggressive (clean shaven). Perhaps this is also the reason why some people get tattoos and pierce their bodies? I think so.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Seph

    Quite an interesting angle on the subject. Another couple things come to mind when looking at this topic: dietary habits, clothing, lifestyles and cars…

    I agree with your aggression to bald ratio, with one caveat: natural baldness. I’ve met a lot of naturally bald people (both dudes and sheshemammas) who are extremely docile and passive.

    I think from a 50k foot view of this, it really boils down to one thing: conformity.

    “Those who can, don’t. Those who cannot, try.” -Russ Lauber

    I’ve updated my blog url to: (just in case you get bored)

  2. jtalbot

    I thought a lot about natural baldness when I wrote this bit. Notice that I named it “Shaved Aggression” and not “Bald Aggression.”

    The conformity angle is an interesting one. I think you’ve definitely hit on something there, but I’m not sure it’s as clear and simple as being noncomformist or rebellious.

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