Why is it still a big deal if boys have long hair?

"What's with the hair?" one parent asked the writer. "Did you always want a girl?"
"What's with the hair?" one parent asked the writer. "Did you always want a girl?" Photo: Getty Images

Ever since he was a toddler, my son has had long hair. And by long I mean shoulder length – not Rapunzel.

Up until recently, it hasn't been an issue. Over the last few months though, since he turned five, I've been surprised by all the comments his blond locks are suddenly attracting.

"What's with the hair?" one parent asked me. "Did you always want a girl?"

"Didn't you say he had a hair cut yesterday? said another. "Which hair did he have cut?"

It's not just adults who are commenting, however. My son's hair is a source of confusion for kids he meets out and about. In the playground recently, a bunch of boys wouldn't let him climb the "castle" because they thought he was a girl. My heart stopped for a second, until I watched him announce, "No I'm not. I'm a boy," before climbing up without another thought.

A toddler we met at the park, a two-year-old, was also unconvinced my son was boy.

"No she's not," the little one said. "She's not a boy. She has long hair." Again, my son was completely unfazed – far too busy trying to educate his uninitiated playmate about Tony Stark.

For the first time, however, I started to wonder if perhaps the comments might be starting to get him. I like my boy's hair the way it is, but not if it's making his life difficult.

And yet, each time I ask him he confirms that he likes it long. He's tired of me asking now – and I don't want to make it in an issue when it's clearly not an issue for him.


Mother-of-two Marion, has experienced something similar with her eight-year-old son, who also has long hair.

When travelling overseas recently, she says the Immigration officer at Sydney Airport, who had her son's passport in her hand, had to double check – even questioning the paperwork in front of her.

And yet, like my son, constantly being mistaken for a girl by everyone from shopkeepers, to receptionists, to the general public, hasn't deterred her boy from wanting to grow his hair. Nor does the "the mass of knots and daily brushing and the threat of the dreaded nit comb".

Marion says that when it comes to school, social, and sporting activities, her son's hair is always tied back in a ponytail to help prevent any lice transmission between friends. "I'd actually like to see more of the girls with their long hair tied up as consistently as my son's" she says.

Earlier this year, blogger Chloe Dunstan of Chloe and Beans created a "Little Boys' Hair 101" responding to ongoing criticism she received about her three boys' hairstyles.

In a post to her Facebook page, she wrote, "Sometimes people tell us it needs to be cut off because it's too heavy, uncomfortable, too hot or unclean when it's long; if that's the case, I'm just wondering why we shouldn't shave girls' hair off too? Is it because boys are allowed to be more comfortable than girls? And girls should sacrifice comfort for aesthetics? I dunno, you tell me."

Dunstan also argued that while people tell her that her boys might be bullied for their long hair, the onus should be on parents to teach their children not to bully others for the way they look.

"I will never teach my kids that they should change the way they are just to avoid comments from small minded people," she said.

Asking why looking like a girl is such a bad thing anyway, Dunstan also noted, "Thor has long hair, and last time I checked people really like Thor. Thor is cool."

Amen sister.

It's 2017 – surely we're well passed declaring that boys should have short hair and girls should have long hair. 

And when it comes down to it, if my son is happy - then I'm happy, too.