Hair Gestures: Film and Essay

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This film, Seduction or Exasperation?, was created by Julie Greve, Bianca Raggi and Sahil Babbar and aims to capture the subliminal language of specific hair gestures and the different tropes they embody. Sofia Best’s text, What Makes a Hair Gesture?, serves as a companion piece to Seduction or Exasperation? and explores the authenticity of hair gestures within fashion and identity.


A girl holds a strand of hair between two fingers; she glances at you, twisting this strand around a finger and before purposefully flicking it behind her ear. Is this seduction or exasperation? Hair gestures are the natural extension of body language. We communicate and interact with others through these intimate rituals of twisting, tugging and hiding behind locks of hair. Each of these acts has a certain set of meanings and symbols ingrained in their forms.

Hair has, and will always, play an integral part of identity and fashion. It is the middle section between the body and the manipulated, hair acts as an instigator for fashion’s leeway. A polished or purposefully rugged gesture is a fashionable stance within the realm of the body. Unlike fashion in the form of clothing, where you add an extra element to your being, fashion in the form of hair intermingles the body, fashion and the being.

Viewing hair and fashion through this scope, it is not hard to fathom why the act of performing hair gestures allows fashion-determined tropes to crop up in everyday life.
The force of fashion media, whether it be on the runway, across the pages of a glossy magazine or in advertisements, creates visions of women fitting the glove of a specific label.

Five tropes can be highlighted as having been steady features in the fashion media throughout time; The femme fatale: a bewitching woman who seduces her prey. The lost girl: an innocent being usually fading into her picture-esque settings. The bombshell: an overzealous symbol of sex. The glamazon: a sexy woman who oozes power and control of her body and sexuality. The businesswoman: a sober figure defined by restriction.

These women all play a part in every woman’s self- perception. At some point or another one could easily channel the benefits of each trope. On Monday morning you are the businesswoman for the board meeting. On Friday night you are the femme fatale luring in the night’s catch. On a Tuesday afternoon you are the lost girl with your lover in the park.

Notably, hair gestures are pivotal in conveying these fluctuations between personas. The age-old notion of ‘art imitating life vs. life imitating art’ can be considered: What makes a hair gesture? Do these tropes create the gestures or are the gestures what inform the trope? These visions of women feed off the history of gestures and discourses, creating a unity in the form of a ‘type’. But these tropes then exaggerate and replace the real, and create a saturated image to be mimicked by the ordinary woman as a way of communicating her ‘type’. The action in turn becomes a performance.