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Why We’ve Fetishized Big Male Hair Through Time

From the Sun King to Steve Harrington from ‘Stranger Things,’ big hair has always been mightier than the sword

When it comes to men’s dicks — uh, I mean, hair — history has proven that bigger is most definitely better. Whether it’s Louis IVX or Robert Pattinson, a full head of hair has long been fetishized.

But why?

“Making things bigger somehow signifies to us that it’s more important, which is why big hair has always been associated with wealth and grandeur,” says Rachel Gibson, a London-based hair editor with more than 10 years experience both writing about and styling hair. “For men, there’s also the idea that being hirsute is more manly and demonstrates your virility — much like large bosoms and wide hips were once considered a sign that someone is ‘womanly’ and suitable for reproduction. It follows that big hair is more ‘manly’ and testosterone-packed than someone who is bald.”

So who are the ultimate manly purveyors of past pouf? Let’s take a look back at the all the men who’ve contributed to the big hair enigma.

Strong Hair

As with so many things, the big hair story begins biblically, with the tale of Samson and Delilah. The Book of Judges states that Samson was given immense strength from his hair, allowing him to prevail against his enemies and perform feats of superhuman strength. Unfortunately, Samson was betrayed by his lover Delilah, who metaphorically neutered him by cutting his hair while he slept, robbing him of his powers.

Rich Hair

Next, we skip ahead a few thousand years to the 17th century. You might think this time is best known for the scientific revolution brought about by the likes of Galileo and Isaac Newton, but you’d be wrong: It’s best known for Louis XIV’s giant, nest-like wig. “Big hair was everything in the era of the ‘Sun King,’” Gibson says. “This is a prime example of wearing your wealth — those wigs cost a small fortune and were difficult to upkeep. No one working in a field — or any normal job, for that matter — could go about their business with a quiff, or even get through the door of a normal home. This hair says: I’m rich, and you all know it.”

Smart Hair

After a couple hundred years of somewhat smaller hair, the early 20th century brought along both World Wars and a resurgence in huge hair. Specifically, the smartest head of hair in history — Albert Einstein’s. Sure, Einstein was best known for his theory of relativity, but his electro-shock therapy hairstyle would soon become the ultimate shorthand for “erratic genius” — think Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future or Val Kilmer in Real Genius.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hair

In the 1950s, a mere mortal would forever be granted the status of hair god: His name was Elvis Presley, and while the back of his pompadour may have been considered short, it was big where it counted — on top (plus, those sideburns). ”The quiff was an integral part of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll,” says Gibson. “It did two things: It demonstrated that these guys were serious about style and happy to spend time on looking good, and secondly, it made them look bigger, tougher and more imposing.”

Hippie Hair

Two decades later, the 1970s counterculture scene was all about big, luscious hair — especially if you were also a rock star. But according to Gibson, it was also about men and women exchanging aesthetics. “Androgyny was key in the 1970s, and big hair is definitely a part of that,” she says. “It’s also a time of real product evolution, with more tools and professional products available on a wider scale than ever before.”

Androgynous Hair

Marked by leather costumes, makeup and arguably the most outrageous men’s hairstyles of all time, glam rock was the epitome of hairspray-infused attitude. “Glam rock was all about sex appeal, but in a challenging and confrontational style,” Gibson says. “Rockers like the members of Motley Crüe and Cinderella didn’t just stop with makeup and skin-tight clothes; big teased hair matched their big… personalities.”

Back-to-Nature Hair

Recently, we’ve had years of clean-cut men, particularly with the skyrocketing resurgence of barbering over the last decade. “Neat cuts, Mad Men grooming and sleek partings have been the trend for a long time, so it makes sense that fashion rebels would be going against that and growing out their hair,” says Gibson. “There’s been such a trend toward getting back to nature and living off the land, that big, natural, often-unkempt hair is the perfect accompaniment to lumberjack/organic style.” No one exemplifies that organic big hair style quite like Stranger Things’ Joe Keery, whose “gravity-defying hair” is a tuft to be reckoned with.

Even when compared to the epic locks on this list.