Is there a correlation between the texture of hair and IQ? I ask because I am trying to locate the evolutionary process that accounts for hair on the human body. I also ask this question because I know from growing up with “bad hair” and “tough hair” and “thick hair” and “unruly hair” and “esa mata de pelo” there is a correlation between hair texture and the value placed on a woman by the people surrounding her, strangers on the street and all the men in her life. I wanted to see if the logic applied elsewhere within the history of the world or just for the sliver in time where bland, straw blonde straight hair became one of the most valued substances on Earth. Turns out hair and the mammalian reasons for having it, making it and keeping it, are embedded in science, evolution and then later in social constructs.
Functions of hair:
- Thermal regulation
- Sensory functions
Different sorts of texture of hair:
Thermoregulation is the need for our bodies to not overheat or freeze to death. Hair is meant to help the body coordinate those efforts. The sweat pooling in one’s scalp means the body is pushing heat out, protecting the brain while signaling the human heat is present by wetting the hair. Water at the surface of the skin cools off the body. On a death hot humid New York City day walking to the subway or from the train to my office in an attempt to not appear a moist, glistening dampened towel, I will whip my hair with a curl of my wrist, circle it around itself once, twice, three times and sport the messy curly hair genie ponytail. White women always comment on how “great that hairstyle looks on me”. Not a hairstyle, an avoidance tactic informed by the evolutionary mutation made to ensure my brain doesn’t boil.
Camouflage for mammals. Polar bears are white until they tear apart a baby seal and then they are white with a red lip stain. The stripes on a tiger help confuse its prey before it pounces, as do the spots on a cheetah and the sandy brown of a lion. Sitting inside a plastic globe in the local beauty salon, immersed in a constant flow of hot, hot air – throwing off my thermoregulation, in order to straighten out my lion’s mane of untamable hair concealed me just enough to limit the amount of people commenting on the tightness of my curls or the unruly texture of my hair.
Warnings help communicate intention to other animals in the vicinity. There is a species of dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, bred to have a tuft of hair along its spine indicating to other animals both its fierceness as natural protector of its humans and also to let other animals know it is armed with teeth and will attack. The common use of hair spray to flatten and keep my hair in place when I wanted a homegirl bang and slick back ponytail signaled I was a Puerto Rican girl without having to wear a flag or say a word.
Mating leads to procreation which leads to babies. Men want to mount women based on the length, color, texture, styling of the hair on their head. Entire religions have dress codes dedicated to the exposure and length of a woman’s hair. Up in a ponytail, in the face, swooped over one simulating Jessica Rabbit, all of it exists for the sheer pleasure and commentary of random, older men breathing out suggestions to a prepubescent girl on her way to church.
Communication between the body and the person or animal or between two animals. Hair standing on end is indicative of fear, hair at rest is a sign of ease or comfort. Hair slicked back and earrings off tells the girl on the other side of the hallway she about to get her ass beat. Hair wrapped in a towel after a shower tells my husband to leave me alone with a pint of ice cream and my programs, be wary of eye contact and do not ask me for no sort of sexual favors.
Sensory functions are to tell if there is danger, to absorb information from the environment. If my hair is taking too long in the morning or has now developed frizz from over touching it or is shortened in length because of the Goddamn humidity outside I sense it will be a bad fucking day for me and anyone else in my path. Trying to keep it coiffed, frizz free, slim and dainty, an homage to all the White women on television, is how I know I won’t be asked a stupid question at work about my ethnic DNA.
Curly hair is theorized to be a mutation adapted by the first homosapiens emerging from the center of the Sub-Saharan landscape. The cradle of life, the place at the heart of the Earth with the earliest ancestors to modern man developed curly hair in order to protect their brains. This texture of hair allowed for thermal regulation needed to ward off the scorching desert sun while the coil effect, as we now know because of mattress cooling systems, encourages a flow of air even if there is not too much cool air in the atmosphere making it a masterful way to ensure the brain is safe. The safety of the brain and the conservation of it within the skull underneath the tight coils of curly hair ushered in the dawn of modern man since the growth of the brain catapulted human thought and logic separating us from animals. We crafted better ways to survive, freeing brain matter to begin creating new pathways to learn, adapt and quickly evolve. Curly hair is then a symbol for human modernization and intellect and adaptation, in tandem with others, ensuring the survival and thriving of the species.
Straight hair is a mutation of curly hair and an indicator of the migration of people. It’s a genetic flaw in the perfect sequence of modern man.