Long hair, tangled emotions

From biblical tales to popular culture, long hair has never lost its allure. And whether it is the tresses of Samson or the (weave) tracks of the Kardashian sisters, flowing locks bring a certain cachet. Defined as hair that breaks the collarbone, long hair seems magical. It seduces. And it can change a person...or at least a person’s demeanor.

In Disney’s new 3D movie "Tangled," a fresh take on the classic fairytale Rapunzel, long hair is as much the star of the film as any of the characters. In the movie -- which performed better than expected at the holiday box-office second only to the latest Harry Potter installment -- a teenage princess, seeking escape from a tower, uses the power of her 70 feet of hair, and the help of a dashing hero, to get what she wants.

“Long hair is one of those things that imparts health, beauty and wealth,” said Bill Murphy, owner of William David Salons in Buckhead and Alpharetta. “Hair is one of those powerful accessories that you have to wear every day. It kind of defines you.”

When Murphy's client, 18-year-old Holly Melvin, went from short and blond to long and brunette, the switch came with a dose of confidence. "I feel like when you have beautiful long hair you feel confident. You can also show off the hair more, like flipping it," Melvin said.

Most of her friends are wearing their hair longer now, Melvin said, but teenagers aren't the only ones using hair as a source of strength.

Regina Williams, 32, knows just how powerful long hair can be. Seven years ago, her hair was permed, bleached and falling out. Everyone in her family had long hair and she wanted it, too, but had to cut her bra-strap length hair up to her shoulders because it was so thin.

"It is very depressing having hair that is not where you want it," said Williams, salon manager at TAG Concept Salon in Buckhead. When she finally grew it back with the help of  TAG co-owner and stylist Tracy Robertson, her entire outlook changed. “I felt good. It was a refreshing thing for me," she said.

Atlantans go to great lengths to keep their long hair long. Murphy says a third of his business revenue comes from some form of chemical straightening, which lengthens the hair by smoothing frizzy fuzz into a sleek mane.

Leslie Leland, proprietor of Hair-Ex, a company specializing in hair extensions from India, said she has had an increase in requests for super long locks.

“I’m hearing people ask for Kim Kardashian hair,” Leland said, which in hair extension parlance translates into three feet or more of Malaysian hair. “It's the whole glamour and entertainment thing," Leland said. "And long hair does make you look younger. Even my mom is wearing longer hair now and she’s 62.”

But for some, long hair does have a shelf life. Robertson wore her hair "boy short" for years, until she grew long dreadlocks that she plans to cut when she turns 50. The stylist, who said she was teased relentlessly as a child for not having hair below the nape of her neck, is sympathetic to women who want to grow their hair longer, but insists they remain realistic.

Unlike Rapunzel, there is no magic.

"If you maintain your health within your body, then the hair is going to be healthier," Robertson said. "And stop thinking you don't need to get your hair trimmed."

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