The Currency of White Women's Hair in a Down Economy

32 Women's Rights Law Reporter 45 (2011)

11 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2011 Last revised: 12 Nov 2021

Date Written: January 25, 2011


This short essay is a reflection on the relationship between the economy and women’s hair. I suggest that examining women’s spending on hair care products during uncertain financial conditions provides insight into the gendered aspects of the economy. As the economy has declined, sales of home hair-care products targeted toward white women have increased. Major news outlets report on salon customers trying to stretch out the time between their regular $250 hair salon treatments. Certain women turn to home hair dyes to maintain conforming appearances. In popular culture, to have white skin and gray hair is to be old (unemployable and unattractive) or menopausal (unproductive and unsexual). An attempt to retain their hair color (natural or chosen) is, for certain women, an attempt to retain a currency of employability, utility and desirability.

The hair-care spending of African-American women (of all socio-economic classes), in contrast, appears to be less susceptible to economic cycles. African-American legal scholars have given voice to the complex role that hair can play in the personal, professional, social and legal lives of black women. I argue that only in a down economy do some white women grapple with their hair’s complex signaling function, including its link to race and privilege.

Keywords: race, racial privilege, hair, economy, women, gender, critical legal studies, beauty, salon, hair care

JEL Classification: K30, K31, K10

Suggested Citation

Crawford, Bridget J., The Currency of White Women's Hair in a Down Economy (January 25, 2011). 32 Women's Rights Law Reporter 45 (2011), Available at SSRN:

Bridget J. Crawford (Contact Author)

Pace University School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

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