FREAK-Shots: Forget Hemlines and Lipstick

An article in The Economist reports that “the lipstick index,” the theory that women buy more lipstick in tough economic times, is probably not valid.

A better index might instead be hairstyles. As The Independent reports, Japanese researchers found that women tend to have longer hairstyles when the economy is doing well, and shorter styles during harder times.

Later on in the article, Susanna Sallstrom-Matthews, a cultural economist at the University of Cambridge, offers this explanation for the apparent short-hair/recession correlation:

People enjoy fewer material pleasures in periods of recession, so want more visual pleasures, and there’s more variation among short haircuts than long.

But since trendy, short haircuts cost around $60 each and require more frequent upkeep than long hair, do they make sense when you’re trying to save money?

They may now, as some salons are offering discounts if you show up with your hair already washed, or let you pay as you wish for your cut.

I passed up the salon altogether and opted for this deal at a neighborhood bar:

INSERT DESCRIPTIONPhoto: Annika Mengisen

The result was a mediocre haircut, but a pleasant bourbon buzz.

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  1. Caitlyn says:

    shorter hairstyles may also require less day-to-day primping, so the logic might be that it’s one less thing to stress about in the morning.

    Or perhaps they’re planning on leaving more time between haircuts – if you plan to go every three months, you get about an inch off, but if you don’t want to go for six months, you take off two or three to make sure it doesn’t get too long during the wait.

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  2. deriuqer says:

    Wouldn’t read too much into it. How many recessions did you have over that period? Now, how many fashion cycles did you have? What’s the probability that it is all just chance???

    On the other hand, I am losing hair and it is suspiciously correlated with the current recession. Hmm… Could it be that I am subconsciously getting rid of hair to save some money in the future?

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  3. Roman @ says:

    This is definitely an area where it pays to be a man – short hair is culturally more acceptable on males and it is also OK to have your hair done by a member of your family – considering the hairstyles of men it isn’t very difficult if you have the equipment.

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  4. Celeste says:

    Wow, that’s great! I would get my hair cut there all the time. I hate ‘salons’ and I haven’t gone to the same place more than twice since college. And I only went there because the hair dresser would gossip about my professors.

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  5. Dober says:

    I think this article’s logic is all wrong. The reason lipstick and more interesting and expensive haircuts are counter-cyclical has to do with women’s strategy of improving their looks so that they can more easily shack up with a man to save on livings costs. That is to say, these little costs or perks are investments in a way to cut expenses elsewhere more drastically. (I’m certain men have such stragegies as well for the same purpose).

    This is also why during recessions and crisis periods, internet dating revenues and usage rise substantially.

    – Dober

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  6. ZZ says:

    I hope this is true because I think short hair on a lady is very attractive!

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  7. DougL says:

    So did they bust out the Flowbee at that bar or what?

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  8. econobiker says:

    From just a personal interest observation, magazines targeted at the motorcycle enthusist tend to have the most pages right before a recession.

    By reviewing the stacks of my late father’s treasure trove of early 1980’s motorcycle magazines, I found this to be so for the early ’80s recession. I found a less dramatic bump in the early 1990’s recession- probably still coming out of the 1980’s down turn.

    I would have thought that this rise in page could may differ due to the internet today but it seems like the page count had ballooned in the last couple of years. This is probably on account of digital publishing making it easier to format and publish a paper mag…

    This is based on that motorcycles in the US are toy-like, pleasure activities, not basic transportation.

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