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Hair: A Human History

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  92 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Most people don't give a second thought to the stuff on their head, but hair has played a crucial role in in fashion, the arts, sports, commerce, forensics, and industry. In Hair, Kurt Stenn — one of the world's foremost hair follicle experts — takes readers on global journey through history, from fur merchant associations and sheep farms to medical clinics and patient sup ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 15th 2016 by Pegasus Books
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Average rating 3.42  · 
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 ·  92 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Shane Evans
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of microhistories, books that explore one subject and show how important and wide-ranging the impact that topic has had on the world. So I was very excited to see this book on hair. As a biology teacher I am on the lookout for microhistories on topics that students are familiar with, that also explore, from a unique angle, the fundamentals of biology.

Ever since I read "Academically Adrift" a few years ago, I have been very concerned about including more outside reading in my surv
Jul 18, 2016 rated it liked it
I would have enjoyed this more if it explored the cultural aspects of hair more than the scientific ones, but the author is coming at it from a biological perspective more than a sociological one.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it
this is a Solid Nonfiction Book and really Gave Me The Facts I Wanted

for instance: a question I had asked before is, does hair Get Wet, or does it merely hold water in between? this is a question that was posed on reddit in 2014 but wouldn't you rather read about it in this Nonfiction Book which actually explains the cuticle and why I have split ends? next up: a book that explains to me why I can't stop playing w my hair when im stressed out
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I know, I know. A book about hair is something that I should love. But there are a few facts that I question, such as the statement that Anne Boleyn had her head shaved before her execution. I've never read that before. The son of Louis and Marie Antoinnette was referred to as the Dauphine not the Dauphin. I'm curious as to what else might be wrong, but I don't recognize that it is wrong because I don't have prior knowledge of it.

Full review to come.


Check out my full review on my blog:

University of Chicago Magazine
Kurt Stenn, LAB'57, SB'61

From our pages (Spring/16): "Hair complements our fashion trends, is found in musical instruments, aids in forensic science—and has become part of our identity. Follicle expert Kurt Stenn, former director of skin biology at Johnson and Johnson, explores many biological, cultural, and anthropological strands of hair and its history, including the science behind relaxers and dyes, the role of hair shirts in medieval religion, the art of wig making, the use of hair in
Apr 06, 2016 rated it liked it
A quick interesting read. However, it seriously needed a fact-checker/editor. I can guarantee you that women in the late 18th century weren't following Queen Victoria's example by making mourning jewelry out of hair. Also, the male heir to the French throne is the Dauphin (not Dauphine) and those plants along the shores of the river are cattails, not a cat-o'-nine tails. Unfortunately, mistakes like that make me question everything else I read.
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's a short history of human hair through scientific and sociological perspectives. Nothing ground-breaking but a good compilation of various information
Lucy Andrews
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Like [Cod] or [Salt] or the books by [[Mary Roach]], Stenn has written a book focussed on the many ways human lives have been entwined by hair -- not only on our bodies, but in our musical instruments, in art, in clothing, even in food (slightly yuck). Unlike those writers, Stenn has chosen a topic he not only curious about, but is his passion: he is an expert in the field and his passionate interest and deeply-rooted (sorry!) knowledge comes through. The book is extremely well-written -- inform ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I couldn't resist this book at the library because of the hair on the cover. Good job, cover designers. Got a lot of info about how hair works, for sure--sometimes in a more clinical way than I'd have preferred, but it's definitely thorough. I particularly liked learning random details about how felting works and why people's hair might fall out to some degree about three months after a traumatic experience. I appreciated the first two thirds of the book, which focus on human hair, far more than ...more
Margaret McCulloch-Keeble
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
I really enjoyed this. It was in-depth without being too scientifically dry. I learned lots of little facts and new words for Scrabble! There were a couple of times when some of the terminology was a little outdated and made me cringe a bit (i.e. referring to someone historically as mentally stunted). Other than that, as I say, I enjoyed it.
Charlie Easterson
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting. A fine, easy to understand overview of hair; though it focuses much more on the biology than that social history of hair. Not quite what the cover promises but interesting if you’re into that sort of thing.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I wish this would have gone into greater detail. It was a fast read because it skimmed over so much territory without really delving into anything.
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
There were a few interesting facts in this book, overall not very exciting.
This book covers multiple grounds when it discusses hair. I had always thought about it as dead matter on the top of my head and thus paid it scant attention unless I wanted it clean and free of dirt, mites and snarls. I also didn’t want my scalp to itch or spread disease. What else was required?

Well, hair—human and otherwise—has always been a source of political, sociological, medical and/or religious debate. Secular laws have been formed around it; religious prohibitions or strictures have be
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting enough discussion of the biology of hair, both human and animal, the way it grows, and ceases to grow, the uses hair has been put to (he includes here beaver fur and wool, especially) and various oddities about hair. (If chopped up finely enough, as it is sometimes done incidentally in the preparation of various foodstuffs, hair is digestible, but as long fibers, it is not.)
I thought the external comments on the cover, etc., promised more than it delivered. Another one of those bo
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a fun micro-history! I've had a complicated relationship with my own hair, and this book caught my eye one day when I was keyword-bombing my library's catalogue. If you believe hair isn't just something you wash and dry, you might enjoy Hair: A Human History.

Kurt Stenn offers a really engaging look at human hair throughout time, starting way back before humans even existed. History lovers will enjoy the connections Stenn makes to the economic, religious, cultural and socio-political shifts
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Meh, just not my type of book. I like the history behind things but this book was just too slow and not enough excitement for what I was looking for. I have a few other of Kurt's books on my "To Read" list and I am excited to see how those go.
Hannah Edinburgh
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Some subjects were gone into as great length, and others seemed far off of what I thought the book would be about (human hair). I did learn some interesting things, which I think were worth a day of reading, but it was hard to get through.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it liked it

I enjoyed the quirky facts of this book, but was looking for something that explained cultural and historical attitudes to human hair on the head and body. Didn't expect so much about animal hair.
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Jul 28, 2019
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Dec 26, 2016
Barbara Bristow
rated it it was ok
Mar 15, 2016
Anna Kurtiša
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Aug 24, 2019
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Jan 13, 2019
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Jul 07, 2017
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Mar 16, 2016
Benjamin Taddesse
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May 28, 2016
Matthew Skalak
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Mar 15, 2016
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Dec 10, 2015
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“In a somewhat different form, noblewomen of 14th- to 16th-century Europe and England shaved or plucked their frontal scalp in order to create a prominent forehead: Elizabeth I, the great virgin queen, appears so in extant portraits. Widespread use of this style among aristocratic women in court led to its reference outside of court as “high brow.” 0 likes
“Perhaps inspired by Victoria, 18th-century American women treasured the spiritual properties of hair. To them, clipped hair was used to convey messages of friendship, love, mourning, and family bonds.” 0 likes
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