Throughout history, hair has been a signifier of social class.
Upper-class people have always used their hairstyles to signal wealth and status. Wealthy Roman women wore complex hairstyles that needed the labours of several people to maintain them, and rich people have also often chosen hairstyles that restricted or burdened their movement, making it obvious that they did not need to work. Wealthy people's hairstyles used to be at the cutting edge of fashion, setting the styles for the less wealthy. But today, the wealthy are generally observed to wear their hair in conservative styles that date back decades prior.
Middle-class hairstyles tend to be understated and professional. Middle-class people aspire to have their hair look healthy and natural, implying that they have the resources to live a healthy lifestyle and take good care of themselves.
Historically, working-class people's haircuts have tended to be practical and simple. Working-class men have often shaved their heads or worn their hair close-cropped, and working-class women have typically pulled their hair up and off their faces in simple styles. However, today, working-class people often have more elaborate and fashion-conscious hairstyles than other social classes. Many working-class Mexican men in American cities wear their hair in styles like the Mongolian (shaved except for a tuft of hair at the nape of the neck) or the rat tail (crewcut on top, tuft at the nape), and African-Americans often wear their hair in complex patterns of box braids and cornrows, fastened with barrettes and beads, and sometimes including shaved sections or bright colour. Sociologists say these styles are an attempt to express individuality and presence in the face of social denigration and invisibility.
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