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Published on May 16, 2013 in Asia, China, News

Why Chinese Men Dye Their Hair

         Have you ever noticed how a man’s hair in China is seldom grey? In contrast to myself who, as my wife puts it, is becoming more distinguished with greying hair, men in China all seem to have jet black hair. Look at a photo of Communist Party President Xi Jinping who, at age 59, has a full head of black hair. Also, his predecessor, Hu Jintao, at age 70, doesn’t have a single strand of grey. Older men in China, as well as women, which is understandable, don’t want grey hair.

There are a number of reasons why Chinese men go for a haircut and ask for a paint job at the same time, in contrast to other nationalities, such as their Japanese neighbors, who are content to go grey. The first reason is that it makes them appear younger and more vigorous. If you’re a businessman or politician in China, younger is better. People feel that a younger person will have more energy and more enthusiasm for what they’re doing. They also want to appear younger to women as many Asian men feel that black hair is more attractive.

If you’re a Chinese politician, you not only want to give the appearance of youth by having your hair dyed black, but you also want to convey uniformity and stability. Take a look at a picture of the Communist Party Congress. There’s not a grey head in the group. In Chinese politics uniformity and stability are important, and having your hair the same as everyone else conveys conservatism, uniformity stability and that you’re part of the team. You’re not an individualist. Therefore, there’s no bow ties, grey or tan suits, striped shirts, Charlie Sheen hats, etc. It’s just a uniform sea of cohesiveness, conservatism and stability. Politicians also have a third reason for wanting black hair: it makes them blend in so they don’t stand out from the crowd when something goes wrong. They want to keep their heads low, so to speak. If something goes wrong in Chinese politics, it’s normal to blame someone who’s an individualist. It’s easy to say it’s the guy with grey hair, the nonconformist, is at fault rather than say I can’t remember who advocated that.

To be fair, not all 1.3 billion Chinese have black hair. Walking around Shanghai, for example, I’ll occasionally see young Chinese with purple or reddish hair, or those who highlight their hair. Other possible exceptions to the black hair rule are men in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond who don’t seem to care about hair color and pass on the black hair look, assuming they still have their hair.


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