Where Did All The Long-Haired Heroes Go?

HOVFinishedWhile short hair for men is the fashion right now in the early half of the twenty-first century, I can’t help but bewail the diminishing numbers of heroes with long hair.

When did it stop being sexy?

In Romanceland, heroes throughout history and into the realms of the paranormal have enjoyed long locks for decades.  They adorned covers and posters for years and years after more-than-collar-length became old fashioned in the real world.

There are some historical periods where long hair was the norm: Scotland, throughout its wars of independence, the Regency period, when a man tied his hair back in a queue, and most of the 17th, 18th and 19th century.

There are many more, but these are the most popular historical romance periods with the exception of medieval England…but even there, a long-haired hero wasn’t completely out of place.  It was only knights with their restrictive helmets who regularly chopped their locks.

In fact, one of my medieval romance books, Heart of Vengeance, was first published with a hero on the cover with long hair (see above), even though he has shorn hair in the story (he’s a knight as well as a lord).  But that first edition was in the late nineties, when long hair on romance heroes was common, even desirable…

If you head back even further into British history you bump up against Roman Britain.  While the Romans certainly favoured well-trimmed pates, the tribes they warred against did not.

The Anglo Saxons who invaded Britain once the Romans pulled back to Rome were also proponents of long hair.

Then you can slide into the fantasy realm, where long hair on a hero is almost mandatory.

And yet, and yet…

Have you noticed, lately, that if the cover features the hero at all (which is becoming more common in some romance genres – like urban fantasy romance), then often, his head is cut off by the top edge of the book, or the title, which means you can’t see if he has long hair or not.

Just as often, if you can see his head, the hair is neatly trimmed regardless of the genre or era the book is set in.

It’s as if Romanceland wants to have its cake and eat it, too.  Is it that cover designers, publishers and marketing people are afraid that the cover will look…old fashioned?  Even some of the romances I have read lately that are set in eras or locales where long hair would be perfectly natural on a hero, the book gives him short hair (sometimes without reason), or fails to focus on the length of his hair at all, as if it is easier to simply not acknowledge his full appearance than risk putting off a more modern-oriented reader.

Personally, I think covers and books should describe a hero as he would have been back then, or in that fantasy world, rather than trying to insert a hero of modern and fashionable appearance in our real world into the mind of the reader.

It’s just a bit of a cop-out, don’t you think?  Or would you find it awkward to read about a hero with long hair, even if it is appropriate to the period?

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9 Comments

  1. Pamela Sinclair January 18, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Tracey!

    I hope 2014 is off to a great start for you. I don’t get to get on and comment much these days (but resolute in changing that this year :)). I follow along with your blog/updates in my inbox though and enjoy it :).

    I’ve noticed the lack of locks on covers as well.

    As a cover artist, at least for me personally, I’ve no problems putting heroes on the cover with longer hair and still find them to be appealing (and as you pointed out more accurate for certain time periods or story lines).

    It is hard to find decent stock with men who already have longer hair, but it can be done or added. I am not sure where the trend started – from the author, pub, artist, reader feedback.

    Good post :)!

    • Tracy January 18, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Pamela:

      Thanks for commenting! It’s great to know how the blog posts are going down.

      I know my own cover artist, Dar Albert, has problems finding stock photos with long haired heroes, too. She has been very creative with faking it — especially as the covers for both SOUTHAMPTON SWINDLE and BROKEN PROMISE featured *two* heroes with long hair, as they were both set in the eighteenth century.

      My husband, Mark, has long hair — the professional wrestling world seems to be one of the last hold-outs for long hair – many of the wrestlers have hair longer than mine (and mine is waist length).

      But…everything cyclical. Give it another few years, and some form of long hair will suddenly be trendy again….

      Cheers,

      Tracy

  2. Juli Page Morgan March 1, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Bring on the long haired men! There’s nothing sexier than a man with long, luscious hair. I’m waiting impatiently for these poor shorn dudes to ditch the scissors and razors and let it flow. 🙂 The hero on my last book had to have longer hair Photoshopped on him since I couldn’t find any stock photos, and his hair was still too short.

    This was a great post, Tracey. I really enjoyed it!

    • Tracy March 1, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Hi Juli!

      Glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, it’s bizarre how all the long hair has completely disappeared…. They had to photoshop the long hair on a few of my covers, too!

      • Elizabeth Corva March 2, 2014 at 8:19 am

        There are more gorgeous editorial shots with long haired men than you can shake a stick at. But they’re usually for a specific ad campaign like Versace, so they never make their way into stock photo land. So close and yet so far!

  3. Elizabeth Corva March 2, 2014 at 8:16 am

    Word up! There are a few Contemporary Romance authors who have longhaired heroes (mostly Rock stars). Even so, long hair on covers is a tough sell. I know of one book with a long-haired cover model that sold fairly well, but after the author changed the cover to a different, short-haired model, it got a lot more attention.

    But we’re not deterred! As you said, trends come and go. I’m hopeful that long hair on guys is going to come back into vogue sooner rather than later based on all the tumblr pages I see devoted to them. It’s always great to find someone who still appreciates the long-haired men!

    • Tracy March 2, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Hi Elizabeth:

      Very interesting that sales would improve once the hero was shorn. VERY interesting!

      And yes, I’m holding my breath that the tide will turn soon!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Cheers,

      t.

      • Elizabeth Corva March 2, 2014 at 8:51 am

        To be fair, the hero starts out long haired in the book and cuts it halfway through. That left me cold (of course) but it seems a lot of readers liked it. Sigh. Well, screw the trends. I’m writing characters who appeal to me, dammit! =)

        Glad to have found your site, btw. A lot of good info for writers here. I’m not the biggest paranormal fan, but I’m going to pick up a couple of your books anyway. Clan Longhair forever! ;P

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