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?