Begin a discussion on contemporary hairstyles. How do we “see” others and ourselves through a style of hair? How do others see us?


Find images in magazines to create more discussion about the choice and significance of hairstyles.

Fill out Hair Today Questionnaire. Remind students to interview their parents and grandparents about hair styles “back in the days.”

Brainstorm hairstyle names. Make a list of hairstyle names and inspirations.


Watch the first 45 minutes of the movie or perhaps just the “Hair song.”

Synopsis of Hair: Hair is an entertaining and powerful tribute to the turbulent spirit of the '60s. Fresh from the farm, Claude Bukowski arrives in New York City for a date with the Army Introduction Board, only to walk into a hippie "happening" in Central Park and fall in love with the beautiful Sheila. Befriended by the hippies' pacifist leader, Berger and urged to crash a formal party in order to declare his love for Sheila, Claude begins an adventure that lands him in jail, Central Park Lake, and finally, in the army. Berger's final effort to save Claude from Vietnam sets in motion a bizarre twist of fate with shocking consequences.
(Total length of Hair is 121 minutes.)

School Daze
Watch the scene from the movie School Daze where the cast sings “Good and Bad Hair,” a lively music and dance number that brings up serious questions about standards of beauty.

Synopsis of School Daze: At an African American college, amid gala coronations, football, fraternities, parades, and parties, a group of buddies find themselves caught up in romance, relationships, rituals, and rivalries during one outrageous homecoming weekend. The story follows two cousins who have opposing attitudes when it comes to the purpose of college: learning versus partying. Spike Lee's sprawling exploration of the tensions that are present on black college campuses is an exhilarating blend of surreal musical, comedy, and poignant social criticism.
(Total length of film: 114 minutes.)

What are the “politics” of hair? Can hair make a statement about who we are? Has hair ever been a “battleground” in their homes?

Poorly drawn hair can ruin a portrait. Show students various artworks in which the artist has represented hair in a convincing and beautiful way. An eclectic selection of artists whose drawings elegantly and concisely represent hair: Elizabeth Catlett, Luis Jimenez, Stanley Spencer, Vincent Van Gogh, Charles White, and Grant Wood. Point out various strategies for drawing hair. Comic books are also a good source of interesting styles of depicting hair.

Using pencils on white paper have students draw a “portrait head” without the face. Concentrate on creating the specificity of shape and texture of the hair. Students can work from each other as models or from magazine photos. A fun alternative is to choose only celebrity images and see if students can recognize familiar characters by hair alone.

Using a Polaroid camera, photograph each student from the back.

Review the students’ Hair Today Questionnaires and the lists made during discussions. Choose words that describe the students’ hair. Write the words on slips of paper.

Play with the words and images. Pair words with various photos. This will provide a springboard for further discussion as students consider the ways in which meaning shifts when words are juxtaposed with different pictures.

Have each student choose a photograph of a head seen from the back. These can be found photos, family photos, or photos taken of themselves or their classmates.
Each student will create a drawing on black scratchboard. Begin the scratchboard drawing by making a very light pencil sketch directly on the black scratchboard.
Demonstrate how to use the scratchboard tools. Provide small pieces of scrap scratchboard so that students can practice for a few minutes before beginning on their final pieces.

• Don’t draw an outline around the hair—it will look like a helmet.
• A series of lines can create a strong sense of edges and of the overall form.
• Most hair can be drawn with many, almost parallel lines.
• Experiment with the length and kinds of line needed to create a feeling of the texture
of the hair.
• Create a sense of dimension and shine by removing a lot of black in some areas.

Learning to draw hair well is an important facet of students developing confidence in drawing the human figure. One of the great things about the Hair Today project is that by spending only a few extra days of class time on the project, the unit becomes more than a detail-oriented drawing exercise. The work becomes an interesting and fun cultural exploration that the art students can share with other students and teachers in the school.

Create a display in a public place in the school. Be ready for lots of comments and conversations.

There are many ways in which this project could be extended:
• Students write down the most dramatic or revelatory story or idea they encountered
during the project and make these statements part of the installation.
• Enlarge the scratchboard drawings using a Xerox machine to create a bolder scale
• Have students create narrative drawings or comic strips that tell a personal story
related to hair.

Click here to print out process plans for the Hair Today project

Hair Today project by Rithvik Balakrishnan