Hair on the Lima Campus stands up in library display

The Lima Campus Library is sporting a new ‘do, several in fact, thanks to the archival research of senior Lauren Chatman-Wright.  “Hair: A Lima Campus History” takes a look at the different hair trends popular on campus from the 1960s until today, as well as the reasons for their popularity. The display is free and open to the public whenever the library is open throughout autumn semester 2023. Chatman-Wright discusses the project below.

Student in front of a library display

How did you choose the topic?

When I was tasked with creating a new display for the library, I was instructed to look through the Lima Campus archives for ideas. The archives contained photographs and news articles from the 1960s to the present, showing students and faculty throughout the decades since the campus opened. While looking through the archives, one of the most notable things for me was the fashion and hair trends worn by previous students! I thought it would be nice to focus on hairstyles because there were so many photos to work with, and their styles were really distinct. 

What was the most interesting part or finding to you? Also, the most surprising?

It was really interesting to learn why certain hairstyles become popular. While some styles are popularized by celebrities, other styles are driven by political movements. For example, in the 50s and 60s, women often wore short, curled hairstyles. However, when the hippie movement gained popularity, young women began wearing their hair straight and long, rejecting earlier traditional norms. Similarly, the Afro of the 1960s became a symbol of pride in African-American culture and identity and became associated with the Civil Rights Movement. It served as a rejection of conformity to Western beauty standards. 

As far as what is surprising, I am most surprised by how celebrities and the media still influence our styles. However, I believe that social media influencers now have a significant impact on the hairstyles we choose to wear as well.

Did you see any repeat trends in the hairstyles of campus?

I believe that the shaggy hair trend has never truly gone out of style. However, straight hair made a comeback after the 90s, but for a very different reason than the hippie movement. 

How many pictures do you think you went through? How did you narrow it down?

I looked through hundreds of images and news articles. There were many great pictures of hairstyles, but librarians Tina Schneider and Zach Walton suggested that I narrow it down by context. Therefore, we chose the final pictures that showed students in classrooms, studying, or in recognizable locations around campus that current students would be able to identify. 

Have you done other research projects on campus? If so, how did this compare?

Yes, I have worked on other research projects. I took part in the undergraduate research forum on campus for both my majors, English and psychology. The three projects are similar in that they all have a social component, where society and identity aided my research and comprehension of the participants, characters, and hairstyles I did research for!

Lauren Chatman-Wright is a double major in English and psychology. She works in the library as a student library assistant and plans to become a reference librarian.