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Video: Why can’t older women wear long hair?

TODAY contributor
updated 10/28/2010 12:29:21 PM ET 2010-10-28T16:29:21

Long hair isn’t just for young girls anymore. More and more middle-aged women are proudly wearing their locks long and gray, society be damned.

But women who wave off the shears and hair coloring are getting pressure over it — from their hairstylists, their peers, younger friends, even their mothers.

“Some people are constantly telling me to cut my hair. Some people tell me it’s inappropriate,” said Dominque Browning, a writer in her mid-50s who wears her dark, graying hair well below her shoulders.

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Browning, a former magazine editor and author, was appearing on TODAY Thursday after writing about the subject in The New York Times recently. Her article — “Why can’t middle-aged women have long hair?” — prompted a huge online response from readers, who took positions both for and against.

Browning told TODAY co-anchor Meredith Vieira that among the biggest critics of older women who let their hair grow out are mothers — including her own.

“I think all of America’s moms are on their daughter’s backs. It’s their way of exerting control of their kids,” Browning said.

One of the other people who has been telling Browning to get her hair cut is celebrity hair stylist Sally Hershberger. In fact, she’s been doing that for 10 years.

Hershberger told Vieira that she’s not against long hair for older women, per se, but has long felt Browning’s hair was just a tad too long and unruly. Yet to Browning’s delight, Hershberger complimented her hair Thursday, saying she had softened it somewhat.

Share your thoughts: Should women over 50 have long hair?

Both women offered Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton up as someone who looked “softer” since she grew out her hair after the presidential campaign.

Stylist Sally Hershberger and writer Dominique Browning agreed that Hillary Rodham Clinton has a softer look since she let her hair grow.

In her article, Browning writes that the typical criticism of middle-aged women who wear their hair long is that they are either rebelling against something or trying to recapture their youth somehow.

“No one seems to have any problems when a woman of a certain age cuts her hair off. It is considered the appropriate thing to do, as if being shorn is a way of releasing oneself from the locks of the past,” Browning wrote. “I can see the appeal, and have, at times in my life, gone that route.”

Video: Related video: How women can age with confidence (on this page)

As for any stigma being attached to woman like her who wear their gray long and proud, Browning said she believes that can easily be overcome by what they have done with their lives, their skills and how they speak.

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“I think it’s what comes out of your mouth that makes you serious or not serious,” she said.

Video: Gorgeous gray makeovers (on this page)

Although she defends her long locks, Browning concedes that they do come with a price. Long hair, she wrote, is high-maintenance.

“I’ll admit that it is a look that requires tender loving care,” she wrote in the Times. “It is impossible to body-surf without getting seaweed tangled up in it.”

Maybe Browning’s next piece should be entitled, “Why can’t middle-aged women go body surfing?”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Gallery: Photos of your great manes

Photos: Silver foxes

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  1. George Clooney

    Sometimes all that glitters can be gray, as these entertainment and political stars prove by proudly displaying their silver hairs.

    Birthdate: 05/06/1961

    Earned Gray Hair By : Playing charming and likable scam artists/scoundrels in such films as "Out of Sight" (1996), "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000), "Ocean's Eleven" (2001) and "Burn After Reading" (2008), as well as through exposing and campaigning for the Darfur crisis. (Damien Meyer / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Diane Keaton

    Birth date: 01/05/1946

    Earned Gray Hair By : Putting up with difficult men like Michael Corleone, Woody Allen and Jack Nicholson in such films as "The Godfather" (1972), "Annie Hall" (1977), "The First Wives Club" (1996) and "Something’s Gotta Give" (2003). (Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Richard Gere

    Birth date: 08/31/1949

    Earned Gray Hair By : Sweeping leading ladies like Lauren Hutton, Debra Winger and Julia Roberts off their feet in such films as "American Gigolo" (1980), "An Officer and a Gentleman" (1982), "Pretty Woman" (1990) and "Nights in Rodanthe" (2008). (Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jamie Lee Curtis

    Birth date: 11/22/1958

    Earned Gray Hair By : Trying to avoid horrifying death in such "Scream Queen" classics as "Halloween" (1978), "The Fog" (1980), "True Lies" (1994) and "Halloween: Resurrection" (2002). (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Anderson Cooper

    Birth date: 06/03/1967

    Earned Gray Hair By: Reporting the hard breaking news and asking the tough questions as anchor of CNN's show "Anderson Cooper 360." (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Helen Mirren

    Birth date: 07/26/1945

    Earned Gray Hair By : Working hard as an actress, earning Emmys for "Prime Suspect" and an Oscar as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen" along the way. (Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Eric Dane

    Birth date: 11/09/1972

    Earned Gray Hair By: Saving patients' lives and seducing nurses or fellow residents as Dr. Mark Slone of ABC's hit TV show "Grey’s Anatomy." (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Paula Deen

    Birth date: 01/19/1947

    Earned Gray Hair By : Being an Emmy-winning TV cook, running a Savannah, Georgia, restaurant with her sons, and publishing five cookbooks. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ted Danson

    Birth date: 12/29/1947

    Earned Gray Hair By: Serving drinks and talking about his ex-baseball days at the bar where everybody knows your name in the classic TV show "Cheers." (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Judi Dench

    Birth date: 12/09/1934

    Earned Gray Hair By : Being one of England's greatest actresses, earning an Oscar, two Golden Globes, and a Tony -- as well as trying to control 007 as M in the James Bond movies. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Robert De Niro

    Birth date: 08/17/1943

    Earned Gray Hair By: Seeking revenge on those who attempted to kill him in such "mobster" movies as "The Godfather Part II" (1974), "The Untouchables" (1987), "Goodfellas" (1990) and "Analyze This" (1999). (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emmylou Harris

    Birth date: 04/02/1947

    Earned Gray Hair By : Forging a long music career that has garnered her 10 Grammys over 29 years, as well as suffering the devastating loss of music partner Gram Parsons, who died of a drug overdose in 1973. (Rick Nederstigt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Harrison Ford

    Birth date: 07/13/1942

    Earned Gray Hair By: Fighting the dark side, hunting down replicants/androids and recovering important artifacts in such films as "Star Wars" (1977) "Blade Runner" (1982) and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (2008). (Stephen Shugerman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. David Gregory

    Birth date: 08/24/1970

    Earned Gray Hair By: Pinning politicians down with tough questions as moderator of NBC News' "Meet the Press." (Joshua Roberts / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Roseanne Barr

    Birth date: 11/03/1956

    Earned Gray Hair By : Rising from blue-collar background in Salt Lake City to a successful comedy and acting career (not to mention surviving criticism of her performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at a 1990 baseball game). (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Mark Harmon

    Birth date: 09/02/1951

    Earned Gray Hair By: First from working long shifts at the hospital as "St. Elsewhere" (starting in 1983) and then from conducting criminal investigations involving the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps in "NCIS" (starting in 2003). (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Bill Maher

    Birth date: 02/20/1956

    Earned Gray Hair By: Making political satire and sociopolitical commentary every week as host of HBO’s "Real Time." (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Ruby Dee

    Birth date: 10/27/1924

    Earned Gray Hair By : Working for civil rights with her late husband, actor Ossie Davis, as well as forging a distinguished acting career that has spanned some 60 years. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Bill Clinton

    Birth date: 08/19/1946

    Earned Gray Hair By: Serving as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993-2001, writing his autobiography "My Life" in 2004 and campaigning with his wife Hillary during her 2008 presidential run. (Steve Helber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Kathleen Sebelius

    Birth date: 05/15/1948

    Earned Gray Hair By : Governing the state of Kansas from 2003-2009 -- and serving as the 21st Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Jon Stewart

    Birth date: 11/28/1962

    Earned Gray Hair By: Having to be funny every night as host of Comedy Central’s "The Daily Show." (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Cloris Leachman

    Birth date: 04/30/1926

    Earned Gray Hair By : Winning eight prime-time Emmys (more than any other actress) and an Oscar for "The Last Picture Show" (1971) -- only to be eliminated from "Dancing with the Stars." (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Stacy London

    Birth date: 05/25/1969

    Earned Gray Hair By : Seeing the frightening clothes in peoples’ wardrobes before she helps make them over on TV’s "What Not to Wear." (Evan Agostini / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Lily Munster

    Birth date: 1827

    Earned Gray Hair By : Being an undead vampire on "The Munsters" (her real-life portrayer, actress Yvonne De Carlo, died in 2007 at the age of 84). (Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Meryl Streep

    Birth date: 06/22/1949

    Earned Gray Hair By : Letting it go that way for her performance as a domineering magazine editor in "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006) -- garnering her an unprecedented 14th Oscar nomination as well as a Golden Globe. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
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