The philosophy of Buffy's hair
Allow me to get in touch with my feminine side just for the sake of this article. Having my girlfriend as a sounding board also helped.
When Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit the airwaves in 1997 as a television adaptation of an unremarkable movie, no one ever expected the show to be a success let alone establish itself as a part of modern philosophy.
Books that philosophize the adventures of the Slayer have become the source for understanding the hidden meanings and subtle details in the BTVS universe. While these books appeal to the couch potato philosopher, they miss one crucial bit of analysis: Buffy's hair.
Probably one of the reasons Buffy's hair has never become the topic of graduate thesis is that it's really not what the show's about. But if various minutia of the show can be the focus of a philosophical essays, then Buffy's hair is fair game. With that being said, here is a season-by-season analysis of the slayer's locks:
In season one, Buffy predominantly has an LA look. Her blonde hair with dark roots is sprayed carefully to attain that elusive, rebellious LA rock look. This style of hair clearly reflects the state of mind she is in. She is rebellious, a bit edgy and tough. Her hair is statement on its own it says. "I'm a teenage girl who wants to have a good time but can't." Buffy is shackled with all these new responsibilities and the only thing that she has control over is her style.
Throughout most of the season, Buffy has a short, straight look. Gone is the hairspray and rank teen rebellion and in its place is a more innocent looking Buffy. This season reflected, among other things, the innocence of first love and the harsh realities of abusive relationships. Buffy's hair outwardly reflects her feelings and really brings out the innocence that she has as a young woman in love.
Throughout most of the third season, Buffy had her front bangs lighter than the rest of her hair. This was a popular look for women in the late '90s. Buffy carries this look well but is it a reflection on her character or a just a fashion statement? Season three is the first season that Faith the Slayer makes an appearance. Faith has dark hair and ... a darker personality. Buffy, on the other hand, is fair-haired and this particular season, almost bleach blonde. It's possible the contrasts in their hairstyles are supposed to represent their characters' personalities and opposing values.
Buffy goes to college and so does her hair. Co-ed Buffy's hair is longer and straighter style. It's still a lighter blonde similar to the shade of blonde in a previous season but the color is more even through out her hair. Buffy's longer hair is a commitment to getting loose and letting go a little. She's at college to learn and to have fun. While her slayer duties are still important, she has a life to lead and she is committed to being a normal college student.
Buffy now has even longer, wavier hair. It's a solid shade of golden blonde. Hair does not predict the future but ,since this is the Buffy-verse, anything is possible. Her hair can only be a sign of hard times to come. The "waves" are going to crash down hard on Buffy. Season five was a season of changes. It's important to note that Dawn was first introduced in this season and that this is the season where Buffy's mother passes away.
Buffy has two main hairstyles in this season. The first being the longer wavier style the second being the off the shoulder cut.
In the episode "Gone", Buffy's hair is used as a plot device to get the story moving. While it's not the focus of the episode, it is still important because it establishes the conflicted feelings Buffy has toward Spike. In this episode, Buffy's hair is a metaphor for her relationship with Spike. Buffy wishes she could cut the relationship like she could cut her hair. In this instance Buffy feels the only thing she has control over is her hair.
Buffy's got "mom" hair. Well, not really, but she worries that she does. She has come a long way from being a rebellious teen to a semi-responsible adult and, even though her character is still developing, she has made considerable progress as an young adult and human being. Her hair in the seventh season reflects that. It's shorter and often tied back. It's a bit more manageable than previous seasons. Buffy doesn't have time to fuss with it.
In short, when the creators of this show were thinking about the philosophies behind this landmark series throughout its evolution, they thought of everything. Right down to the hair.