Sex Roles

, Volume 29, Issue 1–2, pp 113–124 | Cite as

The American image of beauty: Media representations of hair color for four decades

  • Melissa K. Rich
  • Thomas F. Cash


The present archival study examined the depiction of women's beauty in our society with respect to hair color, especially blondeness. Raters reliably categorized the hair color of cover models for two women's magazines (Ladies Home Journal and Vogue) and for Playboy magazine centerfolds from the 1950s through the 1980s. These media images from 750 observations were compared among magazines, among decades, and in relation to the proportion of blondes in a normative sample of adult White women. Results revealed that the percentage of blondes in each magazine exceeded the base rate of blondes in the norm group. Blondes were more prevalent in Playboy centerfolds than in the women's magazines. Although temporal patterns varied from magazine to magazine, the average proportion of blondes was lowest in the 1960s and highest in the 1970s. The study's findings have numerous implications for social issues and research regarding the psychology of physical appearance.


Media Image Norm Group White Woman Normative Sample Base Rate 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa K. Rich
    • 1
  • Thomas F. Cash
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOld Dominion UniversityNorfolk

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