Have you seen the latest Ant-Man and the Wasp poster? Listen, I’m excited. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly stand back to back, positioned under their title cards, with Lilly slightly in front of Rudd. It’s a fairly standard Marvel Studios poster design, except for one thing: Lilly is looking far from salon fresh. Her hair is pulled back into an actually messy, definitely sweaty, post-gym ponytail that’s coming out into flyaways. It’s helmet hair. It’s “I just took out a supervillain” hair. It’s unglamorous - and it's absolutely perfect.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is infamous for heroines who rarely look less than perfect. Black Widow has gone from bad wig to bad wig to some pretty cute bobs, but we’ve never seen her with so much as a hair out of place or an eye unlined. Avengers: Age Of Ultron introduces Wanda Maximoff as a Hot Topic scrapper with yesterday’s hair, but reintroduces her at the end as an Avenger with a new outfit, subtler makeup, and an enviable blowout. Gamora, the deadliest woman in the galaxy, has soft waves that frame her face through the messiest of firefights. And Mantis, the... feelingest woman in the galaxy, has a sleek, mid-length 'do that not even Thanos could defeat.
After Infinity War, fashion writer Rebecca Jennings called out Marvel Studios in Racked, for saddling its female leads with long flowing locks, even in the midst of battles. “[W]hy don’t Black Widow, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, and Mantis - and even superheroines beyond Infinity War, from Wonder Woman to Jessica Jones, Elektra, Storm, and She-Hulk - ever seem to take a second to throw their hair into a chic chignon (or, more likely, a half-assed messy bun like the rest of us do before an activity as simple as getting on the elliptical)?” Jennings got a lot of blowback for calling Marvel Studios' long hair obsession sexist - but she was right.
Miles long, unbound hair is impractical for battle - and in a superhero universe that’s put so much effort into looking real, it stands out as strange. MCU's costume designers have worked hard to give their heroes outfits that are less silly than those found in the comics. I mean, they didn’t succeed (and there’s nothing wrong with silly), but by drawing inspiration from military tactical gear and under armor, toning down the colour schemes, and making garments out of “practical,” textured materials, their aesthetic goals are clear. These are serious, professional superheroes. Commando gear and wicking for all, full face makeup and near-uniform blowouts for the ladies.