“When I was probably five, my mom told me that if you went outside with wet hair, you’d get sick…[the hair] would make you cold, and then since you got so cold, you would get sick.”
Though my informant learned this belief very young, he still followed this belief for a long time. He eventually decided to look up the belief, to find “[wet hair] doesn’t really do that”, so it has become less important for him to follow. “I think it’s based on comfort rather than the myth of getting sick.”
My is unsure if where this belief originated, he just knows it was told to him by his mother, who is of Japanese descent. He does not think it has any kind of cultural significance, however, and just thinks “it’s more old wife’s tale”.
My grandmother, who was born and raised in Italy, had a similar rule for me when I was young, and still insists that I stay warm to avoid illness. Another friend of mine told me her parents, who are of a Chinese background, had a similar belief as well. While each of these beliefs did not necessarily involve hair, they all involved getting cold, and cold leading to sickness. It is important that my informant pointed out the element of comfort that comes into this belief: often people do not enjoy being wet and cold, and feeling discomfort could easily be associated with becoming sick, even if that is not scientifically accurate. This belief could create a negative placebo effect, perhaps weakening the immune system through sheer will and belief in the power of the cold, making the correlation between cold and sickness stronger and reaffirming the belief. This shows the power that folk beliefs could hold on people: it only has to happen once for someone to belief it, and from their its power could grow.