Describing hair: colour VS texture

This is the place to post questions and discussions on usage and style. The members of the Wordwizard Clubhouse will also often be able to help you to formulate that difficult letter.
Post Reply

Describing hair: colour VS texture

Post by nawee » Fri Jun 06, 2014 4:28 am


Still working out the order of adjectives. Please bear with me.

I just would like to know which sound more "natural" to you: colour first or texture first.

When I learnt how to describe people at school, I was told to put colour last. That was before I leant about the Royal Order of adjectives. So I would say:

a) curly brown hair
b) straight black hair
c) wavy blonde hair

After I applied the Royal Order of adjectives to these phrases, I assigned "curly, straight and wavy" to "shape" and was quite happy with it until...

I have just read a long thread about this topic and was a bit surprised to see how much native speakers disagree over what sounds more natural. One native speaker suggests that "curly, straight and wavy" are inherent properties of hair. The colour may change as people get older, but the type of hair won't. So "curly, straight and wavy" should be closest to the noun. This reasoning kind of makes sense, but "black straight hair" just doesn't sound right to me.

I was even more surprised to find more hits with "brown curly hair" when I did a Google search. A Google search may not be the best reference as to what rules to follow, but I use it to check what people in general use.

What is troubling me is that I may have taught the "wrong" order to my kids. If both orders are acceptable, then I can explain that to them.

Best regards,


Re: Describing hair: colour VS texture

Post by trolley » Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:07 am

For me, curly brown hair and brown curly hair are interchangeable and mean exactly the same thing . It’s the “straight” that throws in the curve. Straight may describe the shape or it may describe the colour. Straight can mean totally, completely, unadulterated. If hair is “straight black”, it might still be wavy (it’s just black, with no other colour in it). Having said all that, I agree with you. If I was describing someone who had black hair that was straight, I’d say “straight black hair”. How’s that for no explanation, at all? Now I’m curious to hear the real answer.

Re: Describing hair: colour VS texture

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:01 pm

Whoever coined the term 'the royal order of adjectives' must have had in mind that there seem to be quite a lot of unruly subjects.

Re: Describing hair: colour VS texture

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Jun 08, 2014 1:19 pm

In UK English straight can only refer to the shape.

'Straight black hair' is totally interchangeable with 'black straight hair'.

In my case, "I used to have hair" is much more appropriate.
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Post Reply