What is the purpose of a married woman covering her hair? I’ve heard many conflicting reasons in the past. Some say it’s to make the woman unattractive, yet others say a woman is allowed to look attractive and the covering is only to make a statement that ‘she is not available’… What is the halacha and what is the source for it?
The reasons why married women have to cover their hair essentially is because they are commanded to do so, as stated in tractate Kesubos 72a. The reason is because now that she is married she has to have an extra measure of modesty, and not merely to make a statement that she is unavailable. We learn that a married woman must cover her hair from the fact that a sotah (the married woman who is suspected of adultery) was publicly embarrassed by having her hair uncovered in public. If the point of a married woman’s covering her hair was merely to make this statement, in this situation, everyone knows that she is married- otherwise she wouldn’t be a sotah. Additionally, the uncovered hair of a married woman is considered ervah, and a man may not say berachos or daven when he can see it. If her covering her hair is just to make a statement that she is available, her hair wold not be considered ervah.
The question is however raised as to why don’t single girls have to have this extra measurement of tznius? One of the reasons is that a married woman should minimize her beauty when she is outside of her home because right now she is forbidden to the whole world, and her beauty is for her husband. Therefore beautifying herself, and making herself attractive for others like she did when she was single is improper. (This does not mean that a woman can not dress nicely, it is however a reason why regarding her hair which is one of her beauties, should be covered and therefore minimized.) It also happens to be that when she dresses differently than a single girl, it is giving the message to others that she isn’t available, but the reason is because she now needs an added level of tznius.
Levusha Shel Torah chapter 21. There are other reason given why she has to cover herself more than a single girl, among them is because her sinning now is a much more severe sin, and because she might be more prone to sin.