I remember the first time I struggled with this verse. How long is long? Who is going to set the standard? Who is to say? What is the principle involved here?
Another question we might ask, is this the most important thing we need to correct with a young person? Should we correct their style of dress, should we jump on them with regard to their tattoos and piercing, their hair color and length and the cut of their clothes?
1 Corinthians 11:14-16 (NASB)
14 "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him,
15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God."
The context of this passage must be carefully considered. The subject under consideration is the role that God has assigned to the man and to the women. We are to respect those roles. Men should be men, and women should be women.
Admittedly, this is not Politically Correct, but it's Biblically correct. It is apparent that in Corinth the women were stepping out of their God given roles and assuming duties that were assigned to Men. They were in rebellion.
In verse 14 the apostle Paul uses a form of argumentation that was very popular in his day, he uses an argument from nature. This type of argumentation was relatively well known in the first Century. In fact, the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, appeals to the fact that God has given men and women different amounts of hair to distinguish the two sexes from each other.
Is this what Paul had in mind when he uses the term "nature"? Most scholars argue that Paul was pointing to "what was accepted by common consent and usage at that time." What we know for certain is that most men of propriety in the first century did indeed use barbers and typically had short hair. It was only the male homosexuals, or the unkempt cynic philosophers who "typically" might have long hair.
But I believe that this explanation really misses the point made by the apostle Paul in this context. Paul is appealing to the facts of creation and to the good judgment of his Corinthian brethren. By nature women have long hair. God gave her this covering as a sign of her womanly right and dignity. To cut it or try to make it appear that she is a man is to dishonor God and nature. For a man to appear that he is a woman is to dishonor God and nature.
I do not believe that most of our modern hair styles violate this principle. Even when a man has long hair today, it is usually in a style that is clearly manly. If a man attempts to look like a woman, then he has violated this principle.