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You can be whoever you want but you have to have an opinion on hair

You can be whoever you want but you have to have an opinion on hair

According to advertising and popular media, people are measured by their possessions and their looks. Two of the material items that almost always crop up are the car and the mobile phone. The one personal attribute that endures is hair.

If the media is to be believed, you can be the most pathetic loser and still get by if your hair looks decent. As far as women go, great hair seems to be the route to meaningful social interaction and decent orgasms. In fact, a couple of adds bluntly state that a woman who does not have long, shiny hair will be socially ostracized and excluded from any meaningful professional interaction in the workplace.

I’m not very good at looking after my hair: my haircuts happen on an irregular basis, usually every three to six months depending on how busy my schedule is. My few experiments with long-term, hassle-free maintenance and a number two electric clipper blade got me a politely worded request from my then partner.

I enjoyed having little or no hair. The routine of washing and combing involved a quick rinse and possibly a hand run through the fuzz on top of my skull. Having little or no hair was particularly pleasant in summer. I also learned the true meaning of ‘feeling the wind in your hair’, a sensation that my thick straw-thatch mop had previously denied me. My wife was very clear that it gave me a thuggish appearance, however I somehow enjoyed the sensation of watching people cross the street to avoid me and having the pavement to myself.

The fascinating thing about hair is that it has become a symbol for belief, belonging and everything for which the individual stands. A car that appeared to be the height of modernity and ‘cool’ seven years ago now looks like it belongs in a scrap heap, and it probably does. In order to stay current, a mobile phone needs replacement every six months, possibly sooner. Clothing styles change on a seasonal basis. Hair is with us for life.

The original archetype for this idea was Sampson. Sampson’s long hair was the source of great strength given from God. The moment he cut his hair, he lost his power. There is a lot that can be read into this story if you don’t take it at face value. Perhaps Sampson’s belief in the linkage between God and his hair was the actual source of his strength.

In my childhood, boys were expected to wear their hair about three or four centimeters above their ears and collars, and what little hair remained had to be kept short. This was a symbol of our decency, trustworthiness and blind obedience to idiots who thought that a coconut epitomized presentability and manliness.

Our teachers and other mentors saw long hair as a symbol of the sort of effeminate degeneracy that leads to homosexuality, communist tendencies, drug taking, unnatural acts with farm animals and possibly even dancing with girls. In one or two of the above instances they were right. Those of us who chose to wear our hair closer to the collars and ears did so in the rebellious spirit of youth.

The strange thing is that, as far as I can see, long hair has always been fashionable and short hair is more the exception than the rule. Sampson wore it long. The generation that colonized the world wore it long. And I’m sure that General Custer, in his very last moments at Little Bighorn, had a very real fear of losing his flowing locks to the scalper’s brutal knife.

Today, one of the most noticeable fashion phenomena is the so-called ‘slaphead’ or ‘chrome-dome’. No hair is a fashion statement, as long as you can keep your scalp waxed and gleaming. Where will we be tomorrow and what will we believe in, given that the range and scope of hairstyles is ultimately determined by how often we cut our hair and how much we remove?

Linking the hairstyle to beliefs and ideologies is not as spurious as it may sound. After all, with all the different shapes, sizes and pigmentations in the human parade, we need one common thing that links us together.


 

About The Author

Pierre Maré

Pierre Maré is a multi-awarded Namibian advertising strategist and copy writer. From 2004 to 2016 he wrote a weekly tongue-in-cheek column for the paper Economist, eventually amassing an impressive 590 articles over the almost 12-year period. This series of Offbeat is a digital rerun of his pieces that received the highest reader acclaim. - Ed.

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