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     Volume 5 Issue 105 | July 28, 2006 |

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Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

Nader Rahman


A couple of weeks ago I went out to buy some shampoo and conditioner. As I politely asked the salesman to show me a few bottles I realised that he was laughing to himself while serving me. I wondered if food was sticking out of my mouth or if I had left my fly open, it was negative on both accounts. As I went to the cashier to pay, even she had a little chuckle at me, now it was getting slightly annoying, what was going on? After that I got into my car only to find the security guard staring at my head in unblinking disbelief. Finally I got it, I was at the centre of attention for the lovely mane I sported, attention I would not have garnered if my hair was about a foot shorter.

In these uncertain times everyone is judged by their appearance, a bearded man in a kurta is obviously a terrorist; a bald headed man in Doc Martins is a neo Nazi and a black man in baggy clothes is always a suspect. But why is that so? Why is that even after we are told not to stereotype and judge books by their covers we still continue to do so? Is it just a sign of the times, that the collective anxiety and of the world is being released through a pressure cooker, and the valve that we let the pressure go through, is invariably that of mistrust in personal appearance?

Have you ever really taken anyone seriously who has had long hair? Whether or not you admit it the answer is no. As soon as you see the long hair, all common sense flies out the window and that person is branded, he cannot and will not be taken seriously. You look at them in strange amusement wondering what was going through their head when they decided to grow their hair, if you are an employer then you question their lack of desire and willingness to work. They will be hard to handle, and with all the stereotypes in mind you will most likely give that job to anyone but the gentleman with long hair. I wish to question this line of thinking, why is that long hair (for men) is associated with laziness and just in general a no good attitude. Let's blame The Beatles and heavy metal, every boys dream in the 60's was to grow their hair like a mop and become a Beatle. That hair cut symbolised everything that was good about being young, reckless and fearless.

The heavy metal hair of the 80's and 90's symbolised the hate, angst and disenchantment of a generation that seemingly never felt at home. Like Samson their long hair provided them with the power they needed to rebel against nothing in general. They were a generation of absurdists without even knowing it; their attempts to find meaning in life inevitably led them to the belief that nothing was true or worth living for. Albert Camus famously talked of a “conscious revolt” against trying to dodge the absurdity of the universe and for the youth of the heavy metal era, their lifestyle, fashion and hair were all they could express their hopelessness through. Their “conscious revolt” has in a way resulted in unconscious stereotyping. Long hair on any man now is still associated with heavy metal and their “all is lost so why bother doing anything” attitude.

Almost half the world's population has long hair, yet when on a woman, no one feels the need to judge them. Here it is my duty to remind everyone that short hair on men is only a style of the last hundred years. Before that “gentlemen” were ridiculed if they did not sport long hair and sideburns. Human civilisation suffers from selective memory. They only choose to remember what suits them best. Now some may say that it's only hair after all, and styles change every day, I agree completely. But if that was the case then why are long-haired men routinely discriminated against, it's only hair and their sense of style? Having grown my hair for two years now, I realised it was time someone take a stance on this issue (some may say like the youth of the 80's and 90's this is eventually a stance against nothing), but I disagree it is a stance for equality. Now that is a word that we hear a lot these days, equal opportunity jobs are all the rage, supposedly no one is discriminated against, yet that is not exactly what happens. Racial lines are still black and white so are the eyes that society views people through. A Latin American boy with tattoos will always be a hood, and long hair will always represent the rebel.

Let us say that you are businessman on the verge of a multi million-dollar deal and at the last moment you could not finalise the deal. You have two choices as to who should close out the deal; one man is impeccably well kept with a fifty-dollar haircut the army could have given for free. The other is just as impressive, except that he has shoulder length curly long hair. Most people would choose the man who spends more on a hair cut than most sub-Saharan Africans earn in six months. The reasons are multi-layered; firstly the man with the crew cut is what one looks for in deal breaking, the hair seems to suggest that he exerts control over himself and others, basically we tend to believe he is always in charge and on top of things. The gentleman with the long curly locks will forever be the second choice because his haircut (or lack of it) seems to suggest that he should be less relied upon. He will also not be chosen because the people he will be doing the multi million-dollar business with may not take him seriously and it will harm the credibility of the deal. The other side may just say, they will deal with someone that “looks” more professional. What was his crime? Why is it that long hair is what made him look so unprofessional? The answer is rooted in the sociology, culture and philosophy of the twentieth century.

I on the other hand am in a bullish mood, and I am willing to point fingers. The current view on long hair is deeply entangled with the hippies of the 60's, forget The Beatles and heavy metal music, it was during the decade of change that the image of long hair was tainted forever. More than just Free Love, Woodstock and smoking pot, what really made a hippie was his hair. That was the ultimate symbol of rebellion; to them the white men in the black suits were the machine. The only way to fight “the man” was to let go of everything, and that also included one's hair. For the better part of two decades they lived off the dole provided by the government they were against. They never got a job and became a nuisance to society as a whole. Their lack of ambition, purpose and desire is what defined them, and with that loafer attitude forty years later they have managed to make my life hell. People now associate their inebriated deer gazing into the headlights behaviour with their long locks. Anyone with long hair since then has had to live under the shadow of their deeds. They may have stopped the war, but only succeeded in starting a slander campaign against all things hippie, and that includes long hair.

These days people look at me differently, it is that look you give your guest at dinner when he has some food stuck in his teeth. To most people my long hair is that faux pas at the dinner table, all I can say to them is to blame it on the hippies. But after it's all said and done, even Jesus Christ had long hair.

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