MEN NEVER learn. We make fun of women’s fashions, joke and wisecrack about the latest coiffures just as we have about skirt lengths, plunging necklines, slit skirts, sheer tops or any fashion trend.
Well, guys, they ain’t got nothin’ on us.
I know something about men’s “do’s.” The changes I’ve seen go back to the early 1940s. Times, fashions and hair-do’s are like a pendulum.
There’ve been mutton-chop sideburns, longer hair, shorter hair, odd cuts and re-cyclings or new beginnings every decade or two.
Hard times, such as the Great Depression, invoked “getting your ‘money’s worth’” by cutting your hair short to maximize time between cuts. If you were poor, “short” was more accommodating to your wallet.
Then came World War II and the dual reasoning of value and of matching the look of the times — close-cropped GI/soldier looks.
Following WWII, GIs were in college and/or starting families and things reverted to cycles. Every few years, someone would do something daring and different and guys would say, “I’ve got to go with the new style.” (Sound familiar, gals?)
ATTITUDES became more varied after World War II, a bit more after Korea, but the tumultuous 1960s turned everything upside down. Rebellion and defiance became ingrained in society.
Then the U.S. waded into the Vietnam War and those differences became more pronounced and manifested themselves in many ways.
Young men flocked to college, to avoid being drafted to fight a war for which American leadership found no universal support, as it existed in both World Wars. Some fled to Canada, which declined to return them to face charges for refusing U.S. military service.
In protest, young men let their hair grow long, with mustaches and beards to provide a stark contrast — conventional haircuts and “longhairs,” an offshoot of being a hippie. Being labeled such involved doing what they termed peaceful things to protest the war: sit-ins and occupation of public areas to draw attention.
IN ADDITION to long hair, hippies’ clothing looked completely dirty, drawing jibes such as “the great unwashed.” This look proved particularly offensive to vast numbers of Americans, thus terms considered derisive were applied to demonstrators.
Hair and clothing styles began going through cycles. More moderate looks took hold although longer hair stuck around. Some even went to GI buzz/burr cuts, others to “flat-tops” to distinguish from longhairs.
I went through a transition from the normal combed “wave” in front, with a side part, to a flat top to longer hair reaching just over the shirt collar, a little unconventional but moderately acceptable. Mostly under-35 men sported longer hair.
In transition, I chose a hair-stylist (no longer a barber) who used hair-dryer heat and hair spray to create a stiff, molded look. That included using heat to “bend” the hair, invoking a “baseball cap bill” look (as my then-boss described it). That presented a “healthy hair” problem. Mine began to break off in clumps.
The owner of the salon, a brutish looking man, hadn’t noticed my stylist’s work until the breaking-off problem, and promptly fired the stylist and took over resurrection of health for my locks. His prescription was “perm” curls for a relaxed look and feel for my hair while it “recuperated” from its former treatment.
In an initial session, I was sitting with my hair in curlers, a plastic “sheet” wrapped around my neck, a dryer hood pulled over my head, going through this protracted “recovery.”
A big, burly guy — dressed Western, hat, boots and all — sauntered in, walked to where the dryers were, looked at me and began to snicker.
I’VE BEEN accused of looking stern, even “mean” although I never thought so. But, I was so ticked that I gave him what Julie calls my “God look.” Well, even at my being somewhat smaller at 170 pounds, he decided discretion was the better part of valor, the smile disappeared and he left.
It took a year for my hair to regain its “health” and I let the curls “grow out” and returned to my dull, combed-to-the-side look. While my hair isn’t quite as full as it used to be (think Donnie Wahlberg of the Blue Bloods TV show), it’s basically healthy and covers “most” of my head.
I’ve tried to be as normal as possible since — drawing no overt attention, snide smiles or snickers even if someone thinks I’m ugly. No more experiments with “do’s.”
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.