Shave and a Haircut, Two Hits

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Rogier van Bakel at Nobody's Business points to this disturbing NY Times report on Baghdad barbers being shot and killed for daring to give male customers "Western-style haircuts" or shaving their beards.

Hair has a long history as a cultural and political signifier–just ask the Roundheads of the English Civil War. With nary a mohawk, wedge, or buzz cut among the staff, Reason has long tracked the phenomena and, more important, tyrannical attempts to control it. Earlier this year, for instance, we noted North Korea's nutjob crackdown on shaggy manes. And Charles Paul Freund's excellent 2003 story, "In Praise of Vulgarity," takes a long look at the Taliban's war against Leonardo DiCaprio-style haircuts and other disapproved tonsorial displays.

NEXT: Straight Outta Crawford

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  1. You can cut your own hair pretty easily with a Kmart haircut kit, if you’re not overly particular about what it looks like. I mean it looks okay. You don’t even need a mirror once you get the hang of it.

    I’m not sure what part being a dandy plays in Iraq, or here in America for that matter.

  2. Those brave Iraqi freedom fighters are attempting to halt the spread of the American empire. They are like the Minutemen who killed Boston barbers who gave British-style haircuts.

  3. Split ends are proof that you love Allah.

  4. gaius marius, any thoughts? One could always argue that Western haircuts are a break with tradition and another manifestation of dangerous individualism.

  5. How is a Western haircut individualistic when every suburban kid wants his hair to look like every other suburban kid’s hair?

  6. How is a Western haircut individualistic when every suburban kid wants his hair to look like every other suburban kid’s hair?

    I don’t know, but I’m sure gaius marius could find a way to claim that it is.

  7. Even years later, I am still surprised at the cultural shift one takes by adopting a hair style of “nil”. On a dare (and a bad hair decade), I Bic’d it all off, and immediately became immune to all the myriad advertisements for baldness “treatments” (lasers, pills, shampoos, ad infinitum), which, judging by sheer volume, is the #2 preoccupation of men (I’m still suceptabled to have the #1, but Mr. Happy is doing fine).

    In addition, I get to have a small internal chuckle at ads for shampoos (dandruf and otherwise), conditioners, colorings, hair cuts, and, well, articles like this.

    Sitting at one of the polar extremes (this being the other), I think I can state authoritatively that one’s choice of hair style represents one the greatest freedoms a Human can enjoy (or lose).

    And mine in particular can be achieved entirely individually, with only a caveman’s level of technology (a mirror is nice, but after a few years you can do it pretty well just by feel).

    Unfortunately, I’d probable have to recommend aginst it, if you’re living in the desert.

  8. A fatwa against mullets! Finally, religious extremism I can get on board with. And, I believe it’s the Bible that says, “There is none so blind as he who refuses to see – his own combover.”

  9. Wanting your hair to “look like every other suburban kid’s” might be a sign of conformity in America, but in Iraq, especially Fallujah where I just finished a military tour of duty, an individual choice in hairstyle or clothing can be a small but revolutionary thing.

    At Camp Fallujah, the KBR-ran drop-off laundry service is staffed by Iraqi nationals, many of whom had their faces shaved and hair cut by garrison barbers in a manner that wouldn’t exactly please the Quran-thumping clerics who want to keep all Iraqis under the iron thumb of their version of Islam, much like some U.S. politicos want to keep Americans under the iron thumb of their interpretation of Christianity.

    When I used to drop my laundry off at KBR (why we weren’t doing our laundry as Marines and Sailors, and wasting our fellow taxpayer’s money is a whole ‘nother rant) I used to jokingly think of all the young Iraqi men with their American Twentysomething haircuts as the Iraqi Backstreet Boys. They all looked as if they had been clandestinely whisked away to a secret-location SuperCuts.

    You could tell that despite being in a country that was a violent, chaotic mess, they were enjoying simple newfound pleasures of individualism like choice of hairstyle or clothing.

    It is exactly the right to enjoy those kind of “small freedoms” that mean just as much to establishing a true culture of choice, here, in Iraq, or anywhere, as the big, intellectual matters such as the congressional Schiavo tomfoolery.

    On another note, many thanks to the writers and bloggers of Reason.com for helping me to keep my sanity while in Fallujah, via the Internet. The Orwellian FOX News Network was EVERY-freakin’-where, in the chowhalls, gyms, workspaces, etc. Yes, there ARE atheists in foxholes (and libertarians too!!)

  10. CodeMonkeySteve,
    I did the same thing last year and adopted ‘nil’ as my summer do (part of it was a curiosity of what it would look like in case I got the bald crown). I liked it, the chicks dug it and like you I got the immunity to the advertisements you speak of.

    The best part is my hair when long is best described as a fro, so the reaction of people that see one or the other having last seen them at one extreme is worth the price of admission.

  11. I didn’t get to “nil” but “almost nil” even though I have no problem in the hair department (grey isn’t that bad). The first thing I found is that women almost half my age in clubs started giving me the time of day–and they’d probably give me more except I’m happily married.

    I wonder if that would work in Iraq…

  12. I didn’t like the comb-over look and started shaving what was left years ago. For a while I felt like a hat model-alway wore one. But now I really don’t give a shit what people think or say. Nice to be able to “wash my” with a wash cloth. Besides I wear a full beard so I have proof my hormones are working if the hair in my ears didn’t already show that.

  13. BAI: “It is exactly the right to enjoy those kind of ‘small freedoms’ that mean just as much to establishing a true culture of choice, here, in Iraq, or anywhere, as the big, intellectual matters such as the congressional Schiavo tomfoolery.”

    Great post and excellent point! That’s exactly why it’s distressing to see people so easily acquiesce to all the small regulations. It just slowly chips away at our freedom to make our own choices in life. You see some state propose something stupid like a law against “low-rider” pants, or whatever, and how many people just say, “yeah, I hate those things,” without even a thought to asking what business they have telling someone else what to wear. The desire to compel others to live how we would like them to live is ubiquitous; it takes constant effort to keep up the fight against even the “trivial” restrictions others are always seeking to impose on society, much less the big ones.

  14. *Ice Age statue known as the “Venus of Willendorf” has stylized hair

    *Sihks = long hair; religious aspects

    *Israel & Middle East in ancient times & today = women’s hair covered; considered too sexual

    *Polynesians = haircut for boys equals the entry into manhood

    *Baroque = wigs and very complex hairstyles for rich women; rich women often wore all manner of exotic things in their (such as model ships and the like); era when plays and other entertainments were put onto watch the audience and not the play

    *French revolution = return to the neo-classical style; evoking “Republican values”; think of David’s Oath of the Horatii; watching the play now

    *Black Power = the afro

    *Short hair on men in the West = “clean cut” in the modern West; short hair a development of the neccessities of WWI trench warfare (lice control)

  15. thoreau,

    Hairstyles are definately not a sign of “individualism,” except for perhaps the originator of the style.

    Born-Again Iconoclast,

    We were happy to oblige and glad to see you home in one piece. 🙂

    Guyk,

    Supposedly, bald men are more testosterone-laden on average than the non-bald. 🙂

  16. Indeed — some have even been observed to ravish the carpet if no other outlet presents itself.

  17. Hairstyles are definately not a sign of “individualism,” except for perhaps the originator of the style.

    Wrong. People who knowingly keep hairstyles that are “out” are showing individualism. (Not knowingly = bad taste.)

  18. I let my hair grow until I look like an old hippy, then have it cut to look like an old Marine.

  19. The Real Bill,

    Not if they are part of a demographic that does that. I guess one could say the “mullet” is out of style, yet enough people wear one that it is hard to call them “individualists.” To use an analogy, this is bit like a hippy wearing Birks, etc., calling himself an “individualist” or a person dressed as a punk for that matter.

  20. Gary, you can’t really say that “Hairstyles are definately not a sign of “individualism,” except for perhaps the originator of the style.”

    All sorts of things are signs of individualism. Hell, owning a gun is considered a sign of individualism to some people, and how original is that?

  21. How is a Western haircut individualistic when every suburban kid wants his hair to look like every other suburban kid’s hair? -Twba

    Hmmm. That kind of reminds me of this quote…

    There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist. -Ayn Rand

    Yep. I knew a guy in high school that was exactly like that…

  22. I can’t believe nobody has made this reference yet. Am I that old?

    “Hairstyles and Attitudes” by Timbuik 3

    Hairstyles and attitudes,
    Are they connected?
    Are styles we embrace a matter of taste,
    Or values rejected?
    Hairstyles and attitudes,
    How do they relate?
    How well do we use the freedom to choose
    The illusions we create?

    Blowdried, bouffant, basic training, cops in drag
    Dressed up like whores, cowboys in pony tails,
    Bankers in bangs, presidents in pompous pompadours
    Mommies in mohawks, daddies in dreadlocks,
    Heavy metal goldilocks, trying to look tough,
    The wet look, the dry look, the FBI look,
    But can you judge a crook by his cover-up?

    (Chorus)

    Razorcut, lazercut, chopped and channelled,
    Curled-up, slicked back, hanging in the eyes,
    Parted left, parted right, straight down the middle,
    Scientists say your hair never lies, they’ve done lots of research,
    It may be just hype, but the latest findings cause me to tremble,
    They’ve categorized us into three basic types,
    By which of the Three Stooges we most closely resemble

    (Chorus)

  23. Gary Gunnels: Yeah, I know. When I first started losing my hair years ago I asked my doctor about the problem. He informed me that the same hormones are used for sex and hair. Those who have more hair generally have less sex. I have not worried about hair loss since.

    I have heard my share of the baldie jokes seeing as how I was bald before it became fashionable to shave ones pate.

  24. He informed me that the same hormones are used for sex and hair. Those who have more hair generally have less sex.

    I think this is what doctors say to make baldies feel better about their cueballs.

    DHT is responsible for both good libido and hairloss, but the difference between baldies and the haired among us is that baldies hair responds more strongly to the hormone.

    I’ve always thought it was interesting that we’ve never elected a bald president. Should Dick Cheney ever use some emergency powers clause to declare himself dictator for life, you can be sure we’ll all be mandatorily coifed like the samurai of feudal Japan.

  25. I’ve always thought it was interesting that we’ve never elected a bald president.

    What about IKE

  26. Pavel,

    Beat me to the punch.

    Taft was also bald while in office.

  27. J.Q. Adams was also bald some time in his life, but I can’t recall whether he was in office or not at the time.

  28. Actually a lot of presidents were either bald, had thinning hair or receding hairlines.

    LBJ and Ford most recently.

    I don’t know that this proves anything.

  29. LBJ and Ford most recently.

    Well, I did say we’ve never *elected* a bald president. So Ford is out. And LBJ was hardly “bald.” You got me with Ike though.

    Still, that’s one lone exception on the cusp of the TV age. I think it’s fair to say that bald men have no chance to run for, let alone win the presidency.

  30. So Ford is out.

    Got me there. My bad.

    LBJ might not have been bald, but he did have thinning hair and receding hairline.

  31. Actually a lot of presidents were either bald, had thinning hair or receding hairlines.

    LBJ and Ford most recently.

    I don’t know that this proves anything.

    Proof:

    I. Actually a lot of presidents were either bald, had thinning hair or receding hairlines.

    II. LBJ and Ford most recently.

    III. Hilary Clinton may run for President.

    Therefore, Hilary Clinton will go bald and then be elected president. Q.E.D.

    (Sorry for the spoiler!)

  32. Having more hair than W didn’t help Kerry.
    But then, having a bald spot and a comb-over didn’t help Gore.

  33. “Shave and a Haircut, Two Hits”

    What is, the Friday Afternoon Special at the Haight/Ashburg Barbershop?

  34. Ah, crap. “Ashbury.”

  35. Take another hit, joe. 🙂

    Then pass it along.

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