I sometimes wonder if eventually, we will arrive at a completely hairless civilization. I mean, think of all the cartoons and caricatures you’ve seen depicting the ‘advanced’ people of the future. Shrunken of body, their globular heads stand out like huge melons, which of course — like most melons — are completely bald. The idea is to suggest a vast intelligence throbbing inside the glimmering fruit.
Think of all the futuristic films you have seen. Not only are the evil geniuses who threaten Our Way Of Life usually bald but so are most of the little green men who turn up as aliens in dark country lanes when the moon is a raging and aggressive orange. Again the shiny skulls bulge under pressure exerted by what can only be massive, swamp-like brains capable of concocting reams of evil and ending Life as We Know It.
In such films of course there is always a crew of slavering, grunting hirsute hulks on hand as classic head-breakers in the employment of whatever Lex Luther clone is running the show, but these heavies are just window dressing, thrashing about in their chains until their chrome-skull Boss unleashes them to wreak havoc on Good Christian people.
The moral of the story is that the brightest bulbs are literally just that: bright bare glaring bulbs. Interrogation room equipment. The brain of Big Brother.
And speaking of morals, it is also true that clippers and sharp scissors have a lot to say about what the drill-masters are thinking. Aside from barber shops on Elm Street, there is nowhere that facial and scalp hair (among men) disappears faster than in the military and in prisons (the one existing to fight evil and the other to punish it). Ask most American moms and dads if they would prefer their young adult sons to look like they just got out of the Marine corps (in the style of ‘peeled onions’, as my Grandpa liked to call them) with domes as smooth as billiard balls and cheeks and chins barren of everything but pustules of acne — or to gyrate about sporting wild Medusa-like swirls of forest wildness on their heads and biblical beards that plunge from their jaws like angry sermons from tall mountains — and the answer will be plain every time: “Son, here are the garden shears and a wet cloth. Bathroom to your right. The mirror’s on the wall above the sink.”
A cropped noggin means NO NONSENSE. The message is simple: Lots of hair signifies a rebellious, subversive, anarchistic attitude out of step with the elevator music of the corporation and the whistle of the factory; conversely, a paucity or total absence of hair sends the message of seriousness, sobriety, tunnel-vision focus, cleanliness, and, above all, a willingness to forfeit all individuality for the sake of the SQUAD. And the NATION.
Another point of interest is that long hair (and here both men and women fall under the umbrella together) has long been seen as symbolic of unruly virility (guys) and boudoir sensuality (gals). It explains why the biblical Samson’s enemies decided that the best way to fuck his brain was to cut his hair. It depleted him utterly. Thus, in a culture where the Dionysian bent of spirit and an unbridled lust for bone-jumping are celebrated as attributes, one’s hair is given liberty to flow.
Accordingly, at least in the past, the hairier a man’s chest was, the more of a spunk-spraying Marlboro Man he was considered to be. (Now we live in an androgynous Age where it’s better for him to have a pallid little ‘breast’ the color and texture of thinly rolled pizza dough.) When the Goon Squads take over and Iron Authoritarianism holds sway — and human sexuality is identified as nothing more than a bunch of vile degenerates in the act Squirting Dirt — Sin must be squashed, abolished, vanquished— and at this point human hair is counted by the strand by censors with flashlights and measuring sticks and purifying bonfires to the side.
What I take from this is that ascetic frigidity and a daily grind of anal retention exercises are the marks of the Modern Militaristic State — while long hair remains the province of the Untamed Pagan Tribe, whose Jungian shadow is always lurking and waiting for the chance to jump out of the darkness and hurtle beast-like into our minds.
Or am I indulging in too much psychoanalysis of culture?
Probably it’s because I grew up in the 1960’s where hair became much, much more than a matter of personal choice or trendy style. Now, it’s not worth fighting over, and even back then, in the England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (it wasn’t called the UK then) of the 1960’s and early 70’s it was even trendy for professional footballers to grow their hair long. The famous/infamous Irish super star and love machine George Best springs to mind. The Brits were just cool cats, what with the Beatles and Stones, etc. And none of them were fighting in Viet Nam.
‘Nam’ defined the America of that era just as much as did the Civil Rights Movement. Maybe even more, although they were entwined in the sense that many young Black men, denied their civil rights as American citizens, were nevertheless drafted into the army to fight in Asia. They were cannon fodder in the Fat White Man’s War.
This was also the Age of the Hippies, and these hippies were well-known for their long hair. There weren’t a lot of Black Hippies, but the Soul Brothers who were on the same track developed their own unique hairstyle, which was known as the “Afro.” Some of them were quite spectacular. Lew Alcindor (the early version of Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and most of big-time athletes, musicians, and other entertainers were Afro-ed to the nines. Angela Davis, the Black Panther beauty, had a smooth oval face with an ebony treetop overlooking it. All the sheep in New Zealand couldn’t have produced that amount of wool, and if they had, it would have been the wrong color. It was, as they sometimes say even today, “a Black thing.”
In the spring of 1968, a ‘counter-culture’ rock musical hit the Broadway stage. It was called “Hair” and was a celebration of the Bohemian life-style and anti-war idealism of a generation of young Americans known as ‘the counter culture’. I caught the show in Manhattan and afterwards danced on the stage with the cast. (They had invited the audience to join them.)
But why would they call a Broadway musical “Hair” ? Well, this is where hair had become very political. In fact, back then you would not have heard the word “fashion” to describe any of it. Hair had become a much more serious issue — one that would set fathers against sons and create ruptures in families that probably, in some cases, have never healed.
What do I mean? This was the baby boomer era, and the kids eligible for the draft during the Nam period were precisely the offspring of men (not discounting their wives, of course !) who had fought in World War II. The veterans of the Armed Forces had returned from Europe and the Pacific as heroes. Rightly so. The Nazis and warlike Japs (they really were bad guys back then, and if you don’t believe me just ask the few Asians who remember or others who are educated on the topic) had to be stopped. After Pearl Harbor it was understood that the time for fucking about as ‘isolationists’ had ended. Hard as it is to believe, the Americans — who now have their greasy fingers firmly embedded in every pot and pie worldwide — at that point wanted nothing to do with another European war.
So, with WWII ended and the enemy put to rout, you had these heroes returning to ticker tape parades. Some were in wheelchairs, others were still looking for their missing arms and legs, but it didn’t matter. America was as happy as Bugs Bunny munching a carrot. The heroes and their wives then produced sons (and daughters). But pretty soon the new menace of communism had to be fought. Along came Viet Nam and these now fully grown sons started getting letters from Uncle Sam to report to the nearest draft board.
But the problem was that Viet Nam was a dubious venture from the start and a hard sell to the American public. Then things just kept getting worse and worse. A lot of young fellows couldn’t understand why they were being asked to go fight against little yellow people on rice paddies on the total opposite side of the globe who seemed to pose no threat whatsoever to American security. Moreover, the lid had blown off many aspects of staid, lukewarm, conservative American culture, changing the mental landscape completely. Kids were getting high. Getting naked.
OF COURSE, for most people nothing much seemed to change. It is useful to recognize that even during the most critical periods of revolution and socio-political upheaval, the people out in the boondocks just carry on as usual and hope it will all soon blow over. Revolutions are fought by tiny mobs steered by ambitious politicians with big plans for THEMSELVES. All this ‘storming of the Bastille’ mumbo-jumbo is mostly overrated; the real power orchestrating the changes (in that case Jacobins and Girondists) are operating behind the scenes. This was also true in America. The long-haired dissidents had no more real power than the ‘progressives’ of today, but just like the progressives they were a loud and persistent presence. As such, they were all over the evening news. Students were occupying administration buildings on university campuses and raising a lot of hell. For all of that, the Viet Nam War went on and on, long after LBJ had passed the baton to Richard Nixon.
Thus, while the farm boys out in Nebraska and Iowa dutifully went off to war (along with a disproportionate number of black people and poor kids of all backgrounds), the educated elites said Fuck You to authority and all the old war films starring Lee Marvin and John Wayne. They were listening to Bob Dylan. And so they said “Hell No, We Won’t Go!.” But gritty old Daddy Warbucks sitting in the kitchen with his peeled onion and can of Budweiser didn’t want to hear that. Not at all. And when he looked at his ‘coward’ of a shaggy-ass son, the first thing he saw was that Long God Damned Hair. It became the symbol of two generations of Americans fighting to the death ideologically. In their own home.
A mop of hair.
That’s why they called the famous Broadway musical “Hair”.
The other day I read a blog that a guy had written regarding women shaving or not shaving their armpit follicles. It’s nice to know, I guess, that while the physical appearance of the trendiest young men and women in the West, especially in Europe, has started to produce a look-alike effect wherein telling the difference between them gets harder and harder(I think it kinda sucks but that is not what this essay is about), it is probably becoming easier to choose clothes and toys and names. So the genders are blending. But the hair issue still sets them apart and persists in making statements.
Hair length for guys seems to be mostly non-political, but for women this is not the case. Maybe we are undergoing a cultural metamorphosis in which the men are turning into soap sculpture (shaving their heads and legs, etc) and the women are shearing in places where they used to keep a mane of hair (there are a lot of cropped-headed women now) and in the pubic area (once referred to as their ‘beaver’). Meanwhile pelts of armpit and leg hair are being proudly sported and embraced by the militantly liberated females.
As regards armpit hair (as I take my cue from Jimmy Doom’s blog), I’ll offer a brief excerpt from an autobiographical book I am writing. This describes part of my first morning in Venezia, Italia, 1970:
*******”I remember climbing aboard one of those vaporettos and seeing a strange site, well, strange in one certain way. There was a young Italian man and his lady on one of the boats. (Nothing bizarre there; I was in Italy, after all.) She had short black hair and a dark gold face, her skin swarthy and radiant on a tight voluptuous body. Desirable to the extreme — especially to a two-nights sleepless, jet-lagged young guy like me who was out on his feet yet maniacally horny, which was totally in accordance with my habitually promiscuous soul. But what struck me, as soon as she raised her arms, was that she had a sharp, compact crop of jet black hair under each one. Wow ! Amazing ! Horrible (Gasp !) ! But…strangely… W.o.n.d.e.r.f.u.l….
In America back in those days, a woman with hair under her arms would have been chased from the village or at the very least made the subject of Biker and Pollock jokes (actually I don’t think Pollock jokes existed yet, but maybe they did). In Italy it was seemingly OK. Stunning, the effect it can have on you when you have been dealing with some kind of taboo all your life, and suddenly everyone says “Hey, let’s do it! Why not?” It’s all the more amazing, because many of us then take a deep breath and jump in with both feet, as if into a strange lagoon of dark syrup. And come up for air feeling much better for taking the plunge.
Anyway, I found this woman intriguing. I mean, it’s not like she had a nest full of bugs under her arms. But the darkness of the hair added to her Mediterranean glow — she was like a serpent wrapped around a mango — and gave her body an aura of almost intimidating freedom. Like, yes indeed…a strange lagoon of dark syrup. It made her the picture of sex — wild and fierce — this woman, long lost now, who belonged to another guy, as so many of them do — the handsome man at her side who, I suspect, hadn’t become bored with her yet, O that morning which time has consumed !
She would be my age now, or older, maybe dead, and the passing thought is too bleak to dwell on. As I think about her now, her face is a blur, but I remember vividly those crisp shocks of sable adorning her Venetian armpits one long ago morning among the canals and cats and rats of the pearl of the Adriatic.”************
On the other hand, I recall living in an apartment complex during my graduate school days in Gainesville, Florida. We were all neighbors and friends in this boxlike set-up which had a scruffy little yard in the middle that was just wide and long enough for a makeshift volley ball court. We all used to swill beer, devour doped-up brownies and play volleyball on the weekends. The Feminist Movement was alive and well even back then (1981–2), and one of the Feminist fads of the era was for young women to go bra-less (fifty claps from me for that) and to NOT shave their legs (which prompted the NOOOOOOOOO! buzzer from me).
There was an otherwise very attractive young lady, not terribly unlike that Italian woman in terms of her swarthy complexion, who would join us and who had let the hair grow up and down her legs. She was friendly, even vivacious, and rather sensuous, I suppose. Volleyball is a great sport for guys who enjoy watching bra-less women who are adequately endowed in the mammary department, and I daresay that even the most WOKE male unit of them all would have had difficulty in averting his eyes completely whenever Gina (as I will call her) sprang up to spike the ball over the net.
But the hairy legs…and boy they WERE hairy…were about as appetizing as a dude with a big five o’clock shadow shaving and then sprinkling the black nubs from his chin over a bowl of porridge. Or dust from a vacuum cleaner bag being emptied over a glass of milk and left floating on the top.
Gina was still salvageable because she was a great person. Even now I can offer no explanation aside from personal preference for how awful I thought it looked (though I am sure that the Sociologists and Psychologists could work it out). Probably something to do with my childhood. It just didn’t fly for me. The hairy legs.
Finally, there is the issue of pubes. Soooooo much has changed since the days when I was a lounge lizard of lovers’ lanes. Back then, none of the girls shaved, and some possessed a pubic mass bountiful enough to stuff LeBron James’ Christmas stocking. THAT I found sexy, and when women started trimming it down I was really put off at first. It seemed almost like having sex with a child, and that is one place (for all my character flaws and ‘immoral’ leanings) I would never go. It was like pulling off a woman’s ‘drawers’ and discovering a skinhead lurking in them. With a slit from a razor blade on top.
But I got used to it. And you know, just as some men have more attractive dicks than others (I’m not gay either, at least not yet, but I have had 10,000 showers in locker rooms everywhere in Christendom following sports and fitness training , so I’ve seen all the junk in the warehouse. Some — even as a straight guy I can spot it clearly — are definitely the pick of the litter.) — so are some women extremely beautiful ‘down there’. Incredibly kissable-lickable just for starters in a way that all the public hair of yore somewhat detracted from. Also, back then, women often smelled bad. Just ignorance of proper hygiene I guess, because 9 out of 10 of the girls I knew placed a high value on cleanliness and all owned at least one bar of soap— but any older man will verify what I am saying. (It’s where unseemly phrases like “stink finger” came from).
Hope all this doesn’t sound crude or insensitive. Not my intention. Just saying how it was…
The moral of the story? Anything can become fashionable if the fashion people keep after it long enough.
There was time when guys who were going bald would do anything to hide the fact. Either slap on some dead animal looking toupee’ and clamp it down with pancake syrup until super glue was invented, or with a pair of tweezers tighten up on a few isolated strands and stretch them out strategically across the cranial runway like three different strains of a virus as seen under a microscope. All this as around the sides and backs of their heads a lingering mutton-chop crescent would hang, hedge-like, as if to preserve the “Look ! I’ve still got some !” angle which these poor midlife crisis guys desperately hoped would somehow cause their secretaries to go moist.
I don’t think any of it worked. Now guys, even teenagers with more hair atop their heads than brains inside them, when not waxing their chest and legs just peel it off and have done with it. Even the pubes. Makes their dicks look bigger and longer, they say.
Even without dandruff, we are all helpless in the face of War, Politics, and Fashion. The only real problem I can see is that, bald or bushy, people seem about the same as ever.