The Samson Factor: Men and their Hair

“I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!”

by Galt Gerome Ragni, and James Rado from ‘Hair’

It is a truth, seldom acknowledged, that men are really fussy about their hair. They may project an air of nonchalance in either style or attitude, but when push comes to shove, do not mess with a lad’s locks.

One of my earliest feelings of failure as a parent (of the thousands I don’t remember, which my offspring do, naturally) is of taking my eldest son to a budget stylist for what was meant to be a ‘Caesar Cut’ (short all over except for a small-gelled up fringe, all the rage in the nineties). I use the term ‘stylist’ loosely because no sooner had I given her the trimming instruction, than the inattentive apprentice took a number one razor straight over the poor child’s head from forehead to neckline.

I watched with impotent pity as she completed her sheep shearing and the tears rolled silently down his eight year old face. Not even winning the lottery that very night would have rectified the butcher’s work.

He went on to have a complicated relationship with his curly, red mane, keeping it really short; growing a truly impressive ginger afro in his first year at university and even, one memorable summer, having it relaxed – only to discover that he probably shouldn’t have swum an a chlorinated pool with it. Today he has a deep red, hipster beard which would make a lumberjack proud and is the envy of his brothers. The strawberry mane is receding ever so slightly, much to his horror at having probably inherited his maternal (always your mother’s fault) grandfather’s male pattern baldness.

By contrast, his younger brother has opted for the New Romantics’ foppish and floppy look so popular at the moment. When the ‘stop the knot’ craze was circulating on social media, at least three people posted the clip (get it?) on his Facebook page (pun not intended). He too has had some salon nightmares, but they involved his mother (twice) marching back into the hairdresser with a mortified and mulish son in tow, demanding to see the ‘person who cut this boy’s hair’ and insisting that they sever the offending, inappropriate strands. Needless to say he now frequents a different barber. Michael’s hair is brown, yet he sports a ginger beard which assures me that I brought home the correct child from the hospital back in 1997. Each reluctant shaving of his face at the end of the school holidays is recorded stage by stage for Instagram and mourned with Prep Cream moistening and dirge-like whistling.

The youngest boy in the house has yet to develop facial fuzz, but has reached that heightened stage of hair-consciousness known as adolescence. He alternates between the jagged Sonic the Hedgehog look and a beanie-smarmed Superman (sonder kuifie) do. He too has perfected the boxer-like bob which avoids anyone ruffling his coiffeur, which is so typical in young men. His only brush (hey another pun!) with maternal ire over haircuts was when Michael (spot the pattern here) took him to the local Pakistani barbers who regularly cut his hair and allowed them to shave him a glorious Mohawk. Note to self: Never send Michael to accompany a sibling again.

My husband, on the other hand, has forsaken the elegant shaved pate he had previously resigned himself to (as his mother’s ancestral baldness reared its head in competition with the encroaching grey) in the vain hope that someone will play with his hair, so he is expectantly in the process of growing out his spikey tonsure.

I have noticed at school too that boys are most touchy about rules limiting their tresses and bristles. Wannabe hippies have been known to convince their parents to change schools for them to avoid Samson’s fate at the hands of discipline Delilahs. On one notable occasion I sent a youngster off to shave in the bathroom, having repeatedly warned him to do so at home a la the school code. He cut himself rather spectacularly, having only ever used scissors on the long walrus wisps up until then (unbeknownst to me – I must defend myself). His elderly parents stormed the building demanding I apologise for such ‘child abuse’ of their son, never mind that the hirsute little blighter had gained serious street cred for being the first Grade 8 to be made to shave.

We women in the house are boring by comparison (okay except for Shannon’s mercifully brief ombre phase) as all of us have long hair, sans much styling. But who am I to criticise: I have a history of questionable hairdos, from a perm and big eighties teasing to listless pageboys. So I shall remain mum and console them when Grandad Markey’s genes catch up on them all.

Picture from clipart.com

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