In the fifties guys like The Fonz and Elvis wore their hair in a pompadour or ducktail, or maybe a jelly roll, others chose the flat top or crew cut. Hair differentiated the cool cats from the squares. Ladies styled their locks in the poodle, the pixie, the curly bob or the really risqué might spray their hair into a bouffant. The more hairspray the wilder the girl.
By the sixties had the girls wearing their hair in everything from Afros to Pixie cuts, to the flip, but if you wanted a reputation, the Beehive would do the trick. Must have been something about that hairspray. The guys were still sporting the pompadour, but hair styles were becoming more varied with the long geometrical hairstyle, men’s bob, short curly, side part, long hair straight or curly, slicked back, combed over, or big Afro. Then came the long-layered look and the iconic Mop Top, and we can’t forget the mullet. The Afro and the Mop Top like the Beehive and the Pompadour made a statement and was often the target, especially for the older generation, for derision and ridicule. What is it about our hair that makes people so angry?
The seventies brought a lot of similarities with both men and women’s hair styles from curly perms for both, to long-layered shags, dread locks, mullets, wedges, and long straight hair. Facial hair became more popular. Dread locks became society’s target of attack.
Eighties became more styled and the use of styling products more prominent. There was a return to the older styles like the fifties but with it came a new set of prejudices, and it continues.
Hair styles, tattoos, piercings, make-up, and dress are all ways we express ourselves, show our culture and our personalities, our interests, passions and affiliations.
I have always felt that hair styles were a great way for people to express themselves. It was usually less expensive and if they didn’t like it, they could shave it off or let it grow out. When my kids were young, I’d let them choose their hair style and as they got older even let them dye their hair. I remember someone accusing me of child abuse because I allowed them to get mohawks, something they’d all begged for. I waited until the last week of school figuring they could let it grow out over the summer if they didn’t like it. They had rat tails, braids, long hair and shaved heads. One even had his hair dyed in several different colors at once much to the horror and dismay of his prom date.
As they have grown older some have grown beards, dyed or bleached their hair, worn it long or cut high and tight, some have piercings, some have tats, their styles show who they are, their personalities, and what they feel is important.
Many of us conform to society’s expectations or more accurately to the expectations of our employers. I wear hated polo shirts with my company’s logo. I’m not allowed to wear shorts or leggings to work. They also frown on wild hair colors or excessive jewelry. I show my personality with accessories, colorful scarves, hair bands, jewelry and even colorful pants. I love color. I love ethnic clothes and have gotten strange looks when I showed up at church wearing my handmade African caftan or Mexican embroidered dress. I even hate to wear white underclothes. Clothes should make you happy not just cover your bits and parts. They show your personality. I don’t expect everyone to like what I like but I also don’t feel I need to apologize for letting the real me out once in a while.
A very nice man came into my store followed by another man who was joking with him about his curly hair. Now I knew the first man’s hair was a wig but evidently the other man did not. He kept going on and on about the man’s Toni, as in a Toni perm. When the first man left, the other commented that he didn’t understand why the man, a black man had to have his hair like that. Everyone knew he was black. He didn’t have to wear his hair like that. I really didn’t understand why it mattered to him. The black man was nothing but kind and pleasant, so why did his hair bother him so much? It was then I realized the joking wasn’t done in jest but was poking fun, and my heart ached that I might have hurt that kind man by going along with the joking.
“I like it,” I told the other man.
“What? You like his hair?” The man asked.
“Yep, I do,” I said, my voice stronger.
“Then why don’t you have your hair like that?”
I just smiled and explained, “My hair won’t stay like that not without a lot of product, and I don’t like to wear a lot of stuff in my hair.”
He left still commenting about that man’s hair.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand why what someone else does to their hair or body should matter to me. I don’t have to like it but if it isn’t affecting me, why should I care?
I had an aunt who liked to wear big, gaudy costume jewelry, it looked good on her. She also wore bright colors and enjoyed her clothes. A cousin wore a lot of makeup, and I remembered thinking it was artistic and pretty, but I’d never be able to do that. Others have styles I don’t care for or wouldn’t want for myself, like the really long fancy nails or the elaborate braids. I think they are pretty but I couldn’t wear them myself.
Why do we judge people who look different than us? Why not celebrate our differences? Whether it’s a beautiful young girl made up to look like a vampire or a handsome young man who prefers to dress colorfully with a bit of feminine flare or someone of a different ethnicity who embraces their culture, why not accept that we are all unique and part of the beauty of the world instead of expecting everyone to look, dress and act the same.
What are your thoughts? What fashion do you love or hate?