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Fads: The Short & the Long of It

3 minute read

At a Bronx Catholic high school, the dean greeted two boys with a pair of shears, quickly lopped off their locks. In Houston, the son of a Rice University professor was kicked out of Lamar High School just five days after it opened for refusing to get a “proper haircut.” At the Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wis., no less than 175 boys were turned away from the school’s doors because of their hairdos.

Since the rise of the Beatles, long hair has spread from hard-core rock ‘n’ roll fans to the entire teen and post-teen population. Styles that once were seen only atop Los Angeles and Greenwich Village beatniks are now cropping up all over.

The staid old teen-age crew cut is receding. A Chicago barber reports that 80% of his young customers now ask for the long cut, compared with 10% five years ago. Says John A. Maloney, a Cambridge, Mass., barber who specializes in shearing Harvard students: “They come in and want it trimmed as long as possible. I use scissors and a comb. There’s no place to use a clipper. There’s no scalp to get close to.”

A Wash a Day. Most of the longhairs can be parted into two groups—the “greasers” and the “surfers,” sometimes known as “soshs” (pronounced so-shhs). Greasers knead their locks with greasy kid stuff, then comb it back into long waves that lap against their collars. Surfers achieve a wind-blown effect by constant washing—sometimes every day. They either let their locks dangle just above their eyebrows, a la Prince Valiant, or sweep them back over one side of the forehead into the “frat” look. Because the resulting bang usually slips down to cover one eye, many fraters develop a tic from jerking their heads back to clear their vision.

Parents tend to deplore the progression toward long hair. Says David Mauldin, the 15-year-old son of Cartoonist Bill Mauldin: “My father thinks it makes me look like a faggot.” In their own defense, students point out that long hair has been a sign of virility ever since Samson, claim that they often grow mop tops because their girl friends want them to.

The odds are that the hair will continue to grow for at least a year. In London, where the trend has had a few years’ start, there is hardly a hair’s difference between the sexes. The principal of a technical school in Peterborough recently reprimanded a girl for using the men’s lavatory—only to discover that she was a he.

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