The ’70s Bad Hair Blip

Last week I went to get my hair cut.  It’s been a hot summer in Columbus, and in my view hair of any appreciable length just adds to the heat, so I asked the Platinum Stylist to cut my hair extra short this time.  She did her usual terrific job, and when I walked out of the salon, I rubbed my hand over my scalp and realized my hair was probably as short as it has been since I was growing up in the ’60s.

shape_normalFor the first ten years or so of my life, I was a kid with a crew cut.  Dad used “home barbershop” clippers to give UJ and me buzz cuts in the basement of our house.  We went to school and played with our friends — all of whom also had buzz cuts — without thinking about our hair.  But as the ’60s moved forward, we became dimly aware that you were supposed to pay attention to your hair if you wanted to be cool, and those haircuts started to get a little bit longer.

The ’70s, though, were when the hair length really took off.  From a style standpoint, virtually everything about the ’70s, from haircuts to clothing styles to car designs, was an over-the-top disaster.  By the time I reached high school, I was one of the kids in the yearbook with the generic ’70s long hair look — grown down to the collar and then chopped off in the back, and grown down to eye level and parted to some fashion or another in front, requiring you to constantly fling the hair out of your eyes and out of your way.  Sure, your head looked like you were wearing a hairy bicycle helmet, and it was hot as blazes in summer, but that was the price you paid for fitting in.  And in college my hair got even longer.

But when the ’80s rolled around, and I started working as a professional, the hair trend reversed.  Over the last 30 or so years, my haircuts have gotten progressively shorter and more frequent, and I like it that way.  When I think of my haircuts as a kind of chart, it’s an extreme bell graph, with the ’70s being the height of the bad hair blip.  And when you look at a bell graph, it kind of looks like one of those bad ’70s haircuts, doesn’t it?

I’m glad I’m now on the other side of the bad hair blip.

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Women’s Hair, Men’s Hair

I get my hair cut at one of those unisex hair styling salons by the Platinum Stylist.  Kish gets her hair done there by the PS, too.  It’s a nice place with friendly staffers, conveniently located about halfway between the office and our house, and the Platinum Stylist always does a terrific job.

Because I go to a unisex salon, where about two-thirds of the clientele on any given visit are female, my appointments give me a brief exposure to the trends in women’s hair through the big posters that are always advertising women’s hair care products and styles — like this one that was hanging in the front window yesterday.  The posters always feature sultry, heavy-lidded women with vaguely haunted looks whose hair is carefully arranged to look . . . well, unarranged.  It’s as if some women want to go to the stylist and come out looking like they haven’t been there at all.  For most men, though, the goal is the exact opposite.  We want to get a clearly noticeable haircut, whatever style or amount of barbering we might choose, so that the whole process facially justifies the cost.

The words used in the women’s hair care posters inevitably are different than what would be used in male-oriented ads, too.  Sure, “effortless” would appeal to both men and women, but I’m guessing men would define it differently.  For women, an “effortless” coiff might require ten minutes of curling, claying, molding, brushing, shaping and spraying.  For men, an “effortless” style means something that can be toweled off after a shower and put into place with no more than ten seconds of diffident combing.

I’m not sure most men would be attracted by the promise that a certain product would leave their hair looking “touchable” or “tousled,” either.  I’m not particularly keen about anybody touching my hair; in fact, I don’t particularly want to touch it myself.  It’s hair, after all.  My basic hair goal is the opposite of the “tousled,” just rolled out of bed look.  Instead, I want to at least appear to have tried to do something to attack the stupid cowlick that always pops up on the crown of my head.  And whereas women’s hair ads always seem to be talking about “texture,” that seems like a lost cause to me.  When the word that best describes the “texture” of your hair would probably be “grizzled,” no “texture tonic” is going to help.

The Platinum Stylist

For years I had my hair cut by random guys named Joe and Ed who wore short-sleeved polyester shirts with a comb and scissors in the front pocket.  You sat in a long row along the wall, got the barber who had the next open chair, received a generic haircut, and heard him shout “Next!” and slap the chair clean when he was finished with the clipping.

Now I go to the Platinum Stylist.  It’s an upgrade.

IMG_3398I’ve been going to The Platinum Stylist for several years now, since back before her hair was platinum.  She works at the Square One Salon, which used to be a block from our offices.  I was assigned to her at random, and I liked her approach from the get-go.  She promised that the first haircut would be very good, the second would be even better, and the third would be perfect.  She was right — at least, as right as a dedicated practitioner of the tonsorial arts can be working with limp brown hair and a head shaped like mine.

She’s got a quick wit and a great sense of humor, so going to get my hair cut ends up being a fun social encounter.  She knows the names of Kish and the boys, remembers about travel plans we’ve discussed, and seeks my views on downtown dining options.  She puts up with my awkward attempts at humor in good spirits and remembers that my ultimate goal in every haircut is a vain attempt to look “distinguished.”

And she’s got an essential quality of any true professional:  she cares about the quality of her work.  I sit in the chair and see her in the mirror, gazing intently at my cranium, prowling from side to side, looking for a hair out of place or a section that needs an extra snip or two to produce the best possible result.  Her dedication to her craft is so obvious, and so impressive, that I’ve come to rely implicitly on her judgments in all hair-related categories.  If the PS suggests that I might want to trim the sides shorter this time, to try to combat the weird effect of the coarse gray hairs sprouting from my temples, I’m doing it.

IMG_3392She’s also convinced me to turn a quick haircut into a longer process.  Now I get not only a haircut, but also a shampoo, a scalp massage, a hot towel treatment, and a mini-facial.  After a long day’s work, getting a hot towel treatment is a pretty pleasant experience — and it sure beats old Joe tossing some witch hazel powder on my neck and buffing it with a coarse towel.

I’m such a dedicated fan of the PS that I kept going to her even after Square One moved to the other side of downtown.  What’s a short walk for an excellent haircut?  And it’s obvious that I’m not alone in my judgment about her capabilities, because I used to be able to schedule a haircut on the spur of the moment and that is true no longer.  I’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dog to make a new appointment at the end of every haircut. It goes against my standard devil-may-care approach, but the PS is worth it.

I guess I’ve come a long way from the “three chairs, no waiting” days.