Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fighting the Long Hair War--for Almost 50 Years!

"So let them say your hair's too long.
I don't care, with you I can't go wrong."

Just cruisin' along in the Toyota last week when Sonny and Cher's 1965 number-one record "I Got You, Babe"came on the satellite radio.

I started thinking about all the crap I've taken in my life about long hair. Most recently I wanted to adopt the "Ben Franklin look," meaning that I'd grow my hair long and accentuate my bald head.  Then I'd get some John Lennon granny glasses and have the professorial look that I should be showing as an adjunct English instructor in the hallowed halls of Dominican University.

The wife didn't like the idea.  "You'll look like an idiot!" she said.  "I sure won't go anywhere with you if you do that!"   So I'm off to the barber shop this morning to get a trim of the remaining hair follicles around my bald pate.  I'd get it all shaved, but my head is so big that if I did shave the sides, it would look like the full moon had come to Earth!

My daughter used to ask me about her hair, since it is thick and curls in the hot weather like mine used to do. 

"Wear your hair the way you want," I'd tell her. 

She would keep at me. 

"Do you like my hair like this or not, dad?" she'd say. 

"Any way you like it, honey, is all right with me."

"But do you like it, dad?"

"Yes!" I'd say.  There was no way I was going to say anything negative about her, or anybody else's hair.  I've been fighting in the hair trenches since "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was released by the Beatles in February of 1964.

If only my old man would have had the same attitude as I have.  I remember coming home from Leonard and Henry's Barber Shop some time in early 1964 after getting a hair cut.  The Beatles had  five records on the charts at the same time, and every teenage boy wanted to dump the crew-cut (or in my case the Princeton) and grow his hair longer.  I just had Leonard the barber do a light trim so that my bangs began to touch the top of my forehead and the sides touched the top of my ears.  My hair was a far cry from the Beatles!

When I got home and was sitting on the stairs and taking off my shoes with my back to the kitchen, my old man came up behind me and kicked me as hard as he could right in the middle of my back.  The old man didn't like my haircut.  I stood up, backed him up against the kitchen counter, lifted my fist, and screamed, "If you ever touch me again, I'll kill you, you son of a bitch." 

The first major skirmish in the Long Hair War!

During the college summers and on breaks I worked at the Terra Cotta plant north of Crystal Lake where my mom's brother Harold Knox also worked.  He was a lifer at the plant, and everybody knew that we were related.  In 1968 when I grew my hair really long and  sported mutton chops and a Fu Manchu moustache, Uncle Harold stopped talking to me . . . completely.  I couldn't believe it, but when I told my mom, she said, "Get your hair cut, son!"

My usual ally had jumped ship!

The wife and I in 1970.  I'm still sporting the Neil Young mutton chops!

One time when I was in college, my buddies and I were refused service in a cafe in Bushnell, Illinois.  We sat there talking for 15 minutes before I realized we weren't going to get served because of our long hair.  There were only two or three other people in the joint.  "Ah, I don't think we're going to get served any food, guys," I said.  My buddy Mick started to create a scene, but I could see the 300 lb. crew cutted cook standing in the shadows behind the counter holding a billy club.  "Let's just leave quietly, boys," I said.  And off we went--three hungry hippies into the cold Bushnell night.

In 1975 my boss at the radio station told me I looked like hell because of my hair.  When I was in my first years at Fremd, the principal never missed an opportunity to tell me that I needed a hair cut.

Then all of a sudden at age 35, my hair was gone.  The war was over.  I had lost.

But if you look hard enough, the long hair war is still being fought.  The New York Yankees  have a policy banning long hair and facial hair.  As a White Sox fan, the Yankee hair rule makes me hate them even more.

 I was watching the Cubs game last night thinking how Jeff Samardzija and James Russell could never pitch for the Yankees today in 2012.  And the fact that Samardzija and Russell both pitched well last night is a comfort for this bald fighter for long hair rights. 

As Sonny sings in "Somebody," "It ain't long hair, it ain't short hair." 

It's your hair.  Wear it how you damn well please!


  1. O.K. This is true of me also. My old man, if he could grab hold of my hair, would drag me into the kitchen and buzz-cut with his hair trimmer until I could see my scalp through the remains. I vowed I would never do that to my children. So what happens today? My 28 year old comes by to have my wife buzz-cut his hair. The 25 does the same thing. Everything's a circle.

  2. I still remember getting sent home from High School back around '65 because my sideburns were too long according to Mr Wolf, the principal.

    I was shocked when my mother actually sided with me, and immediately went to the school and confronted Mr Wolf.

    "Curt's hair is not in keeping with our school policy", said Wolf. (In addition to the sideburns I also had the Beatle's style bangs at that time)

    My mother replied "And I don't think it's very fitting for a man in your position to wear that juvinile-looking crew cut! Kids are supposed to push the limits, you should know better."

    Mr Wolf didn't know what to say, so he relented and let me back in school.

    Maybe it's poetic justice that my daughter Melinda today runs a hair salon with several of her friends, and her customers have any hair style you can imagine, from the ultra-conservative to the absolutely bizzare.

    I totally agree with you, people should wear their hair the way they want.