“Do you remember when you had hair?”
It was awhile ago for most of us. But those were the days. The 1950s. Hey, hey. We were hot. Drapes, as wide at the knee as possible, as tight at the cuff as possible. A chain looping down from our pocket. For awhile, a high waist, like a high, high waist. Like any higher and it was going to be under our armpits. Tailor made. These pants didn’t come off any rack. I had a blue pair and a black pair that had small white checks. Look out baby. This one hundred and fourteen pound teenager was ready to rock your heart.
What I didn’t have was good hair. No good hair, no girls.
Good hair, you don’t know what good hair was? Okay, today, standing in the checkout line behind a grocery cart filled with toilet paper, paper towels, bags of potatoes, there are all these guys with shiny pates, the glare army that could blind the Syrian charging down from the fold. They wouldn’t need to hold up their shields, just all bend over toward the sun and let their shiny scalps blind the enemy. It’s hard to believe but there was a time when some of those guys piling Metamusal, PeptoBismal, and denture glue onto the checkout counter had killer hair.
My hair was so curly, so kinky, so frizzy that even though my father barbered part time when he wasn’t commercial fishing he couldn’t do anything with it. He said, “It’s like mowing a lawn.”
Killer hair was the kind that you could cut short at the sides and leave long on top so it could be swept back over the head. Killer, killer hair was the kind you could pull forward into a big wave just above your forehead, the kind of wave a girl could surf on. The very, very best hair had a big surfer wave and two or three smaller waves behind it. Hair like this walked down the school corridor and you could hear the sweater sets, the barrettes, the pleated skirts, the bobby socks sighing. Some held onto each other so they wouldn’t sink to the floor in ecstasy.
There wasn’t many a three wave head of hair but there was one that played the guitar and by the end of grade twelve four of the sweater sets were pregnant. His hair could have started its own polygamous community. He’d seen a Tony Curtis movie and had got himself a duck’s ass haircut. He parted it on one side, combed the top over the other side, then combed the sides straight back so they met in the middle of the back of the head. Long, golden hair, swept back rakishly, teasingly falling forward in a wave cemented in place. Girls found his Greaser style irresistible. It’s a good thing some irate fathers had a chat with him or his hair would have deflowered the entire school.
· Buzz it upShare on LinkedinShare via MySpaceshare via RedditShare with StumblersShare on technoratiTumblr itTweet about itBuzz it upSubscribe to the comments on this postCombs were big. We all had combs. You never went anywhere without a comb. There was no point in combing my hair. It was like combing a Brillo pad but I carried a comb anyway. It was a small black comb that fit into my back pocket. The killer hair guys didn’t carry just any comb. They had the kind that folded together then, at the flic of a wrist, snapped open like a switch blade. It took practice. They’d be standing in a circle at the front of the school holding court, reach into their pocket, pull out their comb, snap it open, then run it casually through their hair.
There were fads, of course. There was the flat top. Long, long on the sides, held up by adolescent ears. The top like a brush cut. It didn’t last. Somewhere, in someone’s photo albums there are embarrassing pictures of this haircut.
Even though the crew cuts had disappeared except for ex-service types, neat and tidy was in. We’d all been militarized during the 40s. At school, we lined up, held our left arm out to the shoulder of the person next to us then, on command, turned left and marched into the school. Up the stairs, into the classrooms. When the war ended, there were a lot of disappointed teachers. The schools functioned much more smoothly when it was all hup hup, eyes right, stand when spoken to, we’re getting you ready to become cannon fodder on the front lines. If the war had lasted much longer, they’d have had us saluting the teachers. There were some of us the teachers hoped would become cannon fodder. Us being guys with bad hair.
Good hair was sleek. Good hair was shiny. Good hair was tidy. Good hair had Byrlcreem. At noon hours, the radio was boisterous with an ad that sang, “Brylcreem, a little dab with do ya.” Nobody called it a pomade. A pomade was for sissy guys. These guys were tough. Some guys thought more was better. They glistened. Once they got their hair plastered in place with a tube of Brylcreem it was staying in place. I remember wondering if Brylcreem was made with petroleum products and since nearly everyone was smoking—free cigarettes had been given to servicemen, great product advertising, everyone in the movies smoked, there was a campaign to get everyone smoking, there were even practice cigarettes made out of licorce—would one of the guys suddenly have his hair go up in flames when he was lighting up?
Of course, there was the part. Right? Or left? Or, in my case, nowhere at all. A lot of guys experimented with the part. One even tried it down the centre. It looked like he’d been hit by an axe. I was part-disadvantaged. I couldn’t come to school with a part in a different place and excite both interest and comment. Discussions about parts could last all through the noon hour. If a girl talked breathlessly about a guy’s part, he knew she was his.
Maybe it’s the economy but my barber tells me highly styled, slicked back hair is making something of a come back. Too late for me, like most of the pompadours, duck tales, flat tops, my hair has joined the cult of the tonsure, the inherent, genetic drive toward monasticism. When I gather with my friends nowadays, I think of our lost hair and with it the excitement and promise of romance, love, sex, replaced by a group of guys that look like they should be wearing monk’s robes to go with their fringe. If I could, I’d warn the young men of today that all the pomades, all the gels, all the dollars spent on hair artists will shortly go the way of the widow’s peak, the advancing crown, the shiny pate. But it wouldn’t do any good. They’d have to stop looking in the mirror to listen.