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Short, Back & Sides: columns from the Whitstable Times

Updated on March 27, 2016

Crosby Stills Nash and Young Almost Cut My Hair

Hair Manifesto

Columns from the Whitstable Times.


Crosby Stills Nash and Young sang a song about it. In those days hair was a revolutionary statement. But what's its purpose? That's the question on CJ Stone's mind.

King Arthur

King Arthur

I was in a pub in London with my old friend the mad biker King Arthur Pendragon, when a woman came up to us.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she said, looking vaguely flustered, “but I just had to say something. You both have beautiful hair.”

She said she’d been looking at us for a while and that couldn’t keep her eyes off our hair.

What can you say to that? “Um, thanks.” It’s not often you are approached by complete strangers in pubs with comments to make about your hair.

Arthur’s hair is shoulder-length and steely grey, while mine is silver grey, and is usually more than a little unkempt.

The last time I had it cut was at Len’s in Whitstable. He asked how I wanted it. I never know what to say when I’m asked that question. “Make me look like Brad Pitt,” I said.

It didn’t work.

Short-back-and-sides

When I was growing up there was only one haircut available for a boy: the short-back-and-sides. There was no question of asking how you wanted it done. Whatever you wanted, all you ever got was the short-back-and-sides.

A quick zip with the razor up the back of your head and round your ears, a splosh of brylcreem and that was it. It took about two minutes and made the wearer look like he had just escaped from an insane asylum.

There was always one lock of hair left standing on the crown of my head. No matter how much I stuck it down with spit, that single lock would always stand to attention again, like a guardsman on duty outside Buckingham Palace.

Later the people of my generation rebelled against all this hair-cutting oppression, and let our hair grow out wild and free.

We were attempting to distinguish ourselves by growing our hair. First of all we let it creep over our ears. Then we let it crawl over our collars. Finally we sent it tumbling over our shoulders and down our backs, letting it all hang out in a cascade of layered significance, stretching the point to monstrous lengths.

Freak flag

They even wrote a musical about it. Can you imagine that? A whole musical devoted to the subject of hair.

Then there was a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song about it. It was called “Almost Cut My Hair”. Dave Crosby was lamenting his hair, telling us that he had almost considered cutting it for a while. Why did he decide against? Because, he tells us, in a moment of passionate intensity, it is a statement, an act of defiance, a visible reminder of his status as a revolutionary out to change the world.

“I feel like letting my freak-flag fly,” he sings.

Hair was a serious issue back then. Hair-revolutionaries marched the streets of our cities and towns, causing mayhem and disruption with their raised hair-consciousness, forming hair-alliances out to overthrow the short-back-and-sides consensus of the hair status quo.

Other people took the opposite course, and shaved their heads. These were the skinheads, and they were the mortal enemies of the hippies. But at least they kept the barbers in business.

Demos

After that punk came along, and hair got even stranger. It started to stick up in pointed shafts like sharpened spears. It turned purple and pink and blue. It got smothered in soap, doused in glue, and shaved into peculiar fronds like colourful sea anemones in tropical oceans.

Actually I always wondered how those punks managed to sleep at night. It must have been like going to bed with a deadly weapon. You were liable to wake up with an eye missing.

I think that’s when I gave up on hair. I couldn’t be bothered with hair anymore. It involved far too much commitment. Being a punk meant taking as much trouble over your hair as the blue-rinse ladies did over their perms. Later again, of course, men did start getting perms. That’s when I really knew I was past it, when footballers started getting perms and I finally discovered that the world was actually stark raving bonkers.

These days hair is even more elaborate, with spikes and squiggles and geometric shapes, and various parts cut to various lengths, with dyed bits and asymmetric lines and shaved elements and all sorts of novelties to keep the barber’s fingers in trim.

There are more hairdressers on the High St. than there are pubs.

And then, a couple of years back, hair got in the news. This was when Demos, the New Labour think-tank, suggested that hairdressers should be given a part in the creation of local government policy.

“Our research has led us to conclude that hairdressers are the most authentic voice on the high street,“ said the Demos document, “and they should be given a formal role in urban policy making.”

Ha! Whatever next? Beauticians for housing policy? Masseurs for urban regeneration? Dress-makers for planning?

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not such a bad idea. They couldn’t possibly do any worse.

I was talking about all of this to Len the hairdresser the other day, as he snipped and clipped behind my ears. I asked him what hair was made of? It’s made of keratin, he told me. And it is covered in scales. That was a very unappealing thought. Who wants some scaly substance creeping about all over your head? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

And then I asked him the Big Philosophical Question: “Yes, but what’s the point of it? I mean, what’s hair for?”

“It keeps me in work,” he answered, matter-of-factly.

So now you know. Hair exists to give hairdressers something to do with their hands.

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    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

      Keratin covered in scales? That makes it sound like a carrot eating fish or something. It should taste good if that was the case, or at least smell good when cooking, but it doesn't. Ever smell burning hair?

      Anyway, I'm with you on that "How do you want it?" question they ask. I mean, I don't have half the hair you do, so, yeah, I go in and they ask me that and I always laugh. I generally point at one of the GQ looking guys on a poster on their wall somewhere and say, "Make me look like him." They always laugh then get out the damn shears and run that half-cap down to the skin again.

      Thanks for discovering the meaning of it all though, I guess even my paltry locks do keep them in business. Glad I can do my part. (Nice work :)

    • profile image

      pgrundy 8 years ago

      I used to say, "Make me look like Stevie Nicks!" and that never worked either, so now I just say, "Oh cut it all off, cut it short." I let it go gray these past few months--didn't realize how gray I was, and now I'm thinking of slopping color on it again just so I'll look younger if I get any more interviews. I sent off for a reporter job today--keep your fingers crossed for me. If they call I'll color it some damn color or the other and wear a suit. That's how bad I want a new job. Fun hub, Chris. You do of course realize that the title is quite obscene? (I can't believe Shadesbreath let that pass without a rowdy comment! You're slipping SB!)

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Is the title obscene? I got it from a Captain Beefheart song, Hair Pie Bake 2 from Trout Mask Replica, which I was going to include as part of this hub, then realised it was too obscure, so you got Crosby Stills Nash and Young instead. I hope you all listened to it!

      So are you a skinhead then shadesbreath?

      Good luck with the interview Pam. Mind you you seem to be getting younger by the minute, judging by the picture.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

      A fun read, a hair tale.

    • spryte profile image

      spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Yup...the title had me fooled too :) But it was a great hub and I enjoyed reading it.

      I have an issue with hairdressers though. Why do they always have to style it in a way that you'll never be able to duplicate yourself? Eventually I stopped letting them brush and blow dry my hair...more than happy to call it quits after a cut and some of that nice smelling stuff they goop into your hair.

      To my shock, after several such visits, one hairdresser actually complained to me that she felt a bit...used. After all her hard work, I wasn't allowing her to have any fun wielding a blow dryer, curling iron and hair spray.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I have Troutmask Replica here, Chris, so thought it was going to make mention of it! I like the David Crosby song because he says he "had the flu for Xmas" and it "increases his paranoia" and I have experienced that! lol

      I can't remember when I last went to a hairdresser! I can remember an improvement to the short back and sides was with a "Boston at the back!"

    • profile image

      pgrundy 8 years ago

      Yes I changed the photo here and at my website until I can get something up that looks more professional than me in my pajamas with the dog. The photo up for now is me at age 2, which is closer to how I'm feeling these days anyway--I'm either having a tantrum or sucking my thumb.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hi Bob, I was going to mention your hub too. Hippies go skinhead. And to think that at one time skinheads used to go round beating hippies up, at least they did in the UK.

      Actually spryte the hairdresser is there to talk to not to cut your hair. Didn't you know that/ That and the nice smelling gloop.

      Yes, sorry about the title everyone. It's all Captain Beefhearts fault. Now I come to think about it, certainly brings an obscene picture to mind. Maybe I should put the Beefheart track in to make it clear.

    • spryte profile image

      spryte 8 years ago from Arizona, USA

      Well hell CJ...now you tell me!!  But...in my defense, she had a lisp and I couldn't hear her over the blow dryer.  It was worse than discussing current novels I was reading with my dentist.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Nevermind about the obscene title, CJ-- think of the traffic it will bring--and maybe even siome intersting google ads :-) Lovely rumination on the hair topic--creative, orginial and soooooo well written--as usual. Thumbs up!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Hairdressers making urban policy? On TV I think.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Patty, the reference to Demos suggesting that they might consult hairdressers i making urban policy is entirely true, and it just shows how crazy some of these think-tanks can get.

      robie2, I look forward to finding out why kind of strange traffic the title brings.

      Bob, I've put in a link to your hub.

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 8 years ago from California

      Well, for me "hair pie" was so obviously a reference to, well, the obvious reference that I didn't think it needed further comment. I'm going to be very amused if CJ really didn't know.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Great hub. I love the history of hair :)

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      It's obviously an Americanism.

    • budwood profile image

      budwood 8 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Being somewhat practical, it seems to me that hair is to keep one's brain from being fried in the hot sun. However, with the invention of hats and roofs, perhaps hair is no longer needed.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      Definitely an Americanism. Nice hub CJ. I thought I was in for a hair-raising experience, one that would make my hair curl, or at least one that would put hairs on my chest. But instead, it was your usual nice easy-reading style, nothing too fringe-y, nothing to up-braid you for!

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Are you a pun-sioner Amanda? Or was this your usual punditry?

      I agree about the head covering aspect to hair, budwood, but you'd have thought, what with all the hats and rooves we have nowadays, we would have outgrown it by now.

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      C.J. you've taken the question of hair's purpose to a new level for me. I'd not actually put that much thought into it before.

      I have wondered though, how punkers are able to lay their heads down without gouging some body part or other. If I ever meet one, I'll ask. Meantime, I'll assume they don't sleep or have intimate relations. Yeah, that's probably it.

      Very well done, C.J. Oh, and thx for doing the thinking for me.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Shirley, the secret is soap. When a punk's hair is doused in soap it can be made to do all of these unnatural things, but then, when it's washed, it just turns into normal hair again, so you can go to bed without fearing the loss of an eye.

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      LOL....well, at least that means they're clean. They don't really look it.

    • profile image

      Jonno.Norton 8 years ago

      CSNY ftw

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Jonno what does "ftw" mean?

    • profile image

      dave one 8 years ago

      chris, reminds me of Julian Barnes short stories " A History of Hairdressing", think it's in the Lemon Tree, but I can't remember. Very funny.

      I had that bit that stuck up on top too. The hairdresser got quite nasty when I once asked him if he could somehow do something to stop it happening.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Dave: to think, all that bold revolutionary rhetoric just because we were a whole generation traumatised by bad haircuts.

    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 8 years ago from Oregon, USA

      How come I never get comment chains like this, CJ? Tell me your secret!

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 8 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      I dunno hot dorkage, but this wasn't a particularly successful hub, only abour 100 hits or so. Maybe people just like to join in with the fun?

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

      It's such a hairy subject......

      I think hair is for....umm....vanity?  People sure seem to fret over it..me included - tho now it's shake and go....I had a girlfriend (just a few years ago) who couldn't quit stroking her hair, a nervous habit that drove me nuts.  Stroke it, run her hands over, twist it, run her fingers thru it, I don't know how she got anything done, it was constant. I gradually stopped hanging around her - I didn't know how to tell her to stop...I guess I could've just said "stop" but I was embarassed for her -- it was easier to just fade away.  LOL

      Some friend I am ....hhaahha  a "hairy" friend? ( guess I should have been glad she wasn't doing it to my hair ahahhaha)

    • Miss Married profile image

      Miss Married 6 years ago

      I think it is because he is so darn cute hot dorkage. Hmmm, are all of his followers women? lol

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      It's a flattering photo Miss Married. Actually I look more like Charles Laughton in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

    • Miss Married profile image

      Miss Married 6 years ago

      I don't believe that for a second. I look more like Charles Laughton than you do.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      I look more like Captain Beefheart in the cover photo for Trout Mask Replica, above. Anyway, you're not supposed to be interested in my looks, you're supposed to be interested in my writing ability. The photo is a bit flattering. I'm more mundane in real life.

    • Miss Married profile image

      Miss Married 6 years ago

      True, I do like your writing, otherwise I wouldn't follow you. This isn't a dating service. You being easy on the eyes is just an extra. If my attempt at humor offended you, I apologize.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      No offence taken. I was just joking too. I'm nothing like Charles Laughton or Captain Beefheart. I'm actually more like Boris Karloff in The Mummy.

    • Miss Married profile image

      Miss Married 6 years ago

      Good make-up job then - lol

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      I forgot to say that I'm a transvestite. So if you can imagine Boris Karloff in The Mummy in a pink tutu. With make-up.

    • Miss Married profile image

      Miss Married 6 years ago

      Just my kind of man - lol

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