I’ve worn my hair long for 59 years

Crakows or Poulaines

Okay, minus the three years that I was in the army.

Why is this significant? Possibly it is just as ridiculous as the fad of long pointed shoes in European royal courts. Oh, yes, that was a thing.

It got so bad that strings were applied to the tips in order to pull them up so that the person could walk.

They were called poulaines, or Crakows, for the reason that the style may have started in Poland. They were banned in England in 1465. It may have been a class statement, one couldn’t walk very far in poulaines, and you certainly couldn’t do manual labor. It was something rich people wore- the richer, the longer and pointy-er.

In the Sixties there was a fashion push that first started in England. The Beatles were a rock and roll band from Liverpool that at first simply combed their hair differently. Eventually they had their hair cut in the “bowl” style. It went along with the Nehru collar, tight tapered slacks, and pointed Demi boots with an inside the ankle zipper. It was an entire look copied by thousands of fans worldwide.

As the English invasion widened, the American rockers lost their Pomade and their flat-top ducktails, with the waterfall front, and went to a softer forehead sweep that was popular with California surfers. Still short in the back though.

So was it the music that drove the style? Yes, and no.

Wearing longer hair was a statement that signified certain ideas that were non-conformist, even if most people couldn’t articulate this.

I wish it was so clear and highly ethical. I believe though personal experience that the hair was perfect for the eruption of teenage forehead acne.

Sure, it may appear on the nose, cheek, or chin, but the forehead was one thing that could be covered.

The other thing is Alfred E. Neumann was very popular. It was a teenage comic book called “Mad Magazine”, with Alfred as the star, with his gap toothed smile, his freckles and his portruding ears. Big dumbo ears.

The hair didn’t have to be too long, just long enough to fill the gap between the skull and the ear.

It was an attempt to look better, it was as basic as how to attract girls, without knowing exactly what to do with them if it worked.

Not cutting hair also spread your allowance farther. I got $5.00 every two weeks for hair cuts. I kept the money but didn’t get the hair cut.

So why did it get to be such a big thing that it went to the Supreme Court several times?

I think there were influencers that saw this fad as a label for newly plowed ground. Teachers could suggest “Animal Farm” or “Fahrenheit 451”, cranky uncles could talk about mountain men and pirates.

Weirdly, classical music was often called “long-haired” music, but rarely listened by long hairs

This blog is an attempt to defeat a sort of blackmail. Over forty years ago, my wife and I thought it would be a good thing to record our thoughts about the world because we were expecting our first child. I had been a parent before but tens years had passed and there were a lot of changes. Plus, I thought I was pretty wise at the age of 30.

Maybe it was the wine or just inflated ego, but I went on a rant about the longhairs, the jocks, the nerds, and the thugs. Of course this was in high school so there was always conflict, and a well defined pecking order. In the early years no one exactly noticed, but by 1965, it was clear that the long-hairs were fair game. Even the nerds gave us the cold shoulder.

Apparently the tape is hilarious and damning at the same time. My daughter has the only copy and threatens to play it at family gatherings. I’m not sure what I said, so I can’t refute anything, but I’m assuming that I simply told the truth as I saw it, and still see it now.

Writing this out takes away the power of a surprised playing of the tape.

Long hair may have started as a fad, but it was found useful to coverup some of the anxieties of young men. It also acted like a badge or uniform, so that like-minded folks could gather together.

Unfortunately I did not find that some of the assumed likemindedness was real or helpful. Marijuana wasn’t very popular yet, it wasn’t even called weed. Normally it was a joint or “Mary Jane”. As if that was a code that Narcs couldn’t figure out. Oh yeah, and paranoia was rampant, but the few users were mostly long-hairs. I didn’t smoke, so I must have been a Narc. High school is filled with drama.

Day to day living was a lot like combat, long hours of tedious guard duty, with spurts of violence, and running. No knives, no guns, just kicks and punches. I once got hit so hard that a molar cut the inside of my cheek. For months I had a purple knot as if I was sucking on a jawbreaker.

To make this all stop, all I had to do is get a haircut. It was a great disappointment to my father, he asked, and even tried to bribe me, but I stood firm. Then something happened with him. We had gone on a long family vacation to his hometown in the Midwest. The first day we drove downtown for a walking tour. He pointed out the movie theatre, and the malt shop. And we spent some time looking in at the Bakery where the best apple pie was sold.

Continuing the walk towards the city park we witnessed an accident. Well, it wasn’t an accident yet, but there was screeching tires and blue smoke. Behind the blue smoke there were three pairs of arms, maybe more, all with index fingers pointing at me as if had just landed from Mars. Not a lot of words, just open mouths. My father asked if this kind of thing happened often? I said no, “they usually just jump out and start running at me”.

He never asked me to cut my hair again.

I will say that opportunities came, and some never showed. I couldn’t get a normal teenage job. I couldn’t be seen by the public and I couldn’t even be trusted by the public. Dope crazed hippies was soon a label that the media adopted. Herb Caen, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, had coined the label “Beatniks” for the Beat Culture of the 1950s, and in the late 1960s he coined the term “Hippie” for the long-haired hipsters. We hated it, we didn’t use it, and we even had a funeral service where we buried the last hippie (a bearded manakin) in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park.

So that meant I didn’t have the rewards of a solid work ethic. I never got the chance. I was encouraged to read the Beat Poets, but not Robert Frost. I didn’t read Hemingway, but got immersed in Henry Miller. I hitch-hiked around the country with either “The Way of Zen”, or Kerouac’s “On the Road”, sticking out of my back pocket. In later years it was Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”. You are what you read!

It’s true that anyone could read these, but they were defined as “hip” by some.

Was this some sort of nefarious plot? To ruin young Americans with drugs, offending books, and political riots? There are people on both sides who see this possibility. I’m certain about the pimples and the big ears.

And of course in 1969 there was the musical “Hair”, and here are the lyrics of the title song…

She asks him why

“Why I’m a hairy guy?”

I’m hairy noon and nighty-night night

My hair is a fright

I’m hairy high and low

But don’t ask me why

‘Cause he don’t know

It’s not for lack of bread

Like the Grateful Dead


Gimme a head with hair

Long, beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming

Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there (Hair!)

Shoulder length or longer hair (Hair!)

Here baby, there mama

Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair (Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair!)

Grow it, show it

Long as I can grow it

My hair

I let it fly in the breeze

And get caught in the trees

Give a home for the fleas in my hair

A home for fleas

A hive for the buzzin’ bees (buzzin’ beeeeeeeesssss)

A nest for birds

There ain’t no words

For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder

Of my…

Hair (Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair!)

Grow it, show it

Long as I can grow it

My hair

I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy

Snaggy, shaggy, ratsy, matsy

Oily, greasy, fleecy

Shining, gleaming, streaming

Flaxen, waxen

Knotted, polka-dotted

Twisted, beaded, braided

Powdered, flowered, and confettied

Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

Oh say can you see

My eyes if you can

Then my hair’s too short

Down to here

Down to there

Down to there?

Down to where?

It stops by itself

Don’t never have to cut it

‘Cause it stops by itself

Oh give me a head with hair

Long, beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming

Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Won’t you gimme it down to there (Hair!)

Shoulder length or longer (Hair!)

Here baby, there mama

Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair (Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair!)

Grow it

Show it

Long as I can grow it

My hair (Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair!)

Grow it

Show it

Long as I can grow it

My hair (Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair! Hair!)


Such a long and tedious song.

As I said, from 1970 to 1971 I had a buzz-cut, just stubble where my hair should have been. We called it high and tight. From 1971 to 1973 I had a regular hair cut, like a regular guy. And yet, as soon as I left the military, “I let my freak flag fly”.

I did my diligence to do the best research possible. I found two articles that were interesting, and focused on the impact of long hair of young men in high school.

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources. It is freely accessed and very useful.

The two articles are…

“The High School Hair Wars of the 1960s” by Matthew Wills, March 10, 2018, JSTOR Daily

“Flaunting the Freak Flag: Karr v. Schmidt and the Great Hair Debate in American High Schools, 1965-1975” by Gael Graham, Sept., 2004, The Journal of American History, Vol. 91, No. 2

While both articles are well written, well researched, they read to me as detached history. The difference of reporting on D-Day, and experiencing Utah Beach.

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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1 Response to I’ve worn my hair long for 59 years

  1. Anonymous says:

    PLEASE put all this in a book “A. Work Progressing”. Ill buy it! – You are so interesting. So historical and hysterical.

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