The Pandemic is giving us a Golden Opportunity to Save the World from our Sheared Selves…

The once, current, and seemingly never-ending worldwide Coronavirus pandemic has brought suffering and discomfort to millions. In degrees of pain and agony— COVID-19 has run the gamut— death and disability, lost jobs, debt, social isolation, alcoholism and drug abuse, spousal and child abuse….the list goes and grows with each passing day.

But not all consequences of the virus have been life-threatening. Much of it has simply been annoying. One common grievance has been the inability of so many of us to get a decent haircut. Restrictions on barbers and hair salons came suddenly and brutally, with no advance warning, and all these months later, restrictions to this service, deemed “non-essential” by many state governments, have just started to show signs of easing. But who knows…with cases once again rising and with practically everybody freaking for one reason or another, haircuts may become a non-issue–we will have soon pulled out ALL our hair, by the follicles, in one last futile act of frustration.

Our friend Dave Yarbrough recently made it to the Barber.
My friend Dave Yarbrough recently made it to the Barber. Dave kept busy during the pandemic as half of the singing duo ‘Distant Duet’. You can find their most recent album “Sunny South” on iTunes HERE and Amazon HERE.

On the other hand, if we can avoid that extreme option, maybe it’s time to re-examine our hair and the need to be shorn.

The other night I couldn’t sleep so I crawled out of bed and turned on the tv to see what was playing. At 2 AM, not much—infomercials dominated the airwaves. One long winded commercial, for a product called Micro-touch, caught my eye. Clearly it was some kind of laser-powered hair removal device, a contraption I assumed was targeted at a female audience. But a hairy arm produced itself on the screen and I let out a stifled yelp (I was trying not to awaken my wife).

Damn, I thought, that’s the hairiest woman I’ve ever seen…well, second-hairiest anyway. I was wondering where this ad might lead to next. But when the camera pulled back to reveal the rest of the television model, I was both relieved and stricken to realize it was a man—relieved, of course, to be reassured that no woman on earth could be that hairy. And stricken because of what this male model was doing to the rest of himself.

He took his laser-equipped Micro-touch and, in less than 30 seconds, removed every last hair from the left side of his body. He used it on his face. He removed the hairs on his head. He even used it on his ears. The announcer explained that this new product gave men the smooth and silky look they yearn for (in these troubled, uncertain, unpredictable, unprecendeted times) . And then he told us that with the Micro-touch, we could now remove hair from our “most sensitive areas” without fear of cuts, nicks, burns or rashes.

Well, that just totally freaked me out.

I took a deep breath. I remembered what Thomas Jefferson said, more than two centuries ago:

“The motion of my blood can no longer keep pace with the tumult of the world.”

As if a pandemic and social unrest wasn’t enough, once more I felt my world slipping away from me.   Had my planet, yet again, been turned on its formerly hairy head?  I was speechless, or almost. The next day I shared my troubled late night experience with my wife but, as always, she was way ahead of me. Tonya explained the whole concept of ‘manscaping’ to me. She advised that this is the latest turn in men’s fashion which includes de-hairing ourselves by whatever means suits us best. My pal Ned Mudd sent me a link to the which explained in detail:

“The modern manscaped man is a product of today’s post-mextrosexual society, where even the alpha male indulges in spa treatments and $50 Diesel boxer briefs…..Manscaping has gone so mainstream that stores like Kohls and Bed, Bath & Beyond stock body trimmers right next to facial ones. “‘The Mangroomer Private Body Shaver is one of our best-selling products,’ says Mike Gilman, co-owner of the Grooming Lounge in Washington D.C., an upscale Barber Shop that serves scotch to its clients.”

I suppose these devices come in handy during global pandemics. We have nothing else to do. But it still depressed me, even more than I had been when I went to bed.

There was a time when male hair was a thing of beauty and value. And it was a sign of maturity. A coming of age. Not to be too graphic here, but every man reading this piece will understand. As we guys approach puberty, we all keep a close watch on those special locations where manly hair begins to sprout. Nothing is more humiliating than to be in gym class, taking a group shower and be a late bloomer. I was a late bloomer.  The day a small tuft of hair appeared in the regions south of my belly-button,  I almost wanted to fertilize it, in hopes it would grow faster. I was ecstatic.

Same with chest hair. Even when I was in college, all those many years ago,  I could only sprout a few random hairs.  My old friend Tynes claimed there was a woman who would sleep with any man who allowed her to shave his chest hair. It sounded too kinky for this little buckaroo, and whether it was true or he was just torturing me and doing the cutting himself, Tynes periodically showed up to bare his hair-less chest triumphantly for anyone even slightly interested.

For years, I felt slighted and victimized by the Hair Gods, but then a few years ago, a Moab City Councilman got mad at me and in an effort to instigate a fist fight, attempted to pull out some of my chest hairs. Thankfully, he came up empty. My smooth chest had saved me.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Right about now my wife is saying, ‘Are you sure you want to write about this? Should I tell my mother to skip over this article?’)

James Stiles, both Junior and Senior.
James Stileses, both Junior and Senior.

More than anything, however, our head hair was a symbol…no, THE symbol of our rebellious youth. The day my hair crawled over my collar and my ears was the day my father quit talking to me and I don’t think he ever got over it. A lot of men of my father’s generation were like that. When I was 20, I went out West to work the summer in Jackson, Wyoming and got a job pumping gas at Harold’s Standard, just across the street from the Wort Hotel.

Harold eyed me suspiciously and finally agreed to hire me, but he said, “First though, boy, you look like a damn hippie. Go down to the barber shop and get a haircut.”

I reluctantly agreed, and to his credit, Harold gave me the money. But when I got back, he said, “I thought you was going for a haircut.”

I explained that the deed had been done but he wasn’t happy. He sent me back for another. And then another (I really needed that job). And he didn’t pay for the last two. I always figured he and the barber were in cahoots.

One night, a cowboy came by the gas station—there were a lot of cowboys back then in Jackson—and even with my recent scalping, he didn’t seem to like the cut of my head (much less my jib).

You know?” he said, “We don’t much care for hippies around here…Did you ever hear about the big fight last year between the cowboys and the hippies? (I nodded.) Well you’re lookin’ at the man who started that fight.”

Slim explained. “I saw this damn long haired kid with greasy ol’ hair and a hat pulled down over his face. So I walked up to him, put my fist through his hat and then I put it in his face.”

He smiled contentedly. “We lined up on one side of the bar and the hippies lined up on the other..there was about six of them and twenty of us.”

Some odds. “I guess you won then?”

He sneered as he turned for the door and said, “Son…we was out to win.”

All these years later, I still hold a strong and defiant attachment for hair—mine and everybody else’s— and I hope my hair continues to hold an attachment for me. But I would never be so callous, so unfeeling, so…traitorous as to voluntarily remove the hair which I waited so long to grow and which keeps me warm in a strong wind, and which, when combed a certain way causes me to bear a slight resemblance to Rhett Butler. You may not give a damn, but I do.

Finally, in a world that seems to define itself by its incalculable scenes of violence against each other, and where we long for a friendly and non-threatening  face,  I would like to offer one more reason to embrace hair.  I agree that what you do to most parts of your body, hair-wise, is none of my business and I wouldn’t know and would prefer not to know if  Zephyr readers are out there manscaping themselves. It’s a free country.

But when it comes to the hair that grows atop a man’s head, I beg you to quit shaving up there and turn those follicles free. Even if you’re somewhat diminished, be proud of your hair. Look what Larry of the Three Stooges was able to accomplish with what he had. And who didn’t love Clarabelle the Clown? Or my favorite example, my old friend, the late Bill Benge, who may have been deprived of ‘up top’ hair but who certainly made the best of what resided on the perimeters.

Bill Benge. Photo by Jim Stiles
Bill Benge. Photo by Jim Stiles

To me, there is nothing scarier looking or more intimidating than a shaved head on a man, combined, oddly enough (because in this case I’m talking more hair), with a goatee beard. 

favored style of "tough guys" everywhere
The favored style of “tough guys” everywhere

Cops love this look and they should stop it. We’re scared enough already.  Why does everybody, including law enforcement, want to look so tough and mean when they could just as well be the epitome of fuzzy-headed kindness? As citizens and police officers continue to clash, from coast to coast and from Canada to Mexico, many insist that Change is needed. Well let’s start with their hair. 

Up to now, the terrifying bald goatee look has spread across the planet, every bit as fast as the COVID 19. I once sat at a bar in Port Hedland, Australia with a rowdy bunch of thirsty iron ore miners. Everyone of them sported the scary shaved-with-a-goatee look. One of them, just for emphasis, had a human skull tattooed to the back of his head. I couldn’t tell if he was coming or going, or dead or alive.

In the end, I concede that my disdain for the bald look may simply be a different version of the bias my father once displayed against my shaggy locks. I even recall an argument with my father in which I swore I’d never scold my children for having long hair. He laughed and said, “By then they may be sporting crew-cuts again. Then what are you going to do?”

I was sure that would never happen. I thought, what young man would want to embrace such a look again? Turns out we were both wrong. But the cruel truth is, if I’m willing to admit it, I may be an anti-hair bigot.  Generations of us come and go–hair grows, only to be cut off at the roots. It seems like only yesterday that the great late George Carlin embraced the subject that tore families apart. When he admonished us…

I’m aware some stare at my hair.
In fact, to be fair,
Some really despair of my hair.
But I don’t care,
’Cause they’re not aware,
Nor are they debonair.
In fact, they’re just square.

They see hair down to there,
Say, “Beware” and go off on a tear!
I say, “No fair!”
A head that’s bare is really nowhere.
So be like a bear, be fair with your hair!
Show it you care.
Wear it to there.
Or to there.
Or to there, if you dare!

If only those days could come again.And over the last few weeks, I have noticed a trend. Many of the men who were forced to assume a Grizzly Adams look during the shutdown, had decided to keep the hair, at least for now. Many barbers are now open, but many new hairy kindred spirits are choosing Growth over Smart Cuts…

If we want a kinder, more compassionate world, we need to look the part. Hair, as much as we can muster,  is indeed part of that pathway to unity and love.

Jim Stiles is Founding Publisher and Senior Editor of the Canyon Country Zephyr.

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3 comments for “THE RISE, FALL & COVID 19 RETURN OF HAIR… by Jim Stiles

  1. Bob Krantz
    August 15, 2020 at 9:29 am

    But Jim, without manscaping and other metrosexual fads, how will we ever achieve the common sci-fi meme of a population divided between the ethereal and (dare I say) effeminate elite and the brutish, hairy underclass?

  2. Tom Patton
    August 31, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Once again you write for many of us Styles. First off, at a higher risk to coronavirus (by several factors) I have not had a haircut in 6 months. And then as my dad learned barbering as one of his military duties he lined all for boys up each month on a Sunday night and gave as all buzz cuts…I fought with him for years and finally when I was 15 he said I don’t care grow it down to your asshole…so I tried. The problem was unbeknownst to anyone I had curly hair, my freshman “Matric Card” photo shows a guy (in his brothers Vietnam fatigue jacket) with brown hair and red beard that combined make a 4 inch wide almost perfectly round hairball head. Finally I too sojourned out to Jackson to ski bum and by then (1976) the Cowboys vs Hippies bar fights were almost a regular Saturday night ritual, so much so that the tables and chairs in The Cowboy bar were bolted down so, I saw the combatants use beer mugs and pool cues to bash each other with. Wearing a ski sweater seemed to work as a force field as I never was engaged in said battles. Also by then I had give-up on the long hair thing because mine was usually just a mess. And finally yes my boys…one of them dyed his beautiful red hair black and turned into dreads…true to my word I said nothing nor will I now dive deep how wrong white people dreads look to me, but when son finally asked for money to go get a buzz cut, I had to ask afterwards, “how does it fee’/ Son said “like my head is clean for the first time in years”…

  3. Evan Cantor
    September 9, 2020 at 7:33 pm

    right on, Jim–takes me back. In ’79 I was a long-hair recent college grad with a wavy Jewfro playing bass in an acoustic folkie band in Charlottesville, VA and doing hard labor by day. We painted houses, we moved pianos, we dug ditches. Sometimes we mowed lawns. So maybe not so hard, right? One day, the firm (Santana Construction) sent me out to mow a field. I had a lawn-mower to push, but the grass in this field was three feet high. It was hot as hell and old south humid. I sweated it out for two hours and then said to hell with it. Went back to town, horrified some girls at a hair salon and got my hair helmet cut. When I got back to the band house that night, the guitarist took one look at me and said, “What the f–k!!! You don’t look like a hippie anymore!” Yes, it was that important.

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