Combating the mediocre in men’s style

OCT 29, 2015
Certain men’s hairstyles are emblematic of a particular era, yet it’s interesting that we only appropriate some looks from the past, while others remain taboo. Given the prevailing postmodern climate (where everything has been done before) one might imagine anything goes, but despite unlimited choice, men are presented with a tight edit of acceptability, even when rebelling or showing off. Hair-wise, men appear to remain shackled.

Jesus Christ arguably sported the first iconic hairstyle. Despite the 2,000 or so years that have passed since, it’s a do that still has strong style merit. Adopted by all manner of men who wanted to let their hair down (literally) after the uptight 1950s, it came to be the hairstyle that symbolised the late 1960s and early ’70s. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and frequently Young, all worked the JC with varying lengths of beard.

The JC look is super-popular now, particularly since beards and facial hair have taken style by siege. Visit the haemorrhagingly cool Hostem designer boutique on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, East London, and you’ll find it staffed by a band of youthful Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-a-likes.

Congregating males in this hip area reveal other iconic hairstyles cheek by hirsute jowl. The quiff has been the strongest defining cut of the past decade, hailing directly from the 1950s – quiff poster boys include all-time style icons Elvis Presley and James Dean (pictured). The clean, masculine ’50s styling aesthetic works so well fashion-wise, and quiffs can be seen being proudly sported by hipsters, trendies and vintage merchants alike.

Another look that incorporates strongly cropped sides, sans facial hair, is the 1940s football apprentice look, a la Stanley Matthews. The short back and sides were iconic of the decade, presumably due to style rationing. Clippered heads channel austerity well, and as austerity chic has also become a thing these days, this brutal but masculine look has soared in popularity.

Football culture has been a platform for a fair share of questionable hairdos down the years, from the skinheads on the terraces in the 1970s and ’80s to the full-blown mullets on the field. These eventually morphed into Euro-mullets and the wet-look curly perm, which further evolved via acid house into the wide ponytails of the late 1980s and early ’90s. None of these era-defining styles, however, has enjoyed a sniff of a renaissance, while other styles of the time, such as the blow-dry, also remain neglected.

I’m proposing a fresh take of cleaner cuts (and cleaner hair). I’ve begun my campaign to bring back the blow-dry (or the blowie, as I’ve taken to calling it). Yes, it’s a posey look, but aren’t they all in essence? At least the blow-dry is upfront about its aspirations. Those who think it fey or femme should rewatch The Sopranos. Those dry-coiffed gangsters would disagree – violently.

The ’80s has no shortage of blow-dried icons, but if you’re truly searching for a moment to galvanise the movement, I suggest George Michael’s well-documented hair tantrums of late Wham!, and the time he flew his hairdresser transatlantic by Concorde to get his blow-dry properly executed. Michael’s hair during that period was a wonder of volume, form and texture. And love it or hate it, as a kid growing up it seemed important. Now that’s what I call iconic hair.

Words by Tom Stubbs