My Long Hair is More Punk Than Your Mohawk

Ever since I started growing my hair out again three years ago I’ve experienced repeated versions of the following:

I’ll be hanging out with people of a punkish persuasion and someone will start in on a story about how somebody or something annoyed them because it was, “fucking hippie.” Whereupon they’ll pause, look in my direction, and parenthetically insert, “no offense.” I’m really not easily given to offense, but in point of fact this comment always does annoy me, for at least three reasons.

First off, as I keep trying to impress upon people, the hair aesthetic I’m going for is more grunge than hippie. Do you recall the average hair-length of a member of Soundgarden in 1991? Two feet, minimum. Go back and check out Eddie Vedder from that same vintage. Not to mention shoulder length supper-shaggy Kurt Cobain. Never even mind Alice in Chains, the Melvins or that dude from Tad. Hair, hair everywhere. And what about all the other things in our collective cultural unconscious that long hair could signify? There’s the country western long hair. Founding Father long hair. Pre-Delilah Samson. I could go on. Hippie my ass!

Second, the third generation baby-punks who often come up with this comment are displaying an appalling lack of historical knowledge. Punks, real original punks, were perfectly capable of having long hair. Have these kids ever even seen a picture of Joey Ramone, for Pete’s sake? How about the New York Dolls or the Heartbreakers? Iggy Pop’s hair has been the same length since 1969 for crying out loud!

Third, and this is the critical point, punk as a philosophy is antithetical to having to look any particular way. After its initial outburst in the late 70s the machine ate it up and spit it back out at us as a style. It was pretty gristly, so it took a while, but the machine is patient. And so, since the mid-80s at least, there’s been a very standard punk uniform that hasn’t changed at all. This is so un-punk as to be alarming. What’s more DIY and non-conformist- me having to have a mohwak or dyed or spiked hair to listen to a certain kind of music, or me having long hair because I damn well feel like it? Having piercings and tattoos as a sign of group allegiance or being the only un-tattooed un-pierced person under the age of forty in all of San Francisco?

To invert the Sex Pistols’ lyric: We don’t care about long hair. It’s our choice, it’s what we want to do. My long hair is more punk than your mohwak! Bollocks to all of you! And I’ll listen to Donovan any time I fucking want, too!

Ahem.

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