Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Credit My Mother with the First Punk Haircut

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Credit My Mother with the First Punk Haircut

Article excerpt

"You can start a new style!" These words from my mother always foretold certain humiliation. She would utter them (with forced cheeriness) only after doing something irreparable to my hair or coming up with uncool clothing for me to wear to school. Clearly no new style was going to rise up from such fashion ashes as those.

But I guess one bad haircut came close. Mother hadn't taken into account the fact that the human head is not perfectly symmetrical, and she used the height of my ears to determine the length of my hair. Then, when she looked at me face-on, one side appeared longer. So she shortened it, making the other side longer by the ear-scale measure. So she shortened that side, going back and forth in this manner until little remained to shorten. That's how I got what may have been the first "punk" haircut - a couple of decades before any other kid had one.

In my teens I took charge of my own bad haircuts, but I still had style-starting clothes to deal with. One dress sported 44 buttons, placed so close together that most of them had to be unbuttoned for me to get into or out of the dress. Despite the directive, it did not start a new style.

And the light-blue canvas shift with the big zipper didn't start a new style, either, although it did create something of an incident. The inch-wide zipper ran the full length of the front of the dress and had a thick metal loop, more than two inches across, attached to the pull. One day a young man, assuming the zipper to be decorative, playfully grabbed the loop and yanked downward, yelling, "Ripcord!"

The zipper responded, opening the dress nearly to the waist. Fortunately, women's undergarments were many and substantial in those days, and I emerged with minimal embarrassment. Not sure I could say the same for him, though.

When the textile industry bounded into the world of synthetics, it opened new frontiers. No longer constrained by the limits of nature, my mother could have me start new styles in previously unheard-of ways. One particular dress epitomizes this epoch.

It was a long-sleeved belted shift, reasonably attractive except for the fabric - a simulated fur with "hair" more than a quarter- inch long, colored electric blue. …

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