I’ve always been attached to my hair – and thankfully my hair has always been attached to me.
I was born yelling lustily and sporting a good headful of hair. Of course I don’t remember that but there’s an obvious parallel with my earliest memory, which was equally traumatic to me (although I suspect my mother was a little more relaxed about it). It was my first haircut, at about 18 months old: sitting on a rocking horse and screaming the place down, utterly inconsolable.
This aversion to getting my hair cut lasted for a long time. Well, nothing happened that made it any better. When I got to school age my grandad’s old army pal used to do the honours. Paddy was no stylist but he had a pair of clippers and some blunt scissors and what could you expect for a shilling but a short back and sides and plenty of Brylcreem?
The late sixties and early seventies, when long hair was the badge of youth counterculture, were my teenage years. Not surprisingly, the strictures on hairstyle imposed by my school became a growing source of resentment and anti-authoritarianism.
So some good came of it.
In early 1970 I had to ask the headmaster’s permission to go for a university interview. This was granted on the proviso that I got a haircut first, and he damn’ well wasn’t going to let me go until I’d presented myself again, shorn to his satisfaction. Obviously pitching up at the University of Kent looking like it was my first day of National Service made all the difference.
Naturally, once I left school I just let it grow. It was only then I discovered that my luxuriously thick and wavy coiffure was ill-suited to the coveted shaggy student look, as it grew outwards almost as much as it grew downwards. As a matter of principle I left it until it got to shoulder length, but by then I could also balance a pencil on the wave above my left ear. A talking point perhaps, but of very limited practical application and even less attractiveness. Although probably good enough for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.
Shoulders reached and honour satisfied, I trimmed it back – reluctantly and not by much.
Indeed, my hair was still pretty long in the latter part of the seventies, as in this image from 1977.
As you can see, back then it was also, if I say so myself, a rather fetching shade of auburn. This pre-Raphaelite look didn’t last for much longer, though, because in my early thirties I went white, if not quite overnight certainly within a very short period, It really didn’t bother me – I was never tempted to resort to Grecian 2000. I told myself the new white look was distinguished rather than extinguished. Others disagreed.
Never mind the colour; far more important is that it was still there.
And still is. Even in my advancing years I have a full head of hair, although it’s not as long as it was in my halcyon days.That lesson was well-learned.
On the positive side, this awareness of the limitations imposed by my genetic make-up means that I’ve never been tempted to go for a ponytail or dreadlocks. It works for some people (I have to say that, as you would understand if you saw an up-to-date picture of my brother) but not for many. I know my limitations. And those of my loved ones.
So, I am not, nor have I ever been, a slaphead, and I’m reasonably confident of never having to resort to a combover. This is just as well, because I have been advised on more than one occasion that any incidence of sudden-onset alopecia could be prima facie grounds for divorce.
Which is such an appalling prospect that it would probably make all my hair fall out.