Google Hitler Youth haircut. When I did it, Google reported “About 50,300 results” for that phrase, and most of the hits were articles praising the contemporary version of the Hitler Youth undercut (or “curtained“) hairstyle. And many of its fans actually call it that with a blithe casualness: the Hitler Youth. Is this actually happening?
Do things happen for a reason or not? Do symbols and culture icons have any meaning? Can we say the Confederate flag means nothing, for instance?
The abrupt turn to the right in the 2014 European Parliament elections, including massive gains for the far-right anti-immigration National Front in France, the anti-immigration and racist UKIP in the UK, and a far-right party in Denmark (among many others) seems to signal what we’re headed for. Then there’s the right-wing nationalist Navendra Modi’s win in India, military coups popping up in other places, rises in military spending, and the now undeniable creep of fascism in Canada with the secretive government of Stephen Harper…
And by way of observation I wanted to mention the UK study which found that although people born between 1980 and 2000 may be more progressive around issues like gay marriage and euthanasia, they vote markedly further to the right than either their parents or grandparents did at their age.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who went to Eton, is a monarchist, and is now a Conservative MP in David Cameron’s government. Watch him in this 2013 episode of Have I Got News For You.
I know I’m not alone in finding this shaved-sides haircut and all its variants sad and creepy. Some people seem able to sleep with people sporting this hair, but I know from a casual survey on social media that a shedload of us are not, regardless of age.
Beyond personal taste, I feel that this style is slavish at best and hostile at worst, regardless of what one thinks one is doing. It seems to express or ape both an old-school masculinity and an eroticization of power and men in uniforms.
For a more extended argument on why historical styles probably can’t entirely be detached from their original historical referents, especially if the histories they refer to involve violence and oppression, please see this not-unrelated post on the settler/pioneer/colonial style known as the heritage hipster. It discusses a different style, but it’s a similar trajectory: hypermasculine, white, and thinking about wild and usually genocidal frontiers.
Fashion is always a bellwether.
And this from Fran Lebowitz:
“When we were young, we knew things. We knew basic history, even as it related to fashion. Now, when something reappears, an 18 year old has no clue that it’s a revival. Despite the fact that they’re almost always online they don’t get references.
I think that’s part of why visual things are becoming so derivative. Designers now, they all have these things called mood boards. I suppose they think a sense of discovery equals invention. It would be as if every writer had a board with paragraphs of other writers—’Oh, I’ll take a little bit of this, and that, he was really good.’ Yes, he was really good! And that is not a mood board, it is a stealing board.”
—From Style, As Dictated by Fran Lebowitz
To “mood boards” we should also add pinterest, tumblr, and all the other dehistoricizing blenders that are readily available out there. It seems that we want to reference history without being seen to know anything about it—or more accurately, we want to ride on its bloody coattails without taking any responsibility for its trajectory. Like all aesthetics, I think fashion is the thin end of the edge of a politics, whether we’re conscious of it or not. And politics, when successful, operate through aestheticization and even eroticization of their power. This haircut is no accident. Nor is it really ironic.
Above: why do I want to throw water on this guy and his hair smugness? Below: For fun, the overgroomed douche variant, which also looks disconcertingly like a mushroom atop a baby:
Then there’s the other shaved-sides dictator style, the Kim Jong Un. Supposedly this cut, which like all the others manages to look babyish and totalitarian at the same time, is now mandatory for all males in North Korea (and, apparently, for plenty of males in my own social circle):
Update on the Kim Jong Un: the tall head is getting taller, and the babyishness is getting babier. What is the relationship between boyishness and authoritarianism? Petulance?
Please. Enough of all this masculinity in crisis, these obedient clean-cut military styles, and all this conscious or unconscious aestheticization of fascism in general. I’m truly glad my grandfather who landed in Normandy on D-Day to fight the Nazis didn’t live to see all these twerps dressing like Hitler Youth and calling their hair by that name. Seriously, is this the best they can do? If people need an edgy joke haircut, I’m sure they can come up with a fashion joke that mocks power instead of victims of genocide and authoritarian surveillance. In other words, one that’s actually cool. This isn’t cool or edgy, it’s justfollowingordersy.
PS Thanks to Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, and Romania for going left in the 2014 EU elections.
How to ask for a Hitler Youth Haircut
Every Dude You Know Is Getting This Haircut
The 20 Most Controversial Men’s Style Trends of the Past 20 Years
Comeback of the Hitler Youth haircut worries Jewish and progressive groups fearing intolerance
Howe Street, Vancouver, May 2014. It might be called the Hitler youth, but I call it ‘the Chemotherapy. ‘ Unfuckable.
Next in this series: more trendy male styles from other specifically conservative decades or iffy historical periods. See: Settler & pioneer “heritage hipster” styles in the age of Idle No More, Chinatown gentrification, &c.
Colonial aesthetics and Ralph Lauren