The Hitler Youth haircut: what it’s actually expressing

hipster and nazi hairstyle

Update: this feels all the more pressing now, since this US election. If you want to hear Chomsky’s post-election comments on white male entitlement and rage, it’s here. This isn’t just a fashion; it’s real. 60 million Americans voted for this. Thanks to Lydia for interesting new comment.

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“) or “high and tight” hairstyle. And many of its fans actually call it, with a blithe casualness, the Hitler Youth. Is this actually happening?

look at this fucking hipster

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 recent undeniable creep of fascism in Canada with the secretive government of Stephen Harper… [Update: at least Harper has been stopped, but the drift to the right continues in many places, and thanks to the destabilization of Iraq and Syria and the ensuing refugee crisis, the rise of the far right in Europe has intensified.]

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? Sure, there are differences between that racist flag and this haircut, but can you really say there’s isn’t crossover? Can the holocaust or lynchings ever be erased from these symbols? And how is that much-vaunted recuperation of the swastika to its original Indian meaning going? Yes, I thought so.

And we know that ideology uses seemingly innocent cultural expressions to reproduce itself. You don’t have to be conscious of it; it works regardless of your awareness, and preferably without it. And fashion loves to flirt with power, no matter how fascistic.

By way of observation I wanted to mention the comprehensive UK study which found that although people born between 1980 and 2000 (millennials) 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 devout Christian, 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 military-ish variants creepy. See, it’s the military thing. Why? Wikipedia describes today’s most popular men’s haircut, the omnipresent “high and tight,” as “a military variant of the crew cut. It is a very short hairstyle most commonly worn by men in the armed forces of the U.S. It is also popular with law enforcement officers and other public safety personnel.” Maybe some of you can sleep with people sporting this hair, but I know from a casual survey on social media that a huge chunk of us won’t, regardless of our age. And that’s quite apart from the fact that it’s usually called the “Hitler youth.” Isn’t it bad enough that it looks like the army or law enforcement?

Military styles seem slavish at best and hostile at worst, regardless of  intent. They have both a aggressive feel while at the same time their little boy air seem to connote the traditional ceding of power that comes with joining the army, submitting to its hierarchy, and cutting your hair. Both sides of that dichotomy are related, because in order to align yourself with power, you have to submit to it; that’s the irony. The odd thing about soldiers is the part we don’t emphasize enough: their willing subjugation to authority. Ask any regretful Vietnam or Gulf War vet. And that’s not this haircut’s only contradiction. It also seems to ape both an old-school masculinity and childishness. To me it’s a haircut for little boys in the 1950s.

Then there is the suspect eroticization of power and men in uniform. The axiom may go that “everyone likes a man in uniform,” but I certainly don’t. And those who do, well, good luck with the baggage that comes with that. I’ve chatted about this with my gay male friends, where the man in uniform is definitely a trope. I just think that fascist aesthetics come with a related politics in one way or another, and it will eventually leak out of the bedroom.

Politics aside for a moment, from a pure design perspective this cut makes your ears look stranded, like abandoned molluscs after the tide goes out. It looks raw, surgical and unsexy to anyone not into le Front National. Whatever happened to Samson?

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 referencing wild and usually genocidal frontiers. Like, say, The Revenant.

Fashion and culture are always a bellwether of sociopolitical currents, whether we want to face it or not. It’s never meaningless; humans seek, and enact, meaning as a general rule. What that meaning is is another question; I hope I am wrong.


Other materials:

Take a look at Heil Hipster: Nipsters or Nazi Hipsters – Young Neo-Nazis Trying to Put a Stylish Face on Hate

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 unconsciously through aestheticization and even eroticization of their power. This haircut is no accident. Nor is it really ironic.

UPDATE: The poster below appeared on three Toronto-area university campuses in September of 2015: University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson U. They were quickly removed though apparently some remain. Note that two variants of this hipster haircut appear in the one poster; that’s no accident. Not to mention every other element of Nazi aesthetics including the heroic angle, the skyward gaze, the obedient-looking white male masculinity… So, the CN Tower is a monument of “western civilization”? God help us.


Read also Black grad student on hunger strike in Mo. after swastika drawn with human feces

hitler youth haircut then & now

hipster haircut

hitler youth haircut - poster

Hitler Youth haircut brownshirt

hitler youth haircut

Above: why do I want to throw water on this guy and his placid hair smugness? Why does he look so obedient and a little dense? Below: For fun, the overgroomed douche variant, which also looks disconcertingly like a mushroom atop a baby:

hitler haircut douche version

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):

kim jong un mandatory haircut

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? Is it that they share the trait of petulance?

Kim Jong Un haircut

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. And I would suggest that the last two examples aside, as I think they’re outliers, this style is a racial assertion.

PS Thanks to Spain, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, and Romania for going left in the 2014 EU elections.


See also:

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

or just search Hitler youth haircut on Tumblr: here’s a journalism student saying “I got the Hitler Youth haircut I always wanted”

nazi youth haircut vancouver
Howe Street, Vancouver, May 2014. It might be called the Hitler youth, but I call it ‘the Chemotherapy. ‘ Unfuckable.

hitler youth haircut


And this band, Death in June (a phrase that refers to the Nazis’ “Night of the long knives) using entirely Nazi imagery… and issuing artist statements that disingenuously pretend to be apolitical and claim that because the lead artist is gay they can’t be Nazi… while using this imagery (including the swastika though it doesn’t appear here). The more you look around, the more you realize this stuff is everywhere, just as this haircut in all its variants is everywhere. You can pretend it’s a coincidence but in aesthetics, nothing is really random.

Death in June (ugh)

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
Mountain Don’t
Murder Murder.

 And now as a palate cleanser: Aaron Swartz, RIP. Not because his name is Jewish and this is a post about Nazis, but because Aaron fought for democratization and rights for all—against the state, by the way, rather than eroticizing state power—and because he has sexy hair.

Aaron Swartz RIP

16 comments on "The Hitler Youth haircut: what it’s actually expressing"

  1. Lindsay, that cut was pretty much the hair style for men in the west, and probably most of the rest of the world, from about 1900 to 1960.

    1. Yes, in some ways. But there are different versions of it, and I guess I’d ask this: why are we going back to this style now? And why are people going to their barber and actually asking for a “Hitler Youth” haircut? Doesn’t this strike you as strange?

  2. Why not go back to it, like with clothes, there are only so many variations possible: wide legs, narrow legs, short hair, long hair etc.. Everything comes around. I doubt there is much underlying ideological ‘reason’. Most hipsters going for the cut now are left of centre politically. Right wingers seem to favor other styles; mullets, mohawks, skinhead etc..
    I had never heard that people call it a ‘Hitler Youth’ until this article so I question how broadly that reference is shared. Young people seem to know less history with each new generation and Nazi imagery is so prevalent and striking. But all these articles cited also say it is called a ‘Boardwalk Empire’ so why not ask about that? There is a vogue for early twentieth century style now and I think some of that is recognizing that some things were done better in the past, that’s not necessarily nostalgia – it could be seen as a critical judgement. It sounds like you just don’t like it, that you prefer the longer styles that maybe you associate with progressive politics, but a hairstyle doesn’t have an ideology. Almost every soldier on every side in WWII had that cut.

    1. Well I think it’s a larger issue. I’ll admit that I don’t personally find a male fashion nostalgia for old times when “men were men” very appealing, just for starters. I came of age during feminism and glam! I agree with you that many youth don’t know history; but my problem is that I do, and I can’t see these styles as disconnected from it. I guess I question the whole “going back to an earlier time” thing for men, period. What’s available to women – nostalgia-wise – from those decades? This is the problem with nostalgia. Shall I go back to wearing long dresses and not having the vote? I jest – sort of. Anyway yes, this haircut does look largely militarist and fascist to me, as well as Father Knows Best when a moustache is added. Further, I find it pretty hard to ignore the sheer volume of hits for the phrase “Hitler Youth haircut” (I mean just check tumblr, it’s rampant). But probably what bothers me the most is that no one is questioning the timing of this return to masculine styles from a variety of earlier, more conventional times. It all just looks masculinity in crisis to me, and given everything that’s going on regarding gender at the moment I’m… well, I’m unimpressed with masculinity nostalgia. Especially when it has a military tinge. Also – my grandfather fought in World War II and actually I don’t see that haircut on him or his friends in his batallion in any of the photos, but I don’t like military haircuts period.

      I’m hardly proposing legislation; I’m saying I don’t like it and I don’t trust it. This is one of the few times I’m willing to use the expression “everything happens for a reason.” I knew there’d be a bit of a backlash if I wrote this, but when I made a comment about this on Twitter lately it became obvious I’m not alone. A lot of people are creeped out by this trend. Anyway, to become even more unpopular, my next article is heritage hipster/settler/pioneer styles in an age of Idle No More…

  3. ….So, if you want, you could think of it as an International Brigade cut from the Spanish Civil War. Then it would have a heroic leftist reference.

    1. Roy, I do appreciate the offer of the International Brigade as alternative reference. I am not optimistic – I have always thought this haircut looked just awful on lefties too, including Orwell – but I will try it.

  4. I have looked at a heck of a lot of old photos and films in my life, so when I watch period films I am a real hard critic of costume, hair and set decoration. It’s a hobby of mine. If you look at old photos such as your fathers, the thing to keep in mind is that short hair appears to grow out fast, you need to visit the barber every two weeks to maintain this cut. So men were chronically behind in their hair maintenance, but short sides and back, as that is what this cut basically is, would have been seen as a proper cut. Remember also that head lice was more of an issue back then, so a short cut was more hygienic. That photo of Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth shows how most men in the first half of the 20th C would have liked their hair to look in a proper portrait.

    I don’t think short or long hair has a monopoly on manliness or perceived manliness. I can show you adverts from Playboy or Esquire in the 70’s where long hair is presented as the height of a burly macho. in contrast the short sides look is boyish and so can be seen as weaker, more feminine. On women the cut is referred to often as a “boy cut”. Less hair is seen as less manly, etc…

    Most ideologies with future looking agendas have been fascist or totalitarian.
    I precisely said that reviving an earlier style need not be nostalgic, it can be a recognition that something from the past is better (i.e.: organic farming) and so readopting it can be the most progressive thing. People really get this with food and I am just tickled by young people opening micro breweries and making incredible organic food. I also see a surge in reviving cobbling, BARBERING, and other crafts that seemed to be heading towards obsolescence. In this town, the shorter cuts seem to have a direct relationship to the emergence of hipster barbers like the Belmont.

    Women’s fashion also looks back constantly. What about the flapper? Much of that style was inspirational in the 60’s and 70’s and seemed to symbolize the new rights and freedoms women felt or demanded. Also the 40’s “Rosie the Riveter” look or big shouldered suits have been later mined as images of women as independent and capable of doing “mens work”. Lesbian culture seems to really like Rosie.

    I don’t think this cut is “masculinity in crisis” at all, I think it is the opposite. I would guess that one could be in the wrong place and get beat for being a “fag” for having that cut. I think if you did a study you would find that the cut is most popular with gay, bi, and gay friendly men. Besides that it looks better on young men and I have a fat head, I wouldn’t have that cut for precisely that reason, because it stands out as too fashion conscious – and that attracts the attentions of truly fucked-up homophobes.

    I am really interested in the intersection of fashion, sexuality and ideology. I think it might have something to do with being beaten for having a Bowie cut at age 14 and then seeing the same mullet become the official hairstyle of hockey hooligans and toothless “fag bashers’ for decades after.

    As I said, haircuts don’t have ideologies, they can just be adopted by people practising ideologies. It’s like the whole problem with the swastika, many people would like to reclaim this basic symbol from its Nazi associations. I don’t think its time for that, but I am sure the time will come.

    It sounds like you just prefer the fashion codes of the seventies. By the way, this isn’t a “backlash”, if you start a conversation, you can’t protect yourself from argument by prophesying a “backlash”. This is just an argument that you invited by your argument. I think the idea of the “backlash” is a kind of dirty trick, it preemptively tries to discount a response. But anyways, it is an interesting topic, thanks for initiating the discussion.

    1. First of all, you’re right, “backlash” may be an exaggeration and as you say pre-emptive, though having floated this argument elsewhere before, I have already seen how extremely defensive people get about these styles (not you but others) and isn’t that level of defensiveness usually indicative of something? Secondly, both you and I obviously have aesthetic investments in this area (my aversion, your attraction) but aren’t aesthetics always the thin end of the wedge of a politics or cosmology? Is it really random? Does anything go? Further, I agree that styles can shift but I am not convinced meanings ever get totally removed from their origin. And I’m not talking lice. If lice were the determining issue, why didn’t women in poor neighbourhoods have that same haircut in 1916? I agree that short or long don’t have a monopoly on manliness, but what I’m interested in are those moments when gender differentiation increases. Sure, any cut that gets designated as a male cut can be deemed a manly cut by virtue of the fact that it’s on a man. In the end, though, to me, this short back and sides and long on top thing is a throwback to times I don’t think of as appealing either politically or erotically. But then I’m not the sort of straight woman who likes a man in uniform, Don Draper or cleancut guys out of The Preppy Handbook. Manly is one thing – manly in a conservative way is another. Also, I think that just because something can be read as gay doesn’t mean it’s not male or even manly, and it doesn’t automatically read as progressive.

      Forgive me for jumping around here but there are so many topics to cover:

      My approach to the micro-brewing/Portlandia hipster/urban farm thing is different than yours. I really don’t buy that scene. For me it’s nostalgic and not in a good way. For one thing I think an old school masculinity – an attempt to recoup it and its past privileges, mostly white – is tied up in it very strongly. That would be a whole essay to go into but one sign of what I’m talking about is that its aesthetics, which seem to involve facial hair and a harking back to haberdashery, are completely lacking any viable female counterpart. That’s always a sign. But more importantly evidence keeps mounting that urban farms are a failed project and that the real answer is in things hipsters give no time or support to, such as any political effort to support things like the Agricultural Land Reserve; instead they mistakenly think they are going to save the world with urban artisanal small businesses, as Bill Deresiewicz has I think correctly pointed out (I linked to his article “Generation Sell” in my post above). So I find it less alternative/progressive and more libertarian/conservative. While meanings do shift, I just don’t think certain styles are as divorced from ideology as you do. I find the linkages more enduring. Anyway as a woman, the shift between straight and gay male in style is for me a less pressing distinction as it’s one from which women are largely excluded (even if homophobia is rooted in misogyny)

      … I will end by confirming that you are totally right. I’m invested in 60s and 70s aesthetics in more than one way, and I feel the need to point out how absent the styles of those decades have been for the last 30 years while every other decade, especially all the conservative ones (30s, 50s, 80s), make incessant comebacks. We’ve had 80s nostalgia almost without stopping since.. well, the 80s? I think that’s no accident and I think it merits a lot more discussion than it gets. The 80s were a reaction to the 60s and 70s and they did it by echoing and remaking the 50s, which were themselves a post-war return to earlier pre-war conservatisms, putting women back in the kitchen…

      Big difference between the Hitler Youth haircut and Ziggy Stardust, or the kind of “unisex” hair that is not “boyish” but actually traditionally feminine or truly gender-bended. I don’t know… it’s just interesting how seldom the latter options appear.

      I’m not a fan of most female fashion either when it looks back prior to the 60s. I’d also say that I’m not a fan of following most fashion trends, period. The only thing I really understand is the impulse to buck a trend. And I find androgyny pretty interesting.

      Given your artistic works I know you don’t dismiss the 60s and 70s either, or given what you said, the more gender-bent options. You’re just more tolerant than I am of other decades and I wish I could feel the same.

      Thanks for engaging with this. Few ever comment here and I’m always glad when someone does, particularly when it’s this well considered.

  5. I don’t particularly like this cut, I don’t really care to promote one fashion or another, I’m interested in fashion as history and what it tells us about ideologies, psychology etc… You seem to be resistant to my point that signs are not attached to things permanently, or that they can be multivalent. Like it or not, the undercut, or curtained hair cut, is back in a big way – and it isn’t attached to fascist ideology anymore. It will come back again and again, because hair can only be cut in so many different ways. Each time it comes back, the fascist association will further diminish (unless we really do have a massive fascist resurgence. But even if such a recurrence occurred, the fascists by then would probably have a different look – just as they currently favour the skinhead look.) Gays call themselves Queer now, signs are not essentially attached to their referents. I’ve met loads of crooks and creeps who looked like your seventies ideal man. If Noel Fielding is your ideal you should realize that to many he looks something like a young Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. People generally don’t want to look that theatrical, it doesn’t age well. Maybe the Hipster beard is a wise understanding that they will indeed age, and they want to do it gracefully – no mutton dressed as lamb?
    I remember creepy predatory males using hippy “free love” baloney in the seventies to take advantage of underage girls and practise a kind of polygamy. They often had an androgynous rock star look. I don’t see the seventies in the rosy light that you do.

    I really disagree with your characterization of the 80’s. I don’t see it as conservative at all. I thought oppositional culture in the eighties was more intelligent and political than before. Punk was about politics and was a reaction to how the hippies turned into yacht rock consuming Kitsilano millionaires. Sure, there was the mainstream conservatism of Reagan and Mulroney but there was loads of countercultural opposition to that. It’s always too complicated to say one decade was progressive and another reactionary. I think there has been a conservative mass all through those decades and a progressive reaction happening at the same time, Beatniks, Hippies, Glam, Punks, New Wave, Hipsters, it’s a continuum of opposition. Of course, because people are people, there were fake versions of all these movements, which adds confusion. Parsing out that confusion is enlightening and fun. Contradiction is normal, for example; Disco is so maligned today but I remember it bringing people together and breaking down boundaries more successfully than anything before, it brought straight people into gay clubs and blacks and whites together . It lacked a politic agenda but it brought us together to party, and isn’t that political? Reality is always contradictory.

    I am surprised that you want to take the artisanal food and craft movement to task as you do. I remember the fluorescent nightmare of the pre-hippy times, with Swanson frozen TV dinners being touted as real food and the rise of McDonalds etc.. The hippy movement was full of all kinds of BS, from Jesus hippies to pseudo-mystical drug victims etc.. And even much of the culture around food was ridiculous, but it was experimenting and questioning, and out of that there was some enlightenment about food and definite improvement in people’s health and pleasure and the environment. So the hipsters might have silly aspects to their culture, but the general direction of caring about the quality of food seems beyond criticism to me. So, they have haircuts you find dorky or even offensive, but they are being very constructive in creating decent jobs and decent products. They are a new shopkeeper class and they are inventing their own style so they can work with dignity, I think thats admirable. We need shopkeepers or it will all be Costco and Walmart.

    Artisanal food is entrepreneurial, but what else can one do in a capitalist system? If you want to say it’s libertarian or conservative then we are all libertarian or conservative in that we all are engaged in business. Yes, the bigger issue is the ALR, which is a catastrophe in the making, but that kind of change is slow and one needs to make a living, so in the meanwhile, what is wrong with opening a bakery? I don’t think these kids are the enemy and they are clearly potential allies if they can be politicized. Activism is an uphill battle when most people vote against their own interests. The really big issue then is who to vote for. If you want to prioritize, then getting people to vote NDP or Green is the most important thing. That is slow and seemingly sisyphean labour. I know you are a hard working activist and I really appreciated your work on the Casino and other things. But you have to be careful not to expect everybody to work as hard at change as you do. Most people have enough trouble making ends meet. You can characterize them as complacent or lazy but not wrong or evil. Super critical, self righteousness has turned more people away from activism than it has attracted. And it is bloody hard to get enthusiastic about even left politicians for the most part. People can be activist in their daily life just by expressing their opinions to those around them, they don’t have to actually carry a protest sign or start a petition.

    It sounds like you think that hipsters are all secretly misogynist conservatives. I don’t know where you get that because I find it’s generally the total opposite. I don’t see how hipsters are trying to “recoup” White male privilege. Maybe I am missing it? Please tell me how they are doing this?

    You keep saying there is no female counterpart to their fashion but I see it very clearly, you just have to look at the women in these businesses in their vintage and local designer/artisanal clothes. I seriously doubt these hipster women feel oppressed by their boyfriend’s moustaches. I think they are happy in finding economic and cultural agency in their life. Anyways, what is your textile business if not artisanal entrepreneurism?

    I think a real problem has been that a broad left position based on class and economics has given way to a tribalism of identity politics and cultural sectarianism. This is part of a civil rights movement that has been very important in winning rights and freedoms for marginalized people. But all I see in the media and on the internet these days is people trying to one-up each other in victimhood status or hating on identity differences. The Straight recently ran a story about how white people were supposedly keeping Asians out of the eco movement – I can’t believe anyone would take that seriously. The only unifying issues are economics and ecology, certainly not culture or Identity. The left is floundering because it is fracturing. Many victories are being made for equality, but the larger war is being lost to global Capitalism. There is no good reason that equality and economic change can’t be found together. But I just see people fixated on equality without questioning economic difference. Politics has been largely about special interests, in that they are played to and manipulated by politicians, and the special interest that gets the most from politicians is the wealthy. We need, somehow, to get back to a broad movement for economic change, it never had to come at the expense of equality – I don’t think social democracy was intended to oppress or exclude anyone. What is equality without economic equality? I could care less what cultural style or even religion anyone identifies with, I only care if they want social democracy and an unpolluted planet.

    1. Roy,

      You say “I’m interested in fashion as history and what it tells us about ideologies, psychology etc…” Clearly, so am I. The difference is that I’m saying I believe style does have a meaning, including in this case, which I think you’re downplaying (ie. “it’s just the convenient style men had for the first half of the 20th C). I think these styles may not only have historic baggage that is very difficult to dislodge, but also that people seeking these styles may not even want to dislodge it; they may find great comfort in the status or identity it confers. For you, what do these styles tell us about ideologies, psychology etc? I still can’t tell. So far it seems only that the argument is that there are too few other available styles for men.

      Lots to respond to here. I fundamentally disagree about the 80s – we can agree on the existence of that disagreement – though I agree every decade had its internal contradictions and true counterculture and clearly it wasn’t all Duran Duran and Thatcher. But why do you assume that I am promoting hippies? Is there only a new wave-to-hippie polarity? I don’t believe I have promoted any particular alternative beyond saying I find a certain amount of androgyny preferable to highly divergent gender norms & super old school masculinity. I never defended hippie as a style, nor argued that the whole hippie free love thing wasn’t profoundly in favour of the male half of the population. Nor did I argue that any style can’t be worn by any creep, stalker or pedo. What I will say again is that I believe aesthetic choices aren’t generally all that random, that fashion is like a language, and I think the pioneer styles in heritage hipster culture are no accident. Forget the hair and look at the whole constellation, and you get what seems to be a very specific …nostalgia if you will. If people wanted to un-moor styles from their historical referent as you say they are, why are they cleaving so closely to very specific historical moment(s)? It must be far more than the mere convenience of an undercut. For me this argument just doesn’t hold water. There may be only a few ways to cut hair (which I’d argue is not really true) but this style seems to reference a very specific combination of conventional pre-war eras and identities. The shoes, the clothes, the hair, the haberdasheries, the hatteries, the typefaces, the ampersanded shopfronts, the whole deal. I really don’t think this can be reduced to “there are only so many haircuts available to men.” Further, whether or not these styles are connected to a past fascism, we’re now seeing a resurgence of fascism worldwide including in Canada – so why ape that style now? I think this is a more than fair question.

      I do agree with your last point about tribalism in place of any sort of a politics of class and economics and I agree with your point that “I just see people fixated on equality without questioning economic difference.” What I worry about with some of these “new” aesthetics is precisely that they are not linked to any politics but instead seem to be reassertions of specific identities that I don’t find helpful right now. If we’re all going to come together, can we start with not all dressing like 19thC white males? I mean, throw the rest of us a bone.

      I asked a friend of mine what she thought of all these styles and she said “it feels like obedience.”

      As for hipster culture and feminism, I don’t know. I’ve been through a wave of feminism and while I think we’re at the beginning of another one, I certainly haven’t noticed the heritage hipster world as any wellspring of it. I would be curious to hear more.

      As for activism, really I’m neither trying to gain allies from this group nor scare people away. Frankly I think it’s pretty irrelevant what I say. I’m just doing a bit of off-the-cuff cultural criticism just to start a discussion. I fully recognize things are increasingly very difficult for people under 40, and I don’t want to be on any bandwagon bashing anyone in particular. I’m just interested in wider trends and I am perturbed by a widespread blithe semi-indifference to politics in favour of a fixation on styles and enterprises that happen to make me nervous. I know, I know, people have decided it’s “pointless” to resist, what with the whole system being sewn up and everything. Did you read/watch Deresiewicz’s Generation Sell series? He observes a widespread belief among hipsters (I had really wanted to avoid that word) that artisanal small business will save the world which is, as know, hardly a substitute for dissent, organization, voting, whatever. I never ask anyone to jump into activism – how pointless would that be? – but I do resent the implication that others have no time and we do. None of us have the time for it but on the other hand… well, you know yourself what it’s like. But it doesn’t take a lot of time to get over one’s political purity and briefly sully oneself by, say, voting. What part of “lesser of evils” don’t people understand? There are other things I didn’t mention, but now that we’re getting into it… here’s one fact. The hipster kids who came up with Shit Harper Did, an excellent anti-Stephen Harper campaign, are also heavily involved in helping Vision Vancouver, our runaway developer-controlled faux-green civic party, seek reelection every 3 years. I’m not asking people to become activists; If I’m asking them to do one thing it would be to stay out of the way of projects promoting social justice and govt transparency etc. It’s just frustrating to find yourself doing battle not just against a corporate-controlled City council but also against people in suspenders and waxed moustaches who are not only supporting a neoliberal status quo but pompously lecturing you about the rightness of their cause. Furthermore this has been going on for, what, 8 years now? I’d just like to see some actual proof this thing isn’t as predominantly conservative as I think it is. Or some sign it will morph into something else.

      So far the 21st C is about rehashing the previous one, but that’s a topic for another time.

      And to think this discussion started with hair… sorry for length.

    2. PS I loved disco (and even at the time I didn’t understand why we had to take sides on musical styles, rock vs. disco. What is this, Wimbledon?). Donna Summer, Giorgio Moroder! It was only the 70s equivalent of bros who hated disco, and we always knew that was because of its blackness and its gayness.

      Generally I agree that sorting through the contradictions of any decade is enlightening and fun. And thanks for engaging with this.

  6. What goes around, comes around, baby. The Swastika is an ancient indian symbol, its meaning can be trasnleated as “good-beeing”, and it didnt made the nazis more calm and peacful. Just as this hairut doesnt make anyone nazi or has anything to do with a growing of right wing parteys in europe.

  7. This is interesting:
    “Before you begin to think it’s just me who’s boring, allow me to introduce some statistics. Ironically, we same boundary-less youths of Generation Y – those born between 1980 and 2000 – have now been labelled “Generation Right” by Radio 4 (FYI: the preferred radio station among my friends). Though we are more socially liberal and accepting than previous generations when it comes to things such as gay marriage and euthanasia, according to the polling company Ipsos Mori we are likely to be more politically Right-wing than our parents or grandparents were at the same age.”

    From “Charting the rise of Generation Yawn: 20 is the new 40”

  8. LB,
    Thanks for your commentary on the Portlandia Look. I hadn’t connected it with white nostalgia– it’s true that there’s not really a female counterpart to this style. As a person who lives in Portland, it often feels disturbingly white here, and in the rest of the Pacific Northwest. True, PNW was the birthplace of Grunge fashion– also a lumberjack-based trend with no female counterpart– so I don’t really think of it as a deeply meaningful statement (it is a fact that actual lumberjacks abound here, and hipsters’ and punks have always raided their grandfathers’ closets). But it seems to be a meaningful statement, after all. Less of an outwardly-motivated expression of racism, but more of an internal feeling of entitlement. It’s so weird– this state is so beautiful. It’s full of natural resources and the potential for revenue therefrom. you love nature, it is a place of wonder. So it’s no surprise to me that white people wanted to keep it all to themselves, from the start: Oregon banned black people from the state in its constitution in 1859, and the ban wasn’t repealed until the 1920s. Large sections of Portland were closed to black property ownership until the 1950s.
    You can see it all around you. I see casual racism more frequently than I even did while living in my home state of Georgia, or living in North Carolina. Obviously, those are, indeed, very racist places. But it’s as if a tolerant person wouldn’t dare say some of the things we white folks feel entitled to say here in Portland– just because we don’t have to worry about offending anyone– they’re not around to overhear!
    Anyway, thanks for waking me up to yet another symbol/symptom of our white entitlement. The lumberjack look is tired, in my opinion, and beards are gross, as a fashion statement.
    I came for your commentary on the Fasci haircut.
    The blowhard up there who couldn’t handle it is a mansplaining dickhead.

Leave a comment